What local cause data tells us about our members

We’re proud of the Co-op Membership scheme and what it gives back to our members and local communities. When members buy own-brand products or services from Co-op, we give 5% back to the member, and 1% to the Local community fund to support local causes as chosen by members. At the end of each funding period a new ‘round’ begins and members can choose from a new set of local causes.

Now that 2 rounds of payments have been completed, the Data Science and Community Engagement teams have been looking into the data and what it tells us about our members, the choices they’re making and what those choices might say about us as an organisation.

Learning more about the Local community fund

We looked at data around causes across 10 different categories:

  1. Art and culture
  2. Community development
  3. Education and skills
  4. Environment
  5. Health
  6. Social inclusion
  7. Sport
  8. Young people
  9. Animal welfare
  10. Other

Using these categories we’ve been able to see the number of members choosing each cause, the popularity of each category, and the amount of funding each one received. We especially looked for significant or unusual data that provide specific insights and which can help direct our future campaigning.

Here’s what we found.

Community payouts increased between round 1 and 2

Our members have raised £20 million for local causes through the Local community fund  – £9,196,993 in the first round and a further £10,825,772 in the second round.

We saw a rise in the number of causes chosen, as well as in the income that was generated for each different cause category.

Young people and social inclusion received the most funds

It’s unsurprising that our data shows members supporting causes that align with Co-op values. In fact the Local community fund is specifically targeted at causes benefitting members’ local communities. However, clear favourites do emerge under each category.

For both round 1 and round 2, the category receiving the most funds was ‘young people’. Causes relating to this raised nearly £5 million: more than £1 million more than the next category down, which was social inclusion. We have done a lot of work in this area, including through our partnership with the Red Cross.

Between the 2 rounds, the number of causes related to young people has increased from 882 to just over 1,000, showing that this remains a priority in Co-op communities. Social inclusion groups have reduced in number between rounds 1 and 2, but remain consistent in the level of support they receive.

Homelessness is an important issue to members

The high number of causes in the social inclusion category, and the many members choosing to support them, provide a clear indication that members share our appetite for tackling the problems facing communities.

Causes in the social inclusion category were amongst the most successful at encouraging members to support them – proving the most popular cause in 43% of all the communities where they were represented in both rounds.

In the case of causes that are working to address social issues, such as homelessness, this proportion can rise even higher. Across both rounds, causes supporting the homeless proved the most popular with Co-op members in 55% of the communities where they were represented.

Promotion works

As we approached the end of the second round of funding, more than 1,600 members were choosing a cause every day. This shows that interest in causes remains alive throughout the funding round, and messages about choosing causes were being received through friends and family, stores and across the media.

However we found that this number increases significantly when the Co-op, and causes themselves, begin to promote the Local community fund. The chart below shows that once social media is used, either by Co-op or by the charity, to highlight both membership and local causes, members respond by logging in and choosing.

cause-selection-promotion-04-14-nov-2017Between 11 and 13 November, driven by social media activity, the daily number of members choosing a cause rose 78%. This then increased to a total of 35,000 on 14 November when we emailed our members encouraging them to select a cause, showing clearly that email is currently our most effective tool for mobilising people.

Round 3: hoping for even bigger payouts

If you’re a Co-op member, you can now choose your next local cause by logging into your account. Alternatively, if you’re involved with a local group or established charity, you can register your interest for the next round of the fund, and use social media to raise awareness. As we can see from our data, that can make all the difference.
Simon Kirby, Community data and insight manager
Charles Gordon, Senior community data analyst

How the ODI is helping Co-op Digital put data at the centre of the organisation

We recently invited groups of data experts into Co-op Digital to look at and challenge our data plans. One of these groups was the Open Data Institute (ODI). This guest post explains their thoughts on Co-op’s data work so far, and what we could be doing better.

At the Open Data Institute we work across the data spectrum helping people understand how access to data can make things better. Our dedication to making data more open and accessible puts us in a good position to advise Co-op Digital’s data team, who are aiming to improve transparency around how and why their customer data is used.

The Co-op is already getting lots right

We think there are 3 areas where Co-op Digital is already making excellent progress.

1.They recognise that data is an important asset

Data is becoming vital infrastructure for our society: just like roads help us navigate to a destination, data helps us navigate to a decision. Co-op already treats data as an asset and uses it to inform decisions. Co-op Digital has structured its data team so it doesn’t just include the standards and technical infrastructure that ensure people can access data, but also the governance, policies and guidance that ensures data is used in ethical ways.

