A graphic that says Happy New Year 2022

A Year in Open Data Manchester 2021 – a rather busy one indoors…

We wrote that 2020 was a year like no otherwhile 2021 – was one where things felt a bit too much like more of the same.

In the UK, we spent most of the first half of the year indoors, where the novelty of Zoom quizzes had long worn off. During the summer, we were ‘free’, but at ODM, we decided that going to in-person events might not be the most sensible option. And we all quietly knew that winter would likely bring more challenges here.

But it certainly hasn’t all been doom and impending gloom!

A few headlines…

Our Year in Open Data Manchester 2021 has seen us take on new staff – user researcher Clara and data architect Maura – who have both brought great energy and expertise to the team.

And now we have secured some funding from the Co-op Foundation for a role that we believe is vital for ensuring the data community is one that is fair and responsible – a dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion in data specialist. But, we need match funding, so do check out the blog if you are someone who could help – or, if you think you’re the right person for the job, you can check out the job spec and apply here.

We also have a shiny new HQ – at the head office and first permanent home of Cooperatives UK, Holyoake House – named after one of the leaders of movement for cooperation, George Jacob Holyoake, who said “great change can only be effected by unity”. We feel it’s a fitting space to help nurture what we do – and you can see more about our work on data cooperatives below.

To help us make the most of our new home – we’re also hiring for an office manager. Apply here by 14 February.

And now, after more than 10 years working on some of the most challenging issues related to the growing use of data in everyday life, we’ve recently become a convenor for the UK government on its National Data Strategy. There’s more on that below too.

In 2022, we’ll have a new five-year strategy that will drive forward the things that matter to our community, help us choose the projects we take on and ensure our sustainability.

That will include more work on the Declaration for Responsible and Intelligent Data Practice, which added more key signatories in 2021 including the Co-operative Group, and reflects the world we want to help create, focussed on building digital and data systems that support people, planet and prosperity for all.

Read on for some more of our best bits from the year that was 2021.

Being there for the ODM community – wherever you are!

After a year of enforced online events in 2020, nobody would have blamed us for hanging up our Zoom hats and heading straight back out into our hometown of Manchester.

But one of the biggest successes we had that year was building our online, global community – and so 2021 saw us host 33 events – where most were open to people wherever they were in the world. We had 892 attendees with over 500 joining us for the first time, and welcomed people from Asia to North America.

Our most popular event was back in March, where we had speakers from the US and India join us to discuss How to Build a Data Cooperative.

Next, was one of our latest ones – where we brought the data community together to discuss the UK government’s proposal for reforming data policy here in the UK, in its plan Data: A New Direction.

This was closely followed by Another Country – Alternative Geographies of Experience and Being where we talked about the endlessly interesting world of psycho-geography with sound artist Markus Hetheier, expert loiterer Dr Morag Rose and Bishop of Ramsbury Dr Andrew Rumsey. Then it was our three-parter – Politics, Policy and the Algorithm.

We also brought experts from across the world, and closer to home, to talk lockdown projects, travel data and how data could help us save the planet. There are also skills sessions, and more, from 2021 and earlier on our Vimeo channel.

Thank you one and all for sharing in conversations designed to help more people understand the power of data.

Building strength in the global data-cooperative movement

Anyone that has started or joined a cooperative will know that this isn’t the easiest thing to build – otherwise everyone would do it – but we know that it can be the fairest. Data cooperatives, while fewer in number, are no different.

So, during 2021 we’ve focussed on building strength in this area. We started the year supported by the ODI Stimulus Fund to design a data-cooperative model with local colleagues Carbon Co-op, with a view to making it easier to share energy data, to ultimately make homes more energy efficient.

We launched a report on this project, and discussed our findings, in a great event with Astha Kapoor, co-founder of the Aapti Institute, Bangalore, and Hays Witt, CEO of Drivers Seat Cooperative in the US.

And all of this helped us welcome the launch of a Data Cooperatives Working Group in collaboration with the Aapti Institute in September. Get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

If you want to read a bit more about how cooperatives could empower people to use their data better, we wrote The Case for Data Cooperatives for the Aapti Institute’s Data Economy Lab.

Co-designing new data standards to help tackle some of the UK’s biggest challenges

In July 2020, we started getting to grips with the UK’s waste data through a partnership with Your Dsposal and the support of the ODI Stimulus Fund. By December, we’d met with lots of organisations to help us map the waste ecosystem, particularly looking at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) that come in all shapes and sizes across the UK, and built a prototype open data standard for these, called Open3R.

In 2021, we joined a consortium of organisations backed by Innovate UK to help deal with the UK’s million-tonne plastic-packaging waste problem. This project will bring the Open3R standard together with a new standard, for plastic waste, into a Plastics Packaging Portal, so that everyone involved, from producers to consumers, can better understand and deal with this problem.

As ever, we’ve been meeting with everyone involved in this knotty issue to make sure a new data standard will be fit for purpose. In a recent blog, our user researcher Clara let us know how the latest leg of this journey has gone. And there’s plenty more to get involved with in 2022, so do check out the post for more information.

Helping regional, national and international government work to build public engagement with data

In December 2020, we launched a report with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on The Future of Open Data in Greater Manchester – and in January 2021 – we hosted an event on this question.

And, after convening an event to help people understand and respond to the UK government’s upcoming data reforms, we collaborated with GMCA again on a series of events to help them gather local experience of this issue.

Now, we’re delighted to say we’ve become one of the UK government’s convenors for its National Data Strategy. Read more about that here.

Internationally, we built out a methodology that helped us support the International Finance Corporation to develop an open-data strategy and roadmap for the Turkish City of Izmir. After a public launch of its plan, we’re delighted to see Izmir’s new open-data portal starting to help citizens, business and academia do more with the city’s data.

We’ve also been involved with the development of the UK’s contribution to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global initiative consisting of 78 countries and 76 local governments that promotes transparent, participatory, inclusive and accountable governance. As part of the UK government’s commitment, the OGP has been developing an action plan with civil society partners, working with ODM on algorithmic transparency and the environment.

Building local data understanding with Our Streets Chorlton

Our Streets Chorlton has kept Sam at Open Data Manchester very busy – starting in January 2021, when we got to work installing pollution-monitoring stations in the local area.

In February, we put a call out to local residents to get trained up to help collect data relevant to the community. Over the past year we’ve trained over 40 so-called ‘Data Champions’, who have helped us to measure air quality in three locations, conduct five manual roadside traffic counts and measure traffic on more than 15 streets using a number of Telraam automatic traffic counters.

Since June, Sam and the team have been sharing and exploring this data with the local community at monthly online ‘data chats’.

Head to the blog to learn more about air quality, how we’ve been working to understand school runs, rat runs and football traffic, as well as using data to interrogate community questions.

A huge thank you to everyone who has, and continues to, support us in this work. Despite its challenges, Open Data Manchester 2021 was certainly a busy one – here’s to many more!