Three out of four people were in favour of the controversial “Keswick is Still Closed” signs that were put up on the main roads into the town to discourage visitors from returning too soon from coronavirus lockdown.
That was the result of the first project undertaken by a unique new not-for-profit research business in Cumbria, which is owned and operated by its members.
The Community Data Cooperative was launched on 1st May with the aim of recruiting 5,000 members from all walks of life across the county, including 100 from Keswick. Members decide which organisations use its data and how they pay for it, with everyone having an equal say and how to manage things and what to do with the profit.
Co-founder Quentin Boyes chose the subject for its first research project while listening to national Radio 4 when talk turned to social isolation issues and the Keswick Is Still Closed roadside signage became a topic of conversation. Anonymous responses to the question “Do you love or hate the signs?” prompted 1,000 people to view the page over four days, with 211 votes cast and an overwhelming 75 per cent favouring them.
Quentin, from Wythop, said: “I dashed out, found the signs, took a pic, created a quick poll and posted it on the Community Data Co-op Facebook page. I thought this will be a good test of if and how Cumbrians want to engage around local issues.
“Looking at the conversations generated, most were from those in favour, the dissenters choosing to remain quiet and yet the participants had no idea of how the vote was going. Reasoned debate needs to hear from all parties in a safe neutral environment, something the Community Data Cooperative will be providing to anyone who wants to hear voices from all sides.”
The signs were put up at short notice by Keswick’s then mayor Cllr David Burn and paid for by Keswick Community Asset Company after the Government’s surprise decision to relax travel restrictions during lockdown. However, they were not up long before being removed anonymously by people opposing the message.
He said Community Data Cooperative’s aim was to give Cumbrians and local businesses a collective voice to aid the public sector and private firms in the region in understanding the community needs better and so provide more relevant help and resources. Any profit made from helping these organisations goes back into the cooperative, paying member dividends or is placed in a Wellbeing Fund to fund community projects across Cumbria.
Quentin set it up along with his wife Lisa and Colin Turner and the team of three runs it. Quentin said: “We believe this approach is unique. The aim is to pool member profiles, opinions and ideas and provide this information to businesses and other organisations in return for cash for the membership and the community at large.
“Members will be invited to get involved in market research projects in their spare time – completing surveys, attending research groups or chatting online. People can join in as many or as few projects as the want. All personal information is kept anonymous.”
Members buy a £1 mandatory share which is taken from their first dividend payment. People can join at communitydatacoop.co.uk