Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Products and Services

In a previous post, I mentioned that we are looking for "early adopters" to provide feedback on our proposed products and services. Here is a quick description of what the Data Commons Project is and what are these products and services I'm talking about:
The DCP has grown out of previous projects, including the Grassroots Economic Organizing "Economy of Hope" directory and the Regional Index of Cooperation ( The idea initially was simply to build an open, shared, comprehensive and accurate catalogue of the (small-c) cooperative economy -- including coops and credit unions, but also land trusts, local currencies, employee-owned companies, community-supported agriculture, and so on. This effort is linking up with similar efforts worldwide of cataloguing the cooperative/solidarity/social economy. (There are different terms, none of which is completely satisfactory -- we've been playing with using the term "rooted" economy. More on that later.)
What we would like to build is:
1. a big repository of data: a database with names of companies, organizations, and individuals, contact info, descriptions of their products/services, etc.
2. a website that is one of many clients* of the big repository, that would display the info, permit searches, display results on an interactive map, maybe provide more value-added reports for a fee, etc.
3. a set of tools & protocols that allow fast, efficient, relatively easy merging and cleaning of data to and from the repository.

* Other clients would be members of the Data Commons Cooperative, and as such, subscribers to periodic updates from the repository, as well as suppliers of their own updates back to the repository (somewhat in the style of the AP news story cooperative, where members both contribute and use stories, and also non-members can sign up to just be users for a fee).

The idea here is that if an organization changes its contact info, say, or has an announcement, then it would be great if that change were picked up in one place and broadcast out to all
the places that have an interest in it, instead of piecemeal as each place goes through and updates their database, or that organization having to somehow contact everyone to tell them about their changes.

For example, a new worker coop formed in Western Mass. would be of interest to at least the Valley Alliance of Worker Coops, the ECWD, the USFWC, NCBA, NASCO, CFNE, SEN, GEO, MASSEIO, any industry or sector-specific networks that it might belong to, etc. etc., not to mention potential clients or suppliers. So, without getting too long-winded about all the possibilities, that's what we'd like to create, in a way that actually creates value for our users and would be financially sustainable.

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