Model Data Governance
Policy And Practice Guide

For Cities and Counties


The Why, What and How of this Guide

"Data is like garbage. You better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it."

A. Purposes, Intended Uses, and Scope

1. Purpose

Data Governance is an important, complicated consideration in the modern era of local governments. As cities and counties (each sometimes hereinafter referred to as a “Jurisdiction”) discover ways to use, retain, and organize data, it is imperative to learn from one another as we consider the complex nature of governance.  Sharing effective approaches to policy development and implementation tools in a “community of practice” manner, as envisioned in the formation of the MetroLab Network Data Governance Task Force that produced this document enhances the ability of local governments to both use data to provide increasingly efficient and beneficial public services, and to protect the public and mitigate risks of misuses of data.

3. Scope

4. A Note on Maturity Levels

We recognize that cities and counties are at different levels of established processes with respect to Data governance. We have included the full gamut of recommended policies. This Guide includes resources and recommendations for varied maturity levels and the website search tools will be maintained in a way designed to help users at varying stages in their data governance journeys navigate to the resources most pertinent to their needs and circumstances.

B. Data Ethics and Data Empowerment

We would like to highlight the ethos of this collaborative group of practitioners and Data Governance subject matter experts. First, what drives much of our passion and curiosity to ensure a proper governance structure is our sense of obligation to protect and provide for residents. Data is a powerful tool, a tool that is required to provide services for everyday necessities like water, electricity, and food stamps. Therefore, it is incumbent upon local governments (and other levels of government alike) to protect and take care of people’s information. And while Data is something to protect, it is also something that can unlock answers to complicated challenges and improve local government services. Thus, we also wish to advocate for its (proper) use. Data is also a powerful tool for good. The combined importance of those two themes is the “why” behind the publication of this Guide. Local governments have a moral obligation to protect individual Data, and an obligation to use it to hold it accountable as a service provider. We know both can and should coexist.

C. Project History and Methodologies

1. Project History


Students and faculty in an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional projects-based, graduate-level civic and social entrepreneurship course at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) developed a Draft Model Data Handling Policy (“Draft Data Handling Policy”) in collaboration with personnel in Kansas City, MO city government and in Kansas City, KS/Unified Government of Wyandotte County, and other individuals. [1] Many elements of that document reflected:
(i) studies of data-related and “Internet of Things” (IOT) policies or guidelines in various cities in the U.S. and some in other countries, many of which were “Open Data Portal” policies;
(ii) research on several legal issues presented by municipal data initiatives; and
(iii) review of a sampling of data sharing agreements that some cities have entered into with for-profit companies and other organizations in varying contexts.

MetroLab Network Vetting of Draft Data Handling Policy

The Draft Data Handling Policy was vetted at a Roundtable Session at the September 2019 MetroLab Network Summit held in Boulder, CO. That session validated the proposition that many local governments were in the process of developing or were interested in developing relatively comprehensive Data Governance policies with wider scope than seen in Open Data Portal policies. It also provided great feedback and suggestions for a next iteration of that draft document that would, among other things, have more practice tools, be less “prescriptive,” and offer options for local governments at varying levels of maturity in their data collection, data security and data sharing activities and processes. Following up on the Boulder session, a call for collaborators from across the United States to participate, with MetroLab network assistance, in the co-development of the next iteration of the Draft Data Handing Policy, as described in an April 2020 article in the online GovTech publication [2]

2022 Formation of the MetroLab Network Data Governance Task Force

After a hiatus occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, in the winter and spring of 2022 UMKC Professor Tony Luppino renewed the call for collaborators to build on an April 2020 version of the Draft Data Handling Policy and organized an initial co-working group for its next iteration. At a Roundtable Session at the MetroLab Networks Summit in Chicago, IL in June of 2022 several members of that group presented reasons to take a “community of practice” approach to that endeavor. That session led to a collaboration, among Prof. Luppino, MetroLab Network leadership, and Miles Light of the Future of Privacy Forum to expand and formalize an initial project co-working group, which in turn resulted in the MetroLab Network formally launching a national task force to bring practitioners and subject matter experts together.

That MetroLab Data Governance Task Force (sometimes referred to in this Guide as the “Task Force”) is comprised of city and county staff members, metropolitan planning organizations staff members, educators, and other researchers from diverse disciplines and jurisdictions across the United States—a group of approximately 50 individuals from some 20 cities and counties that made this Guide possible. [3]

2. Methodologies

The Task Force utilized the following principal steps/methodologies in producing this June 2023 Guide:

  1. Online meetings of “Sub-Groups” of volunteers to explore specific topics and “standard headaches” (i.e., “Challenges”) identified in May 2022 by the initial co-working group. 

