Data ethics canvas: helping us make good data decisions from the start

Being ‘trusted with data’ is something we talk about a lot at the Co-op and part of the Data team’s role is to make sure that every team is thinking about data responsibly. To help, we provide guidance and practical support to colleagues across the business.

Last June we started introducing our Digital teams to the Open Data Institute’s (ODI) Data ethics canvas. The ‘canvas’ is a template. It’s designed to help teams anticipate potential ethical issues associated with data they’re using, or coming into contact with, right from the beginning of a project.

A year on, the canvas has been gladly received and well-used, and now we’re rolling it out further.

Here’s a call to anyone making data decisions to use the Data ethics canvas.

The benefits and why they matter

The canvas allows teams to design with data in mind, making sure we maximise its value and understand associated risks. Tackling data-related questions early, with support from our expert teams at the Co-op can help minimise or even avoid any rework or surprise challenges or unintended consequences. Dedicating time to map out and consider the possible consequences of their data decisions has helped teams move forward quickly and autonomously and feel confident that they’re doing the right thing for our members, colleagues and communities.

Data ethics are here to stay

A clear message is emerging from regulatory bodies: the ethical use of data is a growing priority, and rightly so. The ODI has referred to ‘trust as the new currency’ and responsible technology think tank Doteveryone has launched their ‘Consequence scanning’ event to help tech companies replace the ‘move fast and break things’ culture with a more considered approach.

Using the data ethics canvas for the first time

If you’re working on a new project, product or service, we recommend running a workshop to consider the decisions you’ll need to make about the data you’ll come into contact with.

The sooner in the process you do this, the better.

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To get the most out of your workshop you should:

1. Scope and prepare it beforehand. You can do this with fewer people but try to include the project expert, the product manager and a delivery manager who can later facilitate the workshop. You’ll need to get a shared understanding of the importance of the canvas, pin down the benefits of working through it in the context of your specific project and decide what you want to get from the workshop.

2. Invite your digital product or service team as well as data experts to the workshop itself. You’ll need to around 90 minutes of their time. The data representatives could be from data management, data protection and information security depending on the project so email co-opdatamanagement@coop.co.uk to find out whose expertise would be best suited.

3. Print out the canvas and the topic headers (you can download them). The bigger you print, the more space you have to write which makes things feel more inclusive. 

4. Enlist scribes from the delivery team. Make it clear that everyone can and should contribute but delivery managers usually feel comfortable being on their feet, taking a lead when it comes to capturing thoughts, encouraging participation and collaboration and generally making workshops more dynamic.

5. Together, work through the 15 topics.

Topics and discussion points  

The canvas has more detailed discussion prompts but here’s an overview of the questions it asks the team to think about.

  1. Data sources (Where does it come from?)
  2. Limitations with the data (Is the data poor quality or does it have a known bais?)
  3. Sharing this data (Who are we sharing it with? Why? How?)
  4. Laws, policies and classification (Are we in line with GDPR; the Data Protection Act 2018; Co-op Information Classification and Handling Policy; is the information confidential?)
  5. Rights over data sources (Do we have permission to do what we’re planning to do with it?)
  6. Existing ethical framework (Does it align with the Co-op ethical values?)
  7. Purpose for using this data (Is there a good, mutually beneficial reason for collecting or using the data? Does collecting the data make things better for members, or, can we gain insights into products from it?)
  8. Communicating your purpose (When we ask for data, are we explaining why, in the most appropriate way?)
  9. Positive effects (How can we increase the positive impact of the project and how can we measure it?)
  10. Negative effects (Are there any points where there’s potential for a data breach?)
  11. Minimising negative impact (Where can we reduce harm and how can we measure the impact?)
  12. Engaging with people (Describe how people can engage with you and your project, are the people affected able to appeal or request changes to the product or service)
  13. Risks and issues (Where are the financial and reputational risks?)
  14. Reviews and iterations (When should we revisit the canvas?)
  15. What happens next (Who’s doing what and where should they go for support if it’s needed?)

Checking in and following up

As with all workshops, you’re likely to have a list of actions. Check in with the team on their progress against them. Schedule in another workshop when a product or service enters a new delivery phase.

Wider data support for Co-op colleagues

The Data ethics canvas is an introduction to thinking about data, and there’s more information on our intranet and Confluence pages. Our ‘Privacy by design’ playbook gives teams design considerations at the next level of detail.

You can find more support on running the workshops in our Data ethics canvas guide. Or you can email co-opdatamanagement@coop.co.uk for further support.

Find out more

You can read our commitment to data ethics in the Co-op Way Report 2018, and we’ve recently published our internal data ethics policy. We’ll be sharing our latest news and progress on data ethics to other ODI partners and members at an ODI Fridays lunchtime lecture on 10 May 2019.

Dale Upton
Data education and awareness manager

Introducing local.co.uk – Co-op’s new marketplace

We’ve recently launched local.co.uk – a marketplace that connects independent businesses to customers across the UK. We’re doing this because we want to give small businesses a fairer way to trade and help make communities across the UK stronger.

We built the service in 13 weeks and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. But we know it’s far from perfect – there are parts of the service that could be smoother and features that we want to improve and introduce.

We launched it when we did so that we could learn quickly from real users and make the service valuable for them.

We’ve done a lot and learnt a lot.

This video shows how we created local.co.uk (2 minutes 26 seconds) 

Why we’re using the Open Data Institute’s Data Ethics Canvas

The Data team has been working with the Open Data Institute (ODI) for a while now. The collaboration has helped us speak about and get feedback on our data plans. It’s also made us aware of the ODI’s openly available resources. One of those is their ‘Data Ethics Canvas’.

Recently, we’ve been using it in our digital delivery teams.

What it is and how it works

The ‘canvas’ is a template. It’s designed to help teams identify potential ethical issues associated with data they’re using, or coming into contact with, on a project. The ODI hopes it “promotes understanding and debate around the foundation, intention and potential impact of any piece of work.”

Vitally, of course, it’s also intended to help teams to figure out the steps they need to take to act ethically.

Screengrab of the ODI's data ethics canvas. Shows 15 boxes with 15 different considerations for digital teams

Working alongside delivery teams

In the last few weeks, the Data Governance team has been helping delivery teams fill in the canvas. Once we’ve filled it in together, we’ve been helping the teams work out what they may need to add in to their project to make sure we’re treating data how we should be. This could be something like getting approval to use the data (for a specific purpose) from whoever’s accountable, or to complete a ‘Data Privacy Impact Assessment’. It all depends on what the data is; what we need it for; how much risk is involved, and outcome a team want.

Why the canvas is working for us

The Data Ethics Canvas has been prompting our delivery teams to think even more carefully about the data the Co-op manages to enable it to operate, and the topics that must be considered to ensure we are acting ethically. This could be things like the source of the data; what we are using it for; how it will benefit our members, communities, causes and what the potential risks are in using it.

The canvas is something we can print it out and stick it up on the team walls alongside other current work and that’s really helpful. It makes sure everyone keep data ethics in mind all the time – from as early on as possible, so that this stuff will be woven into the product or service.

Where we’re going from here

Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking through the canvas with more of our teams. However, the canvas is just one part of how we’re going to get the whole Co-op thinking about data ethics over the course of 2018. We’re aiming to help everyone become data literate.

Danny McCarthy
Data governance manager

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.