Workshop on data ethics in practice

Do you or your team experience dilemmas in carrying out data-driven projects? Are you interested in how you could make progress in this area, in a way that corresponds to the core values that your organization represents? Tada is looking for organizations that have tangible cases based on daily practice. By jointly tackling these dilemmas, we work on implementing the values of the responsible digital city in practice. To that end we offer a workshop: ‘Data ethics in practice’. This page is about what you can expect from the workshop. If you’d like to know more about why we created the workshop, this article explores the vision and background in more detail.

In this workshop, participants take tangible steps to engage with responsible data use in the workplace. The purpose of the workshop is to teach participants to recognize ethical dilemmas in the digital domain and develop skills to deal with these dilemmas. During the workshop, people will work on actual cases encountered by the organization.

Who is the workshop designed for?

The target audience for the workshop is people who have to make decisions based on data in their day-to-day work, or who are working on data-driven projects. This includes data analysts, source owners and managers. Data-driven projects are often interwoven into the entire company and involve multiple departments. The workshop will bring all the project members together in one group to explore the substance of the project in more detail. That provides coherence to the project and offers the opportunity to view things from various perspectives.

What is the purpose of the workshop?

Participants are trained in recognizing and acknowledging that the digital domain is sensitive to politics and inherently imbued with values. They are made aware that technical decisions can have social consequences. After that, they are taught concrete methods for dealing with ethical dilemmas. The purpose of the workshop is for participants to gain confidence in their own moral compass, and in their team members. That creates room for openness in the team to address dilemmas and provides tools for people to reach concrete decisions. This shared methodology can be applied to future dilemmas.

What will we do during the workshop?

The workshop will be tailored to the organization’s specific situation. In an intake interview, we will collect cases from actual practice. We will also map out the ethical principles that are part of the organization’s identity and core values. The guiding principle here is that the organization is and remains the owner of the solution. The workshop is a coached process to reach that solution. The entire process is designed in collaboration with a team member, ensuring that the results will be anchored in the organization. In situations in which multiple organizations are involved in a project, the focus will be on cases from the project.


During the workshop, we will be working with the Spectogram. Participants formulate statements that apply to the case at hand. Colleagues adopt a position on an imaginary line in the physical space, ranging from ‘agree’ to ‘disagree’. By presenting logical arguments, colleagues try to convince each other to take a different position. The aim is to help people be aware that there are multiple perspectives – even within teams that work together frequently. This could be based on differences of opinion, but also on differences of interpretation. The Spectogram helps team members in putting their views on the project into words and finding the middle ground together.

Roles and responsibilities

A card game is used to reveal the roles and responsibilities. Data-driven projects are often complex. That means that the person who has final responsibility cannot be involved in all decision-making processes. Difficult decisions are also made elsewhere in the organization. That requires trust that team members will make decisions that are in sync with the organization. Taking the time at the beginning of a project to assign roles and responsibilities prevents delays later on in the project.

Moral compass

In the module on developing your moral compass, participants are offered concrete methods on how to deal with ethical dilemmas. This happens based on the following question: ‘How do you make sure that your actions are morally right?’. The group knowledge of ethics and existing ethical frameworks, including the Tada principles, will be improved. By providing insight and clarity in the process, team members will be able to reach a carefully considered solution for a dilemma. It will also enable them to explain decisions to colleagues or clients.

Dealing with conflicting values

In considering ethical dilemmas, it is possible for two core values to conflict with each other. For instance, we might decide to limit freedom of movement in the interest of promoting public safety. As soon as consensus has been reached about the decision to be made, we look at the consequences for the project, specifically focusing on how we can mitigate, compensate or redress the damages or drawbacks arising from that decision. Operating on the basis of our shared ethical framework and practical methods, it becomes easier to analyze the project in more tangible terms. We will look for any technical or design solutions that might remedy any conflicting values in a project. Can we go from trade-offs to win-win situations? As the finishing touch, we look at how to document the decision-making process. This will enable us to explain to clients and users why certain decisions were made and why specific applications were used.

Interested in the workshop? Please contact Tessa or Douwe at Bureau Tada,

The ‘Data ethics in practice’ workshop is one of the products resulting from the partnership between Bureau Tada and the Municipality of Amsterdam. Together, they looked into how they could apply the abstract Tada principles in practice within the municipal organization.