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Reimagining Data Stewardship – Insights from the 4th HPDC Symposium with Tristan Roberts

A New Dawn for Data Governance

Greetings, sustainability enthusiasts and industry professionals! Today, we’re excited to bring you compelling insights from a standout presentation at the 4th annual Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC) Symposium. With a spirit of innovation and an eye for the future, our presenter dove deep into the possibilities of ethical data management and its profound implications across industries.

Bridging Policy and Sustainability

Drawing from a blend of 20 years in sustainability and fresh perspectives from legislative involvement, our speaker presented a unique vantage point on integrating sustainability with broader societal issues. They unveiled a fascinating concept: data trusts as a stewardship model for data governance. This fresh framework holds promise for bolstering sustainable practices not just in Vermont, where it is being pioneered, but potentially across the globe. Our symposium highlights these cutting-edge ideas to inform and inspire your work.

The Orchid Metaphor: A Cooperative Ecosystem Approach

The keynote kicked off with the captivating image of a Pink Lady Slipper orchid, flourishing just outside the speaker’s home. This orchid, reliant on bees for pollination, served as a poignant metaphor for our topic: a symbiotic and cooperative ecosystem, exemplifying how interconnectedness can drive the movement of goods and services. The natural world, it seems, can offer us brilliant blueprints for fostering collaborative networks — beneficial for both individual creatures and the ecosystem at large.

Envisioning a Public Good Data Flow

Imagine a world where our personal data—generated from countless daily interactions with technology—benefits the public good instead of merely fuelling the profits of colossal tech firms. Currently trapped in what our presenter termed an “extractive data economy,” we see value being siphoned from us without our consent or benefit. But what if we dared to reimagine this dynamic?

Data Trusts: An Intermediary for Change

Enter the concept of data trusts: entities that serve as intermediaries between individual and corporate interests and the giants of Big Tech. These trusts could redefine privacy, not by resurrecting the bygone era of personal secrecy but by creating systems where our collective data works for us. They could enforce depersonalization rules to protect sensitive information while unlocking it for beneficial purposes like public health research or grassroots innovation.

Standards, Markets, and Public Advocacy: The Future with Data Trusts

The HPDC symposium presentation delved into a future where data trusts establish consensus standards for secure data storage, define new markets for shared innovation, and bring new players into the ecosystem. They could, for instance, facilitate collective corporate negotiations to influence data portability and usage.

A Call for Pioneering Policy and Industry Collaboration

The path ahead, as laid out, is not without challenges; yet there’s a palpable excitement in pioneering a state-led initiative to leverage the laboratory of federalism to advance this cause, starting with Vermont. The idea is to have enabling policies that invite stakeholders to explore this structure hands-on, tailoring it to fit the nuances of different industries and innovate from within.

From Legal Scholarship to Actionable Progress

Evidence of work on data trusts in the UK and EU offers a springboard for the U.S. to adopt a stewardship approach in recognizing the inherent value of data. Encouraging a market for data, especially in business-to-business and social enterprise contexts, opens the door to a plethora of opportunities.

Charting a Course to the Stars

Energetically concluding with a quote from Virgil, “sic itur ad astra” (“thus you shall go to the stars”), the presentation was less of a lecture and more of an invitation to journey together towards a brighter, more equitable future for data management.

We encourage you to join the conversation, share your thoughts, and get involved. If this vision for a sustainable and just data economy sparks your interest, be sure not to miss any updates: sign up for the newsletter and stay informed on how we navigate this uncharted territory together.

Transformation and stewardship start here—let’s harness the power of data for the collective good.

For more insights and the latest updates on sustainable practices and data governance, remember to subscribe to our newsletter. We look forward to having you on this journey towards innovation and responsibility. Thank you for your engagement and commitment to a healthier, more sustainable future.


If you enjoyed this post or have any questions regarding the emerging realm of data trusts, feel free to reach out, and let’s continue the conversation. Together, we can shape the future of sustainability in the digital age. Contact Tristan Roberts @ troberts@hpd-collaborative.org.