  2. Asynchronous postings in an online platform of comments on the April 2020 Draft Data Handling Policy, resources to consider in addressing the Challenges presented, and use cases to help guide thinking on the development of potential policies and practice tools. 

  3. Initial drafting of Guide text, working off of the April 2020 document as a starting place, by a group of volunteer drafters and editors from within the Task Force. 

  4. A series of live online co-working sessions open to all Task Force members to explore key discussion questions relating to text sections of this Guide, with results then taken into account by the editors in producing a refined draft.

  5. An “all hands invited” online meeting, and an additional call for postings in the Task Force’s online platform to gather feedback on that refined draft and gather “practice tools” suggestions for inclusion in the Guide or the Resources Library

  6. Presentation the Guide in an online platform on the MetroLab website in June 2023 as both a downloadable document and electronic version that users can navigate on the site.



D. Format of this Guide

This Guide has five Sections essentially corresponding to key topic areas identified by the 2022 Initial Co a-working Group and subsequently refined by the Task Force. Each Section begins with a brief “Section Note” summarizing its purpose/subject matter and noting the most prominent Challenges identified by the initial co-working group addressed in the Section, and then proceeds with recommendations of principles, policies, and/or practices a city or county might consider adopting in addressing such Challenges. It also contains several footnotes citing or linking to sources or providing other information for readers. References in the Guide to materials posted on websites mean such materials as they existed on those websites on June 20, 2023. In addition, a library (Resources Library) of Data Governance resources has been compiled in conjunction with the Task Force initiative, and contains links to a wide range of policies, practice tools, and associated background readings.

Both the Guide and the Resources Library are meant to be “living” instruments accessible on the MetroLab Network website that can be updated, expanded, and refined over time. To facilitate that process, you can submit comments and suggestions on either or both by email to .

Simply Put, Got Data?

Use whatever portions of this guide fit well with your needs and circumstances.


[1] The Draft Data Handling Policy was a community co-worked endeavor.  Over the approximately three years of its development, student contributors to the project included several law, computer science, and engineering students across multiple semesters of an interdisciplinary Law, Technology & Public Policy course at UMKC. The UMKC faculty members principally involved as project leaders were Dr. Baek-Young Choi (from computer science), and Law Professor Tony Luppino (who, among other roles, served as lead editor).  As with many other projects in the course, this project included interactions with local government staff and community engagement.  Government staff significantly participating included: from the City of Kansas City, MO, Innovation Officer Bob Bennett, Innovation Analyst Kate Garman (now Kate Garman Burns), and Chief Data Office Eric Roche; and from Kansas City, KS/Wyandotte County Unified Government, Chief Knowledge Officer Alan Howze. Community members who provided input from various perspectives included James Borelli, Richard Cane, Aaron Deacon, William Mullins, Valerie Sieverling, and Bryan Wilson, collectively having relevant experiences in cybersecurity, data management, digital inclusion, insurance, law, systems engineering, and telecommunications.  In addition, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation supported advancement of the project through a grant to UMKC for the Legal Technology Laboratory (see, in an effort led by Prof. Luppino, Prof. Jeannette Eicks of the Vermont Law School, and Legal Technology Laboratory Program Manager John Cummins.

[2]See Cities Partner on Model Policy for Handling Municipal Data available at MetroLab Data Governance Task Force members were provided with the April 2020 Draft Data Handing Policy (on file with the editors of this Guide).

[3] This co-working effort has been greatly aided by the following Task Force members who served as facilitators of sub-groups developing content for this Guide: Ginger Armbruster, Kate Garman Burns, Sarah Carrier, Leila Doty, Abigail Eccher,  Kelsey Finch, Albert Gehami, Christine Kendrick, Mahria Lebow, Jaime Lees, Tony Luppino, Jessica Nadelman, Jigyasa Sharma, and Jenna Throw. Kate Garman Burns and Tony Luppino also served as lead editors of the Guide. For information regarding the Task Force Members, see Task Force Website. The MetroLab Data Governance Task Force is composed of individuals from cities, counties, non-profits, universities, and metropolitan planning organizations from around the country. Task Force members helped provide feedback and resources that contributed to this Guide and the below-described Resources Library. MetroLab is extremely grateful for the time and contribution of the individuals listed above below. Please note: listing of Task Force members herein or in the Task Force Website demonstrates the collaborative and comprehensive nature of this effort. It does not, in any way, indicate that these individuals or their organizations condone this Guide and should not be taken as “sponsorship,” legal advice, or approval of its contents.

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