Excerpted from an interview conducted by Olivia Tusinski of the Open Institute.
* On Community-Owned Digital Assets
“There’s a long history in the UK of community ownership going back over a thousand years – of people arguing against enclosure right through to the Occupy movement in more recent times. What’s interesting is that it appears to stop there, with land and built assets, upon which the old agrarian and industrial economies were based. It hasn’t really been considered by proponents within the context of the knowledge economy. Building the confidence of local communities to acquire and develop their own land and built assets has been core to my work over the past five years. But, more recently, I’ve been looking at the potential for communities to develop digital assets – both tangible and intangible. Locality helpfully sponsored a pilot programme, managed by The Creative Coop, to explore how community knowledge transfer might be harnessed to develop online services and enterprises. Whilst helping Lyme Regis Development Trust, we realised that the community lacked decent connectivity to the web, so the pilot project took that on as well – facilitating a knowledge exchange with Guifi.net which enabled the group to install their own wireless network. There’s also a lot of attention coalescing around libraries – as many as 10% will be managed by communities across England in the near future. So, we’ve been exploring how libraries, as bastions of information, could harness community publishing in its broadest sense and focus upon multimedia production, presentation and archiving rather than mere information consumption, to underpin a new hyperlocal digital asset class. Finally, there is emergent thinking around how open data could be harnessed as a digital asset or endowment by communities to deliver social impact as well as underpin an investable proposition. Could libraries help drive the open data agenda at the local level?”
* On Data Coops
“Data Coops There’s huge merit in the open data agenda – with opportunities for greater transparency, enterprise and innovation. But, there are also issues surrounding legibility, analytic capability and ownership from the point of view of communities. Many open data platforms, including data.gov.uk, are tech rather than community oriented – failing to start by asking: what is it you are trying to achieve? In addition, a significant proportion of the requests received by the Open Data User Group reveal the challenges the layperson faces when seeking to identify and/or extract information that is useful – in marked contrast to larger corporates and private enterprises keen to benefit from the release of public data. On ownership – we’ve been transferring and endowing communities with land and buildings for over 100 years now. And, if something is to represent an asset, it has to somehow belong to them, at least, such that they can extract social and economic value from it in some way. How does that translate to the world of open data if we hypothesise that it could underpin digital assets and enterprises developed by and for communities? Is there also an opportunity here to harness value from the vast amounts of data generated by community organisations themselves? If these same organisations were supported to better capture information about their offline activities, might there be scope for powerful data coops to develop – where groups could pool information about their activities and associated outcomes and, with that, support the cross-fertilisation of good ideas, increase their competitiveness as well as their social impact?”