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 response to the Digital Economy Bill

Last week I gave oral evidence to the Digital Economy Bill Scrutiny committee in the House of Commons. It was a joint session with Jeni Tennison CEO of the Open Data Institute (ODI) and a member of our Digital Advisory Board.

You can watch the full session on Parliament Live or read Hansard.

We support the sentiment behind the Bill, there’s much to applaud in it. But it’s really important that Government embodies the principles of open access to public data, with strong and transparent operational processes in place. This is a commercial issue because of the extra friction of duplicate and inconsistent public data. For us it’s also a member data issue, in terms of access, privacy and trust.

We need registers to do this. Sharing of data between different areas within Government has the potential to worsen the current situation.

I talked about radical transparency at our AGM. We should all be able to see where and how Government shares data.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of this Bill in the weeks and months ahead.

Mike Bracken

Chief Digital Officer