What we learnt from talking to our members about data

On the Friday before our AGM, we held an event at Federation House so we could continue the conversation about how the Co-op uses and shares members’ data. We wanted to invite our members to help us shape our data policy in person. It was an open invitation and 63 people took the time to chat to us.

We ran 3 workshops to find out:

  1. How the Co-op compares to other businesses when it comes to being trusted with data.
  2. What data are people willing to share for social benefit and commercial benefit.
  3. What types of usage of data people are happy with.

Being trusted with data

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In this workshop, we asked people about the organisations they trusted (or didn’t) to use their data, with examples from banks, telecoms, member organisations, broadcasters to bring the subject alive. Depending on their personal experiences with those organisations, people have very different views around who they trust to hold their data securely and use that data sensibly.

An important thing we learnt was that the organisations people trust with their data have very clear reasons for why they hold different data and how they use it. Some people thought that, as the Co-op, we might end up with large amounts of data from across our different businesses (insurance, food, electrical and legal services). They wanted us to be clear about how we use those different types of data. So, as we build new data stores, we need to make sure that we’re careful and transparent when sharing members’ data across the Co-op.

Willingness to share

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Our second workshop asked if members were OK with sharing different types of data with the Co-op – information like their age, gender, salary, religious beliefs. We split the group into 2. One half was thinking about sharing data for commercial reasons, to improve our products and services. The other half was thinking about sharing data for social reasons, like community research.

We gave the groups a scale of how comfortable they were with sharing, from “Not at all” to “Yes please”.  People have many different opinions and different worries, concerns or reasons for sharing. Most people made up their minds with a firm “no” or “yes”, but the reasons for their answer varied widely, and some people changed their mind as the group debated the issues.

What does this tell us? Well, if we’re going to be trusted with holding more data, we’re going to have to give people choices around how their data might be used, both within the Co-op and externally.

Play your consent right

The third workshop was a game where people voted about whether they would give consent to companies to use their data for specific purposes. For example, if people would consent to the Co-op using their habits of purchasing pet food from Co-op stores to let them know about special offers in pet insurance.

Feelings were pretty much summarised by 2 responses:

  1. “I’m an individual – don’t assume what I’m interested in by age, postcode, gender.”
  2. “Maybe I shouldn’t provide more data about myself in case I miss out on special offers that the Co-op targets at particular people.”

We’ll need to think about how to use data to help people find the things we think they are most interested in, whilst not precluding people from other offers.

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Hearing from data experts

We live-streamed the opening discussions and you can watch the keynote and panel discussions on our Youtube channel.

A massive thank you to our experts who gave up their time to travel to Manchester, speak, answer questions and mingle throughout the event. So thank you:

What’s next

It’s not too late to join the conversation because we’ll keep talking to our members about data. Last week we published a post called Speaking to our members about how their personal data is used. We’re going to look at and analyse the feedback we got from the survey more closely to pick up more themes and add what we found out at this event

In the coming weeks, we’ll join Data Leaders to plan improving how we use data across the Co-op. We will also be working with our colleagues in Data Protection. And of course, we’ll discuss all of this with our Members’ Council and advisory boards.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering

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