As with much in the debate about data and tech, losing the jargon, demystifying the regulations and ultimately keeping things simple when it comes to personal data and people’s rights, is always going to be a challenge

But that was the clear call from a workshop that Corsham Institute hosted, (20 June 2018), focussed on our community engagement and life-long learning project, Your Data, Your Rights.

Local people from across the Corsham area came together to discuss the challenges, knowledge gap, the pros and cons of data sharing, and where the balance should be between raising awareness of the threats and promoting the opportunities.

At Corsham Institute, we are following the 5D project design model of Discover, Define, Design, Deliver and Disseminate, with our initial Discovery phase for this project being a wide ranging online survey with local residents, which was carried out in April 2018. Overall the survey showed that while most people lack essential knowledge about their personal data and how organisations collect and use it, they also care a lot about it, are interested in their data rights, and want more information.

YDYR Group working[1].JPG

With our community-focussed ‘Test and Learn’ approach we are actively engaging with groups of people who responded to the survey in the current Define stage of the project, to go deeper into the challenges, and begin to shape some specific outcomes to take further.

One of the strong emerging themes is that while digital challenges may be new and complex, the answers may well be much older and more traditional. Not relying on technical solutions or new apps, but relying on people and communities to respond by stepping forward to find ways to stay safe online.

YDYR workshop group.JPG

Our workshop participants initiated discussions on a wide variety of related topics, including the adoption of a public health approach to data and data rights, to the development of a community ‘digital spirit’ with an e-version of Neighbourhood Watch schemes, where people would look out for the safety of their neighbours.

Such an approach would require a basic ‘data-pack’ on online safety and rights, to inform the community across its demographics, knowledge levels and the skills-base, with consistent content and simple messaging to cut through the complexities. It could then be used by existing community networks, trusted intermediaries, and cascaded through teams of local digital champions to residents.

The possibility of co-designing such a solution is an exciting one, where, after some initial priming of the pump with the tools it needs, a community could take the lead and support itself to become a safer, connected and more cohesive place, where knowledge spreads, the skills needed across people’s lives grow, and the benefits of our digital world are increasingly realised in local ways by local people.

This vision is one Corsham Institute, working with members of our local community, will develop and test further to find models that can be scaled and replicated in other areas. When fully developed, this community-led approach could become an important contribution to research in the life-long learning arena, into the skills we all need for the digital age.