ODI Nodes: a state of the nation discussion

One of the first sessions on Sunday morning session at Open Data Camp 5 gave people from the ODI Nodes network the chance to meet and discuss progress, under the Chatham House rule.

There’s some tension between the ODI’s suggestion that the nodes might become more commercial, and some nodes aren’t really keen on that direction. Some – including Bristol – have reorganised on a way that would allow the work to continue even if they are no longer a node.

On the other hand, ODI Leeds was founded to be commercialised. It’s unique in that. Any money made is reinvested – it’s a not-for-profit. That allows things like pretty much all free events. They have a huge network of data scientists, agencies, developers – and that allows them to put project teams together. They’ve been working with Adobe (on a better PDF…). They also work a lot with the sponsoring councils, including on Yorkshire flooding.

ODI HQ put out open calls on their website, based on people who approach them. Either nodes or private organisations can bid for those tenders. There tend to be a lot of them in the autumn, to be completed by the spring. Probably something to do with budgets.

Open data in Northern Ireland

What about ODI Belfast? They’ve been running for two and a half years. There’s a team of three, down from four. Their impression is that open data is a bit behind in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK, so a lot of their work is campaigning. The government came out with a strategy to establish a node – after the node was established!

But they need more data release to kickstart the data supply chain. They’re a community-based, storytelling node. They had a 120 person conference, that had a huge impact. The connections made there have led to more projects between commercial organisations and government.

They have a strategy, they have a government commitment, they have infrastructure going into place – and no government at the moment. They’re all hoping for something positive to happen with the government.

This does emphasise how important senior buy-in is – some people feel that government commitment has waned since the changes at the top of the government there.

The Open Data view from elsewhere

ODI Cardiff is run by a commercial organisation. They were banging on about open data before that, but the node status has definitely helped open doors. Wales is a bit like Northern Ireland, a little behind. But a positive debate in the Welsh parliament gave a sense that both sides of the house were behind open data. And ODI Cardiff were cited in that debate.

ODI Birmingham is hosted by Birmingham Innovation, and it has started using the logo on their footer. ODI HQ is going to be doing some training in Birmingham. Several Nodes expressed a desire to offer more training. The commitment needed for the five day train the trainers course in London is a big one – and you need an ODI-accredited trainer to deliver ODI branded courses.

There’s a distinction between awareness-raising sessions and non-branded training, though, some people have found flexibility to deliver what is needed.

There’s also need for a recognition of income disparities in different parts of the country, and the prices they can be reasonable expected to pay.

Relationship with ODI HQ

Some Nodes feel that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, because people in London don’t always have a perfect understanding of local political context.

Everyone seems to want a big meetup of Nodes with the ODI in London. But there’s still a strong sense that affiliation with the ODI is valuable and desirable both practically and emotional. It has both incredible lineage and some significant power. There’s a commercial value in the ODI name.

Money flows from the Nodes to the ODI, not the other way around. There is discussion about non-commercial nodes not paying, and commercial nodes only paying after an income threshold. And that money may be ring-fenced for the benefit of the Node network.

There’s some disappointment that there’s no official ODI HQ representation at Open Data Camp – but also that the Nodes can self-organise, and arrange their own meetings and communication.

Session Notes

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