Forming a Data Commons

Once a Community of Interest aligns around a commons-based approach, how do you then in fact build a Data Commons?

There are two main steps to building a Data Commons:

  1. Co-designing the Commons Protocols
    Community-forming and alignment around the Data Commons principles and then co-design of data reuse protocols – from technology protocols through to social protocols.

  2. Kick-starting the Commons
    Deploying specific high-value data reuse solutions that use the Data Commons protocols as the basis for relationships with the commons community.

Forming a Data Commons requires forming a Community of Interest around the high-level Data Commons design principles and then facilitating more detailed conversations about how that community wants to manage data sharing and reuse through developing the community standards, institutions, and protocols to make high-trust sharing easy. The outcome of these conversations about “how we do things around here” is a set or “stack” of protocols that participating organisations and individuals can commit to. The Data Commons Blueprint outlines seven challenges (or layers) that make up the “Protocol Stack” that underpins the Data Commons. This is how we enable high-trust and high-value data reuse transactions to take place across the community and between its various interests.

At the same time, there is another kind of work that needs to take place, which involves building value in the commons. This is done by identifying, inviting, and supporting innovators and entrepreneurs to kick-start specific data reuse solutions that are based on these commons protocols. We need to build some data reuse opportunities that are valuable for members of the community, so that they will use them. This will involve recruiting people and organisations who have pressing data integration and reuse challenges, and supporting them to use the Data Commons protocols to build their data solutions. This adds both data and users to the Data Commons and makes it more valuable for the next innovator, who now has even more data to work with, and so grows the value of the commons.

To successfully build a Data Commons, we need to create early value and enable the commons-based approach to attract new participants, establishing a network effect to further grow the value of their shared asset. This will require us to convince potential data reusers that it is more valuable to build a commons-based approach than one-off point solutions that address their immediate, short-term problems. It will be a challenge in the first instance and will take a leap of faith, since there is initially no valuable data in the commons. However, it will get progressively easier over time as the benefits of having direct access to a wide variety of integrated data and the ability to develop high-value products and services become clearer.

The co-design of the protocols and the deployment of specific solutions form the ongoing practice of the commons-based approach to data reuse. Community-forming around the commons protocol and kick-starting the commons are addressed in the next two sections respectively.

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