Episode Archive

SCP E235 Storytelling, Data and Decision Making in Smart Communities, with Stefaan Verhulst

Hi #smartcommunity friends! In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have a very interesting conversation with Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder of The GovLab (The Governance Lab) whose mission is to transform the way people make decisions through new technologies and science. We begin by Stefaan telling us about his background in communications and Information Technology, his passion for making sense of the world through storytelling and narratives and how these can frame reality and ultimately affect decision making. 

Stefaan then tells us how he co-founded The GovLab and shares a bit about the work they do before sharing with us what a Smart Community is to him. We talk more about how The GovLab connects in with Smart Communities and some of the challenges Stefaan has faced in the data collaboration world. We then discuss how social media affects the way people make decisions and how Artificial Intelligence can compliment Collective Intelligence. 

We discuss the emerging trends of a broader demand for meaningful public engagement, the adoption of public entrepreneurship and better data collaboration. We finish our chat discussing the importance of understanding the right questions to ask when analysing data. As always we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it! 

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Stefaan’s background in communications and Information Technology 
  • His passion for making sense of the world through storytelling and narratives and how these can frame reality 
  • How Stefaan co-founded The GovLab and the work they do
  • The misuse of data and misinformation and how this affects decision making 
  • What a Smart Community is to Stefaan 
  • How The Govlab connects in with Smart Communities and how they approach both people/innovation and data collaboration
  • Some of the challenges Stefaan has faced in the data collaboration world 
  • The 100 questions initiative and why Stefaan advocates for it
  • The need for a new role in Chief Data Stewards and new approach in Data Citizen Assemblies
  • How social media has affected the way people make decisions 
  • How Artificial Intelligence can compliment Collective Intelligence 
  • The emerging trends of a broader demand of meaningful public engagement, the adoption of public entrepreneurship and better data collaboration 
  • The importance of understanding the right questions to ask when analysing data to get optimal outcomes 

Quotes: 

“And then subsequently, a few years ago, I came to the realisation that we can come up with the best solutions. But if we don’t find a way to transform the way we make decisions, based upon a better understanding of reality, and having a baseline of reality, we will never be able to actually tackle the hard problems.”

“And see, there is no clear line there. But at least there is some commonality with regard to at least trying to understand how we frame problems, how we frame reality. And initially, that was through storytelling, but then eventually, it was more through actually using data and people’s expertise.” 

“But I think it is important to understand that depending on how you frame and depending on your frame of reference, you will have a different experience.” 

“That’s also where then from my point of view, additional storytelling is necessary to really then frame it, why it matters, what are the experiences? What are some of the lift effects that will happen from certain kinds of decisions? And that’s, I think, how we need to become more sophisticated to take storytelling plus data plus values into account when we make decisions, right?” 

“I think it comes down to really engaging with the communities and engaging with what we call bilinguals, which are people that have domain expertise and data expertise and can really understand what it is that matters and what can be answered by data.” 

“So we need a new methodological way of actually setting up data collaboratives. And that includes also a way to actually shape data sharing agreements.“ 

“You also can actually use social media to become smarter about the signal that is out there, right? There’s a lot of noise, but there’s also a signal and if you can find a way to extract it, that will actually improve your decision making as well.” 

“But I do think that we’re going to see more adoption of what we call public entrepreneurship, where you actually have the public sector adopt practices that are more akin to an entrepreneurship, where you experiment with approaches, where you use design thinking and data, in order to really figure out what works when, where, and for whom.” 

Links:

The GovLab 

Connect:

Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Stefaan via LinkedIn or Twitter or via The GovLab website 

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community   

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital.

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