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

Our data team is growing, and we’re looking for talented people to join us in a number of different roles. Find out more about working for Co-op Digital.

Speaking to our members about how their personal data is used

Last month, the data team blogged about how we want to become trusted with our members’ data. We said that one of the pieces of work we’re doing to help us strengthen our position of trust is around understanding how members feel about personal data. We wanted to find out what our members thought about their data being used and shared for various things.

A survey to start

We asked members to take part in a survey. 148 people completed it but not everyone answered every question.

Here are 5 things we’ve learnt so far.

1. 50% want more transparency around how data is used1.2.50%-want-to-know-more

Half of the people who took the survey said they’d like to know more about how personal information is used by organisations and businesses, but they don’t know how to find out. To set the Co-op apart from the rest, we should be clear about how we’re using this information and, if people want even more information, we should make that easy to find.

This leads us to our next learning…

2. Members would like to understand how their data is used

We asked members whether they thought they understood enough about how organisations use their personal information.

Three out of 10 members said they feel they know enough or everything about this. Which leaves 7 out of 10 wanting more information or having no idea about how personal information is used. That’s good to know. It indicates we should be explaining more about what we do, and what we don’t do, with member data.

3. What people do before trusting someone with their data

When it comes to thinking about trusting an organisation with personal details, only 2% of people said that didn’t do anything before hitting the submit button.

We asked: “Which of the following do you routinely do before submitting personal information?” The most popular answer was: “Make sure I amend my marketing preferences.” “Check for secure symbols/assurance marks on the website” was a close second.

Only 3 out of 10 people said that they read the terms and conditions or small print though. We think that we could go further in making our privacy notices easier to understand and more likely to be read and understood.

4. Members are happy to share their data for the right reasons

We asked our members if there were any reasons why they’d be happy for us to safely and anonymously share their data. Unsurprisingly for Co-op members, 70% said they’d be happy if it benefited the local community! Some of the comments around this were “Because the Coop is for local people”, “Local community is important” and “Because it’s for a worthwhile reason”.

One respondent said that although they don’t like the idea of their data being shared, the best reason to do it would be if it helped the local community. That person emphasised that their data must be safe and whoever has the data must be accountable. We completely agree and we’ll continue to prioritise data safety. We will also continue to speak to our Member Council and Members as we go.

5. People trust us

Over three quarters (76%) of our respondents said that they trust us to keep their data safe and to use it sensibly (79%). This is also good news. However we can’t sit back and relax on that one. We know that we must do the right thing, not the easy thing in order to bring our Co-op difference to data. We’ll continue to work in the open.

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Turning learnings into policy

We’ll look at and analyse the feedback we got from the survey more closely to pick up more themes. But the conversation around whether we use and share member data, and how we do it, isn’t closed now. We’re still listening to your thoughts on this. Over the next few months we will start to discuss improvements to our policies around data and, with a lot more information and discussion start to make those policies real.

Tell us what you think

We’re holding an event Shaping our Co-op: Data trust and transparency event at Federation House on Friday 19 May, 5:15 to 7:30pm. You can register for tickets.

We’d like to speak to members regardless of how much you know about how your data is and can be used, as well as people with an interest in data consent. The only prerequisite is that you have an interest in doing the right thing for members.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering

Being trusted with data

Being ‘trusted with data’ is something we talk about a lot. It is, of course, what we’d like to happen to the Co-op. To help us reach that point, we’ve done some work to define what it means to us and we’ve just begun to look at how we’re going to develop our ideas in 3 areas.

We spoke to lots of groups within the Co-op including our Digital Advisory Board before deciding that we believe being trusted with data is made up of 3 things. These are:

  1. Integrity.
  2. Transparency.
  3. Meaningful consent.

Image shows a triangle with 'Co-op: trusted with data' in the centre and the each of the 3 corners has one of the following words in it: 'integrity', 'transparency' and 'meaningful consent'.

Here’s how we’re developing these 3 areas.

Being transparent with how we’re using data

We want to build the right set of tools and technology to manage and link our data across the Co-op. We’re calling the concept our ‘data layer’, and we’re using ‘layer’ rather than ‘hub’ because we think our approach should be consistent and integrated across the Co-op, as opposed to being centralised. Most importantly, like Mike said at the Co-op AGM 2016, we’re committed to becoming transparent with how we use our data.

To do this we want to understand more about which processes, habits, culture and tools we should adopt to meet our members’ data needs. Our first step to building a data layer is to start a discovery using a multidisciplinary team and user research-lead approach to find out:

  • what we need to do to be trusted with data
  • which expectations can we set or stretch
  • how can we communicate with them on the topic of data
  • how a data layer looks in terms of engineering and data management and what opportunities that offers

We’ve just kicked off this piece of work so we’ll talk more about this later in the year.

Data integrity

Data integrity is about about making sure that data is correct, well-managed and secure. Our Head of Data Governance and Integrity, Ian Thomas will tackle this in 2 ways:

  1. By helping us think about data standards, usage and regulatory requirements as part of everything we do. Ian’s already working directly with our Membership team to simplify how we handle member data. This will make it easier to be transparent around how we hold it. We’re also working closely with Rob Bowley and the engineering team on information security.
  2. By working towards consistent standards and approaches to our data across the Co-op with the wider data governance community. We believe that by co-operating with our colleagues we can share good practice and improve our governance.

Consent to use and share data

The third area we’re looking at is consent for us to use and share data. This is a topic that organisations don’t like talking about if they don’t have a position of transparency. We’re going to start the conversation with our members about data consent because we think that speaking to them will help us do the right things with data and will help us gain their trust.

Initially we’ll use our Member Voice surveys to start asking questions about data consent, and we’ll be speaking about it at our AGM. We’re also holding an event called Shaping our Co-op: Data Trust and Transparency Event to get feedback from our members on trust and consent. In combination with the data layer research we aim to get a comprehensive view of what we need to build in order to be truly trusted with data.

We’ve just begun these important pieces of work and we’ll keep talking about them.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering