Originally published by Nishal Desai, Co-founder at imin, as 3-part series to clearly lay out what imin does and why they do it.
With great openness, comes great responsibility
When we set out to create a common way to share data, part of the reason was that it was too hard for technology companies to innovate in the physical activity sector. By making opportunity data open and accessible for all, we were welcoming technologists to use best practices and learnings from other sectors to help us to use that data to get more people active. We had a vision for a world where any company, big or small, could have an idea for a new product to get people active, and start testing it out easily by incorporating open data to create a modern, effective user experience.
And we’ve largely succeeded in this goal — OpenActive still a young initiative, but already major leisure providers and national bodies are involved and moving things forward at a great pace. Because of this success, there’s now more products than ever for organisations to choose from when looking for technology to help them to get more people active. This extra choice is great, and the cornerstone of a growing, innovative marketplace; but it doesn’t make the process of choosing any easier. It’s our responsibility as a sector to help these organisations to make the best choices, and that choice has in fact become harder because of the success of open data. If OpenActive exists to make more innovation possible, something is needed to help us to harness the innovative products that are created as a result.
We kept seeing the same issues, so we decided to do something about it.
At imin, we spend a lot of time with local authorities, sports bodies and any other organisation with a remit to get people more active. We’re also lucky enough to be invited to events and conferences to share our thoughts and observations about how technology is evolving in the physical activity sector. Again and again, the same issues come up: organisations want to embrace technology to increase physical activity, but they don’t know how to take the next step. They want to listen to all the advice they hear about technology and data, and they want to buck the stereotype of being behind the times. They’re being told they need to be “digital”, that they need to open data, that they need to embrace technology to cut costs, to create better citizen access to public services, to do things differently — and then we just leave them to it. We’ve created an incredible amount of enthusiasm and momentum around open data, and a willingness to make a difference. We expect them to make the best choices when all they have is desire to do something — just no idea what.
And when a decision is made, it can ultimately end up being the wrong one. Organisations are approached by technology companies every month proclaiming to be able to deliver everything they need and more. Whilst these companies will no doubt deliver a working solution, the reality is that there are likely to be other companies with products better suited to the needs of the organisation. There are often better companies and better products out there just waiting to be explored. And the tragedy is, sometimes the organisations themselves aren’t even aware that the situation could be better.
But what if we could create a transparent marketplace to help organisations to make more informed, quicker decisions? A place where organisations can look at different products; compare like-for-like products; understand which companies are working with organisations like them; or a place where organisations can just browse, be inspired, discover what technologies there are and what’s around the corner. A place that gives organisations the power of choice.
That place didn’t exist, so we created it.
We’ve built an open, transparent marketplace for the sector.
imin, together with London Sport, have created active//choice. active//choice is free, for both organisations and technology companies. Anyone can use it, anyone can upload information to it. The data is open so anyone can re-use the information.
The underlying concept is simple — if we make it easier to organisations to explore the world of technology within physical activity, we can help them make better, faster decisions, and that will eventually help them to get more people more active. The way we do this is by providing educational contentthat can easily be shared across any stakeholder group, as well as a directory of categorised products and services for organisations to browse through.
The best products will stand out and will get the most exposure. active//choice helps support emerging companies with disruptive ideas to reach an audience of decision makers. It helps level the playing field, both for those organisations wanting a view of all the product options available, and for those with products to clearly state their benefits.
Organisations who want to understand what’s possible, who want to make sure they are using the best technology for their physical activity needs, will use active//choice during their procurement journeys and partnership decisions.
Companies who claim to have the best product in the market, who are not afraid to put that to the test by being listed next to other products, who are willing to empower organisations to make the best choice: these are the companies who will embrace active//choice.
Richard Norris, OpenActive Project Manager, at the ODI:
“The OpenActive initiative is generating amazing momentum, opening up data about sports and physical activities across the country. It’s great to see early innovators building tools and services to make it easier for organisations to make the most of data across the sector. active//choice demonstrates the need for better awareness of data and tools as many begin to explore meaningful ways to get people more active. At the ODI, we’re really looking forward to seeing active//choice raise the visibility of innovators in the sector and innovative outcomes from organisations.”
It’s an early stage idea. It’s not meant to be a business. It doesn’t make any money. Neither imin nor London Sport take any commission, advertising fees or any other form of revenue from active//choice. It is designed to be a shared resource for the sector to take forward together. We built this for everyone, much like we built OpenActive, because we believe in a change that no one company can sustain by itself. Tell us how it can be improved, what you’d like to see, and how we can help.
OpenActive will continue to spread the principles of open data, create and maintain data standards, and engage organisations to publish and consume that data. active//choice will work hand in hand with OpenActive to help organisations navigate the complex landscape of digital physical activity tools so that they are empowered to better use open data. Both parts are needed to get more people active.
This is the next evolution on our journey to change the way the entire sector approaches technology and data. If you’re an organisation looking to help people to be more physically active and want to leverage the power of technology, it’s time to make an active//choice.