At the Data Futures Lab, we work to shift power in the data economy from a few companies to many users, builders, and communities across the technology spectrum. This year, through our Prototype Fund, we set out to explore how data donation initiatives were modeling alternatives to top down or exploitative data relationships. Building upon our past experiences with data crowdsourcing projects like Common Voice and RegretsReporter, we were keen to understand how other data donation projects strike a balance between building valuable datasets and prioritizing the well-being of the communities they serve.

We convened the awardees a few months ago for a special MozFest panel, where we talked about their plans for this year and the challenges they foresee ahead. A few months into the program, these teams are already working towards their next milestone and have been able to recruit the necessary team, engage in research and dialogue with their communities of users, and keep up with the everyday duties of running live data platforms. We consider ourselves lucky to be working with these organizations and to support them along their journey.

As part of our commitment to highlight their work, we recently published a series of profiles on each of these projects on our blog to bring you a closer look on their operating environments, their proposed solutions, and the people building them.

Our partners in this year’s cohort are building data donation initiatives at different development stages. Some are building the initial components of their platforms to accommodate data contributions. Tattle, a technology organization based in India, is growing their Uli browser extension to allow real-time contributions from social media users on hateful content in their feeds. Meanwhile, others are already iterating on previous releases: The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) is turning feedback they received from their users into a new version of OONI Run, a tool to coordinate website blocking testing and contribute it back to their open data repository.

This cohort is embedded within the communities they aspire to serve. For Saira Khan-Gallo, a Content Marketing Lead at Tidepool, understanding the impact that data donated through their Big Data Donation Project is having in advancing diabetes research is a matter of professional and personal interest as a person living with type 1 diabetes. Likewise, DataKind and the Black Wealth Data Center are building a map of the broadband gaps in the U.S. as they consult with advocacy groups, coalitions, and historically Black colleges and universities.

It’s easy to feel excited about the questions our partners are exploring. Some are clearly defined, like how do you incentivize people to donate their data to your platform or how do you measure the impact of that donation. Other questions could be even more transformative to the model, like our partners from POSMO in Switzerland, who are exploring ways on which people can decide how their donated data is used and putting governance mechanisms in place to ensure that.

We look forward to telling you more about what we’re learning along the way and show you what our partners are building.

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