It has become common knowledge that data on women and girls do not adequately reflect their lived reality. This invisibilization of the experiences of women and girls has created the need to empower them with the ability to make decisions relating to their data. In recognition of this, Aapti Institute and Data2X have been striving to address gender-knowledge gaps by exploring data governance models which could transfer power from users and controllers of data to the generators of data, namely women and girls.
Through our research and our project with Megha Mandli, an indigenous women farmers’ cooperative under the SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) Federation of Gujarat, India, we have identified that data cooperatives do this effectively. Data cooperatives are technical and institutional layers which function as intermediaries between those who have data and those who use it, by mediating data flows on behalf of those who have data. We have explored the different facets of data cooperatives through the following projects:
- A scoping study of the data cooperative model, which has now been published as a literature review, gave us an in-depth, theoretical understanding of the model;
- Our pilot project with Megha Mandli, where we are in the process of establishing a data layer to convert the existing cooperative to a data cooperative, has served as a testing ground to put our knowledge and insights on data cooperatives into practice; and
- Working on a Handbook on ‘How to Build a Data Cooperative’ with Open Data Manchester has given us the opportunity to combine our theoretical knowledge and practical experience to create an easy-to-access road map to guide the formation of data cooperatives.
We found that despite the existence of extensive theoretical literature on data cooperatives, there are no significant real-world examples of data cooperatives that are focused on women and their needs from the data economy. Aapti Institute and Data2X are currently working to fill this gap by establishing Data Co-ops in Action: A Network of Support for gender data cooperatives. The incubator has been envisioned with a view to support the growth of nascent women’s data cooperatives. As part of the first cohort, we plan to facilitate the launch of three women’s data cooperatives under the Uncommon Collaborations grant by The Rockefeller Foundation and Dalberg Catalyst. This will involve the following:
- Deployment of a global search strategy to identify three women’s organizations with the interest and capacity to build a data layer for becoming data cooperatives. The search has been split into two phases: a primary phase and an advanced phase. In the primary phase, we aim to shortlist ten women’s organizations on the basis of responses received through the application form attached herein. Through detailed interviews, we will assess the shortlisted organizations, of which three will be selected to be launched as part of the gender data cooperative cohort.
- Conducting co-design workshops at the sites of all three selected women’s organizations to put in place the governing framework for the data layer. We intend to structure the co-design workshops in accordance with the steps outlined in our handbook.
- Providing financial support to launch the data cooperatives through grants of USD 5,000 – 10,000 each, facilitated by the Uncommon Collaborations grant.
This work fits into our longer-term vision in which we plan to expand the scope of the incubator, launching a total of 12 women’s data cooperatives; offer support services for existing women’s data cooperatives to embark on a transition to scale; build a global network of shared learning about best practices in the governance and management of data cooperatives; and launch an advocacy program to push for legislative support for data cooperatives in three countries.
Presently, we are accepting applications for our first cohort. Applications from self-organized women’s groups, for example cooperatives or self-help groups working towards empowering women or girls in any sector from any country are encouraged. If interested, please consider applying here. Applications close on July 16, 2023. For more information on this project, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you may directly get in touch with our project team through email@example.com.