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  • Writer's pictureChristina J. Colclough

Govern That Data - Here's How!

Click here for my comments to the use of an online tool called Lighthouse that we developed to help you, and your organisation, become stewards of good data governance!


More and more trade unions and civil society organisations are embarking on gathering and using data. This raises a number of highly important governance issues. Is the data appropriate to the cause? Who in the organisation has access to it? What is it used for, by whom and when? The UK union Prospect has worked with a leading data governance expert and has created an online tool for all to use.

The online guide - or quiz as Prospect calls it - is appropriately called Lighthouse. It will help you navigate through the potentially stormy and dangerous water of becoming a datafied organisation. Its not hard to imagine the severe consequences for organisations if there is a data breach, or a misuse of personal, or personally identifiable information. Member-driven organisations often hold what in the GDPR, art 9.1 is called 'special category data'. Such data requires more stringent data processing arrangements. But unions also hold highly important data such as job titles/categories, contracts, wage levels, career movements, members' age, location, workplace and much more. Being vigilant around the handling of these data is more important than ever.

Lighthouse at work

The introduction sets the stage: "Why do this now? As digital tools play increasingly vital roles in shaping our societies, allocating our rights and resources, and fueling our economies, thoughtful approaches to digital governance are more critical than ever."

The quiz has six main sections: 1. Write a Plan, 2. Build a Community, 3. Handle Data, 4. Assign Responsibility, 5. Write Rules and 6. Manage Risk

Under each, you get to carefully choose where you data project/organisation is in relation to the questions. Its tempting to aim for the delighted face, but try to select the option that most resembles the situation for your project!

You are guided through the 6 sections even invited to take a break half way through.

When you are done you will see your overall score and get great tips as to where, why and how you could improve your data-governance to really make a positive change.

Made for Unions

This guide is made for unions. It takes its point of departure in the working realities of modern day unions as they become more and more digitalised. It is truly amazing that Prospect offers the guide to the wider world for free to use and get inspired by. In line with well - good data principles - the tool is privacy preserving using no cookies and no tracking.

Andrew Pakes, Research Director of Prospect Union, reflects:

"Since the GDPR came into force, we have worked quite intensely on improving our data handling, storage and use. It has, to be honest, not always been an easy task as there were/are quite a few disagreements about how to interpret some of the provisions in the GDPR. Lighthouse gives us the right foundation to think sensibly and carefully about how we use the data we have, and improve our own internal practices."

I couldn't help following up with a big Y question, namely: Why have you made the tool public for all to use?.. Pakes smiled and responded:

There is no end to the consultants who want to help us unions become more digitalised. But they often cost more than we possibly could pay. We were fortunate to be part of a project that enabled us to work closely with one of the world's leading experts on responsible data governance, Keith Porcaro, and get Lighthouse tailor made for us. So why not share? Stronger together.

I can only salute this willingness to share and grow together. What might seem like a dull inward looking topic, is a really important part of the digital transformation of all organisations.

The quiz ends by summarising your scores and offering heaps of good advice, literature and links to learn more.

Kudos to Prospect for sharing this wonderful tool

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