Short answer: Making MyData happen, and making it right. How? That is the big and often asked question. And what do we even understand by MyData?
After the MyData 2019 conference, the sense of MyData community was stronger than ever. No longer was it dependant on fairly loose connections between different people and organisations who shared the same vision for human-centric personal data, it had grown to be bigger than the sum of its parts.
Since the first MyData conference in 2016, the community has grown both in size and depth. More than 20 hubs around the world, several thematic groups, and several thousand people following and engaging with each other to find alternative solutions to complex issues around personal data management today.
While we, the leadership of MyData Global, assumed that it’s the shared vision and values that bring the community members together, we were nevertheless eager to understand better,
- how do the community members perceive MyData as a concept as well as the network, and what interests them most about it,
- how do they engage with the Global organisation and wider community, and what does it depend on, and
- what are their wishes for expanding our collective influence, and expectations towards the Organisation.
In order to understand these questions better, we conducted 30 interviews with people from different backgrounds and geographical locations who engage with MyData community in some particular way. This series of interviews was a follow-up to the community survey that we conducted in March 2019. (The survey results are available at mydata-global.org/community-survey-results, and interviews results at mydata-global.org/understanding-community-2019)
“I guess it depends on what we mean by MyData here” – MyData as a container word
The interviews confirmed that there are various interpretations of “MyData” as a term. Most commonly, it was used to indicate the MyData organisation and community together. As they nevertheless carry different roles in regard of the vision, it was important to clarify the MyData’s taxonomy, which is now defined in the Strategy 2020-2022 document that was approved this November (see below).
The strategy document further describes the relationship between the community and organisation. It reminds about the key discussion in the Barcelona community meeting a year ago, in November 2018, which became about the question “whom do we serve?”. It resulted with the suggestion that MyData Global organisation serves the community of changemakers, and the community will then influence the wider world and drive forward the three shifts that we wish to see in the world.. This was later challenged as being damagingly circular and an alternative understanding was that the community is a resource for the organisation to create impact.
The MyData Global’s strategy 2020-2022 presents an evolution of these alternative approaches by asserting that in reality, the Community and the Organisation are integrally connected and create impact together.
The community is a resource for the Organisation to create impact AND at the same time, the Organisation supports the community in creating impact. We believe that the Organisation and the community share a “common fate”, that is, our total impact will be diminished unless we tend to both.
Creating impact was of course on everybody’s minds also during the community interviews. Several people mentioned that community members understand and agree with the vision fairly well, while HOW to reach that vision is much more difficult to know. The clarification on the interplay and roles of the organisation and community, as well as the various needs and expectations, will guide our actions to bring that impact together.
What motivates people to engage with MyData?
Community interviews showed that the primary reason for joining is the shared vision and values, while the reason for staying engaged is the value that the community members get from thought leadership and connections that the network of personal data experts and enthusiasts provide, the potential to amplify the work that one already does, as well as the proactive role of the MyData Organisation in facilitating various personal data ecosystems for concrete deliverables.
When taking a deeper dive into these, we saw that there are nevertheless (healthy) tensions regarding how MyData, the organisation should serve those motivations, and what to prioritise.
Some of these questions were discussed throughout the strategy development process, and the Organisation found its priorities, while others need further exploring together with the community members.
It was nevertheless recommended in one of the interviews, that the Organisation should not try to manage complexity around MyData by suggesting single solutions, but rather facilitate the community to make sense of it themselves. In order to succeed, we need to collectively define a clear goal, structure and inclusive processes, where everybody’s contributions are welcomed.
This is by no means an easy task. The community interviews showed that people define as well as relate to the idea around MyData from their own perspective and interest. As one mentioned: “personal data can be like a glue across different themes and topics of interest”.
While it’s important to stay focused, there’s also potential in clarifying how MyData relates to various different topics that people and organisations are working on. This way MyData can become an integral part of current society, regardless of whether one is directly working with personal data.
Let’s get going!
As we’re finishing off with the year, it’s a great time to think of some new year’s resolutions. The strategy document, as well as the collected insights from the community interviews, will give us the best guidance for formulating those.
We saw the need for better community management (“to find each other”) as well as facilitation (“to make sense of each other”), further development of the different communication and interaction media as well as the culture we collectively follow. There is so much expertise and know-how in the MyData Community to leverage, and the MyData Organisation will make sure to support the Community through the six Activity Areas defined in the Strategy document.
We are grateful to all interviewers and interviewees who invested their time to discuss the past, present and future of MyData. Thank you also to all people involved in the development of the strategy for the three coming years. As described above, it is our strong understanding that the Organisation and the Community share a common purpose, so to bring forth the desired impact, we, the leadership of MyData Global, will continue to keep and strengthen our promise to work on this, TOGETHER with you.
Find further insights from the community interviews here – mydata-global.org/understanding-community-2019
Join MyData Global as a member – mydata.org/join