2.They are building trust in their data

Co-op Digital have said that they want to be ‘trusted with data’. We’re pleased with this approach because we believe that ethics should be at the centre of any organisation’s work in this area. We’d like to see Co-op go further in using our data ethics canvas in their new data projects. The more people that use it and improve it, the better it will get for everyone.

3.They are working in the open

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force next year, its rules on personal data will have far-reaching repercussions. It’s driving organisations to think about how they collect and manage this data. Being open is an important part of GDPR, and Co-op are talking about what it means and how its colleagues can better understand the new rules. We think GDPR is a good opportunity to build trust and loyalty, so we are pleased Co-op Digital contributed to our recent research on this subject.

Where we think Co-op can improve

There were areas we’d like to see Co-op Digital work more on, and we gave the team 3 recommendations.

1.Create data infrastructure for members and customers, not just colleagues

Data can be used to drive open innovation. It can help large organisations engage with startups to create innovative products and it can help a sector collaborate to solve social issues and create new opportunities. We’d like to see Co-op exploring how it could collaborate with others to find innovative uses for its data – not just other organisations but startups, civil society groups, members and customers. Good use of data infrastructure can empower entire communities.

2.Push for data literacy across the organisation

People need a variety of skills in order to understand how to effectively use data. The ODI has invested in training and improving data literacy and we’ve created a skills framework to help develop data professionals.

But we don’t need organisations full of data scientists – everyone in a modern organisation has a role in collecting, managing and using data. At Co-op Digital, this means building the culture and capabilities for all teams to run analysis and reporting to help them make informed decisions.

3.Lead the way on creating a more open approach

We think it’s important to build peer networks to help people share their experience and to work together to solve problems. We believe the Co-op has an opportunity to take forward not just their own businesses, but to offer insight and thought-leadership on data to the UK’s co-operative network and the retail sector. In doing this, the Co-op can make open data the default option and open the door for more creativity and innovation.

The Co-op has a chance to use data to make a difference

By working with its members, Co-op can share responsibility in managing data assets with those who are directly invested in its success. Shared stewardship of these assets, like store locations and opening times, helps to build a trusted relationship with members.

The Co-op already provides financial support to help members solve problems in their local community, particularly with the 1% cause contribution from membership. We were pleased to see data on this published under an open licence recently, using a community standard. But Co-op could also support its members in helping them be more data-informed and in understanding how data can be used to solve local challenges: this is all part of data literacy.

There’s already great work happening across the UK where local communities are using data to map wheelchair accessibility and highlight housing issues. We’d love to see the Co-op work with its members to create more of these initiatives. It’d help cement its position as a trusted authority on the ethical use of data.

We’re looking forward to seeing what the Co-op Data team does next – and we’ll be happy to help them meet their ambitions for being trusted with data to do amazing things.

Leigh Dodds, Data Infrastructure Programme lead, ODI
Amanda Smith, Account Manager, ODI
David Beardmore, Commercial Director, ODI

Our data hackathon at Federation House


(Transcript) Alex Waters: So we are in Federation House in the event space. We are hosting the Co-op’s first ever data hackathon.

Data Hackathon 2017, we’ve brought about 50 data analysts from around the whole Co-op. From all the different business units, from different functions, they’re all together today working on some data challenges. We’ve got a few different ones. We’ve got ones around energy consumption, ones around internal costs, ones around using social media data. They’re being creative, they’re adding in extra data where they can find it, they’re not being asked to solve specific questions, they are being given the challenges to solve themselves.

Mike Yates: So, me and my team decided to work on an energy task. So a few teething problems at the start, as you’d expect, trying to get all the data and work out how to use the systems, but getting there now. We’ve potentially found a £27 million saving but I probably shouldn’t say that on camera, it’s probably not right! I need to double check the figures. But potentially, some exciting stuff that we’ve found.

Pralita McCourt: My team are working on looking at how the spend on travel and accommodation was across the business last year. So we’re looking at that 2016 data and analysing for any patterns and any cost saving measures that could be adopted for this year and next year.

Mike Yates: So we’ve got guys I’ve never worked with before, so 2 guys in my team they’re kind of more, what I’d say is back-end system guys and kind of architecture guys which is something that I never normally get exposed to so it’s great to kind of see how they think and how they work. I’d say data is everything in that, you know, we’re ultimately trying to understand people, that’s kind of a lot of what life is all about, and I think data’s a great way, it’s not the only way – it’s a great way to get some real insight into that.

