ODI data institutions programme graphic

– This opportunity is now closed –

12 August 2021

Opportunity provided by the Open Data Institute (ODI)


At the ODI, we’re interested in data institutions - organisations that steward data on behalf of others often towards public, educational or charitable aims. We think data institutions have a vital role to play in ensuring that data is used to create vital new technologies, products and services, as well as limit the harm that misuses of data can cause people and communities. You can read more about them here.

We’ve come across a number of data institutions that are trying to empower people - usually those who have generated the data or whom the data is about - to play a more active role in controlling how it’s used or shared. We refer to these as bottom-up data institutions to convey their focus on rebalancing power in the data economy away from corporations to individuals. They come in different shapes and sizes, and describe themselves in different ways - there are ‘data intermediaries’, ‘data cooperatives’, ‘data unions’, ‘personal data stores’, ‘data lockers’, ‘data trusts’ and many more terms being used in this field.

While there is significant interest and experimentation in these approaches among policymakers and technologists, we have seen few attempts to understand how lay people - in many cases the intended users and beneficiaries of these data institutions - feel about them. We want to begin to help address that.


The research we are looking to commission is part of our ongoing efforts to increase awareness and understanding of data institutions. Through this particular research project, we want to:

  • Better understand non-expert perceptions of bottom-up data institutions and data stewardship more broadly.
  • Inject non-expert voice and opinion into the conversation around data institutions, which is currently dominated by policy and technical perspectives.
  • Produce engaging outputs that help to introduce less expert audiences to the concept of data institutions.
  • Continue to demonstrate that there’s an array of shapes and sizes of bottom-up data institutions, and remind that there is no single approach to rule them all.

The types of perceptions we would like to better understand through the work are:

  • What do people know about data stewardship, and how do they understand data about them to be collected, used and shared?
  • Are people interested in being more empowered and involved in stewarding data about them? Why would people engage with bottom-up data institutions? What might persuade them?
  • What differences do people see when presented with different types of bottom-up data institutions? Do they prefer one over another? What is it about each that is most interesting?


We require the successful organisations to undertake the following activities:

  • Engage with the ODI team to distill the concepts and language of bottom-up data institutions into an accessible format that can be taken to non-expert audiences to interact with. In the past we have experimented with using visual prototypes to communicate complex ideas, but in this case, are open to the format used.
  • Organise and conduct qualitative research sessions with non-expert audiences (including recruitment of participants) to understand their perceptions of bottom-up data institutions (as above). We are currently thinking of these sessions as ‘focus groups’, however we are open for respondents to propose other deliberative methods. It is important to us for the participants in these sessions to represent the diversity of the UK population as much as possible. We are happy for these sessions to take place in person or online.
  • Produce a creative report to communicate the findings of the research - i.e. a combination of words and visual components that conveys the perceptions of bottom-up data institutions encountered. We intend to use this report internally to produce an ODI-authored output that further contextualises and discusses the findings, so would like to emphasise the importance for the report to be rich in quotes and ideas from the research participants, rather than it being overly ‘produced’. We will of course attribute the role played by the winning organisation in the final ODI output.

This research project will be supported by a member of the ODI research team, who will work closely with the winning organisation to provide relevant context and knowledge around data institutions, support in the design and implementation of the research sessions, and provide review and feedback on the report.


This research project will be undertaken between 8 September and 31 November 2021. A more specific timeline with milestones for each of the contracted activities will be agreed upon contracting.

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Working pattern

You will work closely with the ODI team for the duration of this work and take part in weekly progress calls with them. These will likely be via video call for the duration of the work. In person meetings are possible, at the ODI offices or otherwise, if necessary and/or required for certain activities.

Terms of payment

50% of the total amount will be invoiced halfway through the work, and the remaining 50% will be invoiced on satisfactory completion of the work, including responses to feedback from the ODI, and paid within 30 days.

Application requirements

Interested parties should submit an initial research plan (in English) to [email protected] with reference DIPP018, which includes:

  • A maximum 2-page proposal outlining how you would approach achieving the objectives of the project (in particular, we are open to suggestions on the deliberative methods used).
  • A CV that outlines your skills and experience, with examples of relevant previous work.
  • A daily rate and confirmation of the number of days you would anticipate the work to take, along with your availability.

Proposals will all be assessed equally based on the contractors:

  • Proposed approach to and quality of the work or service
  • Background and experience
  • Commitment to work collaboratively and in the open
  • Price competitiveness
  • Commitment to the ODI’s mission
  • Commitment to publish open data arising from the work or service, such as performance data
  • Social and environmental policies


If you have any questions about the opportunity, please contact [email protected] quoting DIPP-018. The ODI reserves the right to make both anonymised questions and answers public or shared with other organisations having stated their interest.