Redesigning for the Responsible Data Community, Online Discussion Notes

FabRiders’ Network-Centric Resources project helps resource developers understand how to develop people-powered and participatory resources and establish assets for networks and communities that share ownership, enable contribution and support collaboration. What’s critical to grow a community around a resource is to understand the barriers to broader participation. To help exemplify this Maya Richman shared learnings on the Engine Rooms efforts to redesign the Responsible Data website.

The Responsible Data Forum began in 2014 with a series of events, the first taking place in Oakland, CA which was in partnership with Aspiration. The effort

The focus is on understanding the unintended consequences of using data in our work.  The field is pretty diverse.  The effort has been to create a de-centralised place to share knowledge.

Two examples from FabRiders on content that grew out of Responsible Data Forum events, Questions to Ask Frequently (QAF’s) when working with Data and Marginalised Communities and the Responsible Resource Creator Manifesto (which coincidentally evolved into our Network Centric Resources Project).  There are lots of projects/work by the likes of organisations like Amnesty, Oxfam, and IFRC that draw from Responsible Data work.

They started working on the redesign in Feb 2017 and took nearly a year.  They began by taking stock of where the community was going and started asking questions like:

  • How did you find the responsible data community?
  • How have you engaged with the tools and resources that have been developed?
  • What is the most useful content for you?
  • Where do you see the community going?
  • Who should run the community?

After they ran the initial survey, they learned that people often felt they did have ownership or agency to work on projects that had started at a Responsible Data Forum event. The initial intent was to leave things undefined, but as a result was that people weren’t that invested. So they decided that they would better define The Engine Room as being a ‘steward’ of the community.  They imagine a time when they will pass on the stewardship to another organisation.

The significant learning is that any community that is coming together around a resource needs clarity on who is managing the resource. A governance structure is super important.

They learned that there was a need to make the content on the website that discussed responsible data more accessible and understandable. The original content was very academic and it distant and so they rewrote a lot of the material. The hope is that the site now acts as a 101 resource for responsible data.

Ruth Miller wrote an excellent document from doing the user research, and they would like to make that public soon so that others can learn from it.

The events they ran were very resource intensive and became more infrequent. The mailing list grew more and more central to the community.

The got great advice from the community members, and why they can’t do it all, they hope to be able to implement more of the great ideas in the future.

In the context of a Network-Centric Resource Lifecycles, Maya thought that they had gone from preconception to maturity to back to preconception.  Maya sees the redesign as a return to the pre-conception phase where they tried to understand the needs and aims of the community better.

Since the launch of the redesign, they realise they need to set up a proper feedback mechanism to continue to get input from the community.

Regarding the future, they want to design a process for establising ‘partners’ in responsible data, a way to capture and support advocacy that happens within organisations. They want to continue to showcase profiles and the work of people working on responsible data.

They are aspiring to be able to hand over stewardship to another organisation, so they are looking at developing mechanisms and processes to do that. Another example of a resource that is looking to have an organisation that will steward it is LevelUp, the digital security curriculum. Having rotating stewardship is a great way to demonstrate how the community owns the resource.