Pralita McCourt: It feels good to be part of it, it’s exciting. It’s good meeting up with other analysts from across the business that you wouldn’t normally come into contact with on a day-to-day basis.

Alex Waters: Right now, I think it is probably the most exciting time to work in data in the Co-op than it has been for many years. I really do expect that as we go through the next couple of years the Co-op is going to get better and better at using data and it will be recognised nationally as a brilliant place for data.

A discovery into data at the Co-op

We’ve been looking at how we handle our data. Over the years we’ve had recommendations from both in-house and consultancy teams about how to do this, but now we want to break the cycle and finish what we started.

Above all we’ve been thinking about how we can take a more ‘Co-op’ approach to our data. We pulled together a multidisciplinary team from across the business to look into this and they’ve become know internally as the ‘data layer’ team (explained in more detail by Rob in his being trusted with data post).

So, where to start?

We want to be trusted with data, and use data to inform what we do. The purpose of the discovery was to explore how we should go about creating the right conditions, both online and offline, to support this; and where to start.

We wanted to understand:

  1. How we deal with data now.
  2. The options for doing things differently.
  3. What we should test, explore and do with the data we have.
  4. What we can, and should, do with data in the longer term.

The purpose of this discovery was to stay at a high level when thinking about data rather than focusing on any one area in particular. We knew that would come later so didn’t want to get into specifics at this stage.

What we did

photograph of 4 members of the team gathered around post-its on the team wall going through the things we've learnt from user research

We needed to understand the problems and opportunities we faced: not just in the Co-op, but in the wider world too. This meant referring to a mix of research, from reading previous data reports to holding interviews and workshops.

The data science team

We started by speaking to the data science team here at the Co-op to get an idea of the challenges the business faces when it comes to data. They identified 47 points that needed to be addressed. We discussed each one and prioritised them in terms of urgency.

Inside the Co-op

We also spoke to different Co-op groups and the Executive team. We wanted to understand how people around the business approach data, how they’re working with it and how we can meet our Co-op ambition of being more trusted with data.

People outside the Co-op

To get a better external perspective we met 4 private companies that work closely with data. We found examples of how easily accessible data can improve the way a business runs, and creates an environment for identifying new product and service opportunities.

The public

Speaking to the public gave the team a different view of data and consent. We like to speak to our members regularly about data in order to be better informed. Understandably people feel strongly about how their personal information is used, and approaches change depending on how this usage is explained and how customers feel about the business in question.

Where we ended up

photograph of walls in the data layer team area showing what the team had found by the end of the discovery

Three main themes came out of our research:

1. We have multiple versions of the truth

Teams work from different databases that don’t necessarily stay in sync, or use consistent definitions. This makes it hard for users (colleagues) to find the best source for information, and be sure they are interpreting data correctly.

2. We under-leverage our data for analysis and insight purposes

Individual teams own lots of data and use it only within their team. We could be much better at sharing data and insights across the Group so it could be helpful for everyone. The problem is partly down to technical constraints, and partly a reflection of our how widespread we are and how differently we work: even within the Digital Group itself.

3. Consent and preferences aren’t understood holistically

Customers opt in to marketing for individual parts of the business, but we don’t have a clear central understanding of the consent an individual has granted across the group. This means that we may not be giving the best customer service that we could.

None of these themes came as a surprise – but the value in the work came from prioritising how we should move forward.

What’s next?

We identified 4 alphas which will be the first step in our vision for a Co-op that is built on, and led by, relevant, transparent and trusted data.

First we need stronger data governance across the whole of the Co-op group, so that our data can become more consistent, more joined up, and easier to find and understand.

Secondly, we should have a single view of each individual so that  all of our information on members and colleagues matches up. We’ll look at membership to help with this.  

Thirdly we want to look at what we mean by ‘consent’ when we ask members to trust us with their data, and we want to be sure this meaning is exactly the same across all Co-op businesses: from Food to Funeralcare.

Finally, we should develop a data science lab so that our data scientists and analysts have the right environment, tools and processes to develop and improve the work they are doing. This will also help us to attract more of the kind of people that will make the Co-op a centre of excellence.

These 4 alphas will start from September, and we will share our progress as we go. It’d be great to hear your thoughts.

Jack Fletcher
Interaction / service designer

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.

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

IMG_5889

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

IMG_5906

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.

IMG_5914

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.

image shows text that says: People trust us and a graphic of two hands shaking an the Co-op logo

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