Place Category: Digital
The Data Place is a social enterprise made up of data scientists, designers, community builders and strategists helping people and places thrive.
Everything about our operations is designed to be participative and we believe that it is only by empowering people – in business as well as civic sectors – to conceive and implement their own changes that real positive transformation can be achieved.
This is particularly important when exploring the emerging issues around data sharing and management in the public sphere: we believe very strongly that the benefits of bringing technology to urban (and rural) spaces can only be a force for good when citizens can access, understand, shape and build these infrastructures for themselves.
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Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated October 2020
1) What are the main social differences you have aimed to make (or supported)?
The Data Place was formed so that everyone to have the confidence, ability and agency to use data to thrive. We want to help create an environment for better use of data by facilitating creative problem solving, developing skills and co-creating tools to make data more useful for people and communities.
The emerging disciplines of data science and analytics are transforming the world – and not always for the better. We believe this situation is best tackled by empowering people to use data for themselves better and help them understand when data is being used to influence them – for better or for worse.
The Data Place is a group of data scientists, designers, community builders and strategists that help people and places thrive through the better use of data. Working with individuals, organisations and communities we bring creative problem-solving and skills development to build confidence in approaching and using data ethically. Everything about our operations is designed to be participative and we believe that it is only by empowering people – in business as well as civic sectors – to conceive and implement their own changes that real positive transformation can be achieved. This is particularly important when exploring the emerging issues around data sharing and management in the public sphere: we believe very strongly that the benefits of bringing technology to urban (and rural) spaces can only be a force for good when citizens can access, understand, shape and build these infrastructures for themselves.
2) What actions have you taken to deliver the aims described above?
We have provided services in four main categories:
- Data management (sensing, data acquisition, data infrastructure, data quality, data modelling) giving organisations the tools to manage and use their own data for better performance, efficiency and strategy
- Data value demonstrations (data visualisation, data science, data strategy and data-led solutions design) that show organisations and communities the power of data
- Data-led design (data-led marketing, database design, and data maturity assessments) that helps people build better products and services with data
- Community building (design and data training, data-led research, data-themed events and community building, and open-source data sharing platforms) that strengthens the relationships and networks around data.
We have been involved in a wide range of projects including building an open-source gender data platform, providing a range of data management health checks for local businesses, delivering training in data and service-design methods to community activist groups, building tools to capture and showcase environmental data from Plymouth’s green spaces, and training academics in open data handling as part of fieldwork.
3) What has changed, what specific outcomes and benefits have been realised as a result of the above actions?
Individuals who have worked with us gain greater awareness of how data might be used to benefit them, and confidence in searching, acquiring, and using data to gain insight. They also get access to a broad design toolkit that enables them to discover or prototype new kinds of interventions in their communities.
Clients who have hired us for specific data management tasks have always been left with a greater sense of confidence and knowledge of how to handle data ethically and legally, for greater benefits.
Through our projects we also support a range of charitable and public sector organisations to develop new ways of working with data to benefit themselves and their stakeholder communities.
In running our own events (such as ThingsCamp) or supporting and underpinning others (such as DataPlay) we help individuals build their technology skills and careers directly, helping them progress regardless of their technical ability.
4) Please describe how your income and/or any profits generated from previous years has been maximised in delivering social outputs and adding social value.
All the application and infrastructure development that we undertake is open-source – that is, the source code is freely shared with other developers. Similarly, the work we have on our platform is also shared back to the development community. Whilst respecting client privacy and intellectual property, we try to share learning from private clients into the community through blog posts and other communications.
Our ThingsCamp events and the DataPlay events that we support are free to attend and we provide our time to these events at no cost. These educational events are a major component of our social impact as they help individuals directly.
Our platforms are sold for as close to marginal cost as possible in order to reflect the open-source nature of the underlying technology, whilst also covering our costs to enable sustainability.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
As much of our grant-funded work has reporting requirements, any impact measurements taken (for example, workshop attendee surveys) in these projects are owned by them and can’t be claimed by us without double-counting impact. However, in our commercial work and for ThingsCamp events we regularly solicit feedback and ideas – this also tells us how the ambient skill levels of the general public are evolving.
6) How many people have benefitted from your actions and what measures of benefit can you report?
To date (August 2020) over 130 people have attended a ThingsCamp event and learned at least one thing to help them understand the emerging technologies of the Internet of Things. Similarly there have been 10 DataPlay events, with at least 150 unique attendees learning about public data in Plymouth.
Our open data portals currently host 265 unique open datasets.
We have helped 21 small businesses and 4 larger public sector organisations with a range of data and/or service design problems to date.
We have trained around 24 academics in the handling of fieldwork data.
As our service portfolio evolves we are discovering better ways to measure our impact and so this is an area for development.
7) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that help illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
- Data health checks for a growing local business
- Building the Gender Data Lab
- Data and Design training for Civic leaders in Kosice, Slovakia
8) What social and environmental benefits have you created arising from internal operational policies and other actions?
We work as a virtual distributed team to reduce travel, congestion and carbon emissions.
We maintain an open employee handbook (https://github.com/thedataplace/policies) to ensure transparency in how staff are managed (but we are currently too small to employ permanent non-director staff). We hope to be more specific about measuring our environmental, sustainability and equality policies as we grow.