Helping Bulb improve their data practices

We’ve been working with Bulb to assess how they manage data.

Bulb decided to work with us because they recognise that data ethics is important to their members and that being trusted with data is part of becoming the UK’s most popular energy company.

As Sarah wrote a couple of months ago, Data Ethics Toolkits are IF’s new service to help organisations understand how they manage data. This helps them have more ethical data practices.

Understanding Bulb

We started with a kick-off meeting with the team at Bulb to decide what to focus on and who we should interview.

We created a checklist of what we would need to analyse. This included all the different kinds of data Bulb collects, their privacy policy, list of third parties and data flows.

Next, we interviewed Bulb’s team and spent some time observing how they work, so we could get a better understanding of their current data practices and culture.

We reviewed everything we’d learnt up to that point and found that we had some more questions. So we spent a bit more time with the team to follow up.

How do you score data ethics?

Assessment Scale White

Data Ethics Toolkit Assesment Scale. Image by IF CC BY-SA

We analysed everything we had learnt to understand how Bulb is doing when it comes to data ethics. The challenge is: how do you ‘grade’ ethics? Based on what we’ve learnt from our work, we created our nine data practices to give us some practical guidelines.

We assess how an organisation is doing based on the potential impact on people, their trust and their rights. Based on what we learn about their data practices, we’re experimenting with putting companies on a scale from ‘Dangerous’ to ‘World-leading’.

Practical recommendations, new opportunities

We referred everything we learnt about Bulb back to the 9 data practices and used them to come up with a list of practical recommendations for how they can improve. The list ranged from small, specific tweaks to bigger, more strategic changes.

Along the way we’ve learnt something too. We’ve found that the Data Ethics Toolkits are not just about finding ways for an organisation to improve. They’re also about identifying opportunities, based on companies using data in ethical and innovative ways. As people care more and more about how data is used, companies that start working on this now will have trust as a competitive advantage.

What did Bulb get out of this process?

We’ve really enjoyed helping the Bulb team learn more about how they manage data.

And Hayden Wood, Bulb’s CEO, said nice things about working with us too.

“Our members providing us with personal information is an act of trust. Ever since Bulb’s founding, we’ve take that trust very seriously. As energy management becomes more complex, we’re excited to be working with IF to find new ways to use design and technology to help our members understand their data better.”

If you’d like to hear more about our Data Ethics Toolkits, get in touch at hello@projectsbyif.com.

Written in collaboration with Harry Trimble and Grace Annan-Callcott.