Exploring the co-creation of a Community Research Network

Lauren Coulman
Responsible Tech Collective
5 min readMar 2, 2023

We’re super excited to announce that Noisy Cricket has been awarded a small pot of funding by Innovate UK to explore the formation of a Community Research Network (CRN) through its pioneering venture, the Responsible Tech Collective (RTC).

Our Purpose

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Leveraging the extensive learning and pioneering projects that the RTC has been progressing since 2018, the £25,000 award will enable the cross-sector and in-community network to further its ambition to bring home the humanity to tech, through advancing, platforming and proliferating community engagement best-practice.

Bringing together organisations from the BBC and Co-op Group to Manchester City Council and Diverse & Equal, since 2018 the RTC have progressed research and created tools and resources around member-directed projects focused on ethnic equality in tech and the diagnosis of responsible tech risks.

Our Drivers

For members, reducing the associated costs of risk, plus enhancing performance, uncovering opportunities for innovation and above all, building trust in a society increasingly wary of tech’s unrelenting influence over our lives are the key drivers for engagement. Balanced with the intention of reducing negative consequences and enhancing positive impact on people and communities beyond direct users or consumers, the work of the RTC has also focused on enabling organisational transformation.

Primarily, this has been realised through shared learning of data and design ethics practices (e.g. consent) and progressing industry diversity and digital inclusion (e.g. digital motivations). Yet extensive research was undertaken on the value of community engagement, and the activities and attitudes needed to deliver it skillfully and successfully.

Our Opportunity

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Boosted by Noisy Cricket’s experience in bringing marginalised and vulnerable communities together with organisations, departments and teams cross-sector to co-create solutions to social issues, the exploration of a CRN provides the opportunity to create open-source community engagement tools and resources that can be developed through and tested on live projects driven by the RTC or its members.

In its mission to create a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable industry, the RTC has recognised that purely profit-focused agendas and rigid adherence to processes and practices — all of which operate on assumptions about user and consumer needs — increase the risk of making mistakes which lead to regulatory and PR-related costs. It’s the introduction of diverse and multi-disciplinary teams, and the consideration of the wider needs and context of communities, that enhances tech’s ability to succeed.

Our Approach

So, to initiate the co-creation of a shared community engagement hub, we’ll be inviting members of the RTC to research, design and test a usable tool that can be utilised by organisations cross-sector when engaging communities in their work. To maximise impact, however, we’ll be testing it on a live RTC project, focused on creating Citizen-Led Security Standards.

Working in partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and its Information Governance team since 2020, the RTC have undertaken research and initiated the creation of a data sharing tool. With the intention of allowing communities to have flexible and informed consent around how personal and sensitive data is leveraged, the intention is to build much-needed trust between councils and their resident to enhance the impact of cross-institution decision-making, interventions and service delivery.

Our Impact

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Led by service design agency Honeybadger and supported by the University of Manchester and Open Data Manchester, Noisy Cricket and the RTC will leverage ongoing work around GMCA’s Data Accelerator project to explore how local authorities can enhance community engagement practises that build trust, starting with communication and raising awareness of tech that has potential to impact people’s lives.

Through the Clitzen-Led Security Standards project, we’ll be focusing on raising awareness of data sharing with GMCA and its Data Accelerator partners at Bury Council, Trafford Council and the combined authorities’ Public Service Reform team. Wider members of the RTC will also be invited to examine how best to raise awareness around their own responsible tech topics, including Manchester Metropolitan University who are already exploring how to train academics to co-produce AI and data-ethics aligned research through their PEAs in Pods initiative.

Our Ambition

The intention is that this initial exploration will not only result in a usable tool that can be used by the wider RTC community, but in testing it through the Citizen-Led Security Standards work, can provide a useful case-study on the impact of raising awareness of data sharing has for local government in building trust with local communities. Further case studies may also arise as a result of wider RTC usage.

Our hope is to demonstrate the potential of co-creating an open hub of insights, tools and case studies developed and tested on line tech projects, to Innovate UK, and receive further funding to advance our shared work in this space. If you fancy getting involved, give us a shout at hello@responsibletechcollective.org.uk, and you can read about the outcomes of the project here in the meantime.



Lauren Coulman
Responsible Tech Collective

Social entrepreneur, body positive campaigner, noisy feminist, issues writer & digital obsessive. (She / Her)