Collaboration through access managed information and knowledge sharing

Under the remit of the Government’s Online Harms initiative, the challenge was to bring together Government departments, academia, big industry players and key charities to share challenges, research, best practice and existing/planned technology relating to the prevent of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA).  All four categories of organisation agreed that this is an important mission, but they also have their own organisational and corporate drivers and constraints. 

How could we give such a disparate group of organisations a digital space in which they can share information securely within this very emotive and sensitive domain?

Drawing on the analogous problem space of cross-organisational cyber-security incident sharing, we built a UK-hosted secure digital environment in which members could upload documents, co-create content, have discussions, publish informal blog posts, run polls and, as individuals, build an online profile to allow others to easily discover their interests, expertise and challenges.  We provided both open and closed groups, i.e. private to the invited subset of users, that were topic or challenge focussed. Again, drawing from the cyber-security domain, all content can be marked with a simple handling label that determines whether the content can be shared across the platform, only within a group or, most restrictively, only between named individuals.  This labelling standard, known as the Traffic Light Protocol (TLP), supports the need for users to iteratively build trust in the community and have confidence that the distribution of their contributions is appropriately controlled. A key feature of the technology solution is an analytics platform that allows the project team to track user journeys and establish key metrics such as daily and month user activity.

We are about to conclude the pilot phase (September 2019) after 8-months, over which period nearly 200 users from around 30 organisations have been sharing content, connecting and collaborating in support of this important mission. 

The key outcome we sought to achieve is to test the concept of a digital space for this community and justify the move from a pilot to a strategic service. 

One of the leading Government agencies sponsoring the work has concluded that they “have learnt a phenomenal amount” and are building a business case for a strategic service using “all the valuable lessons and insights” gained from the pilot. 

The outcome has therefore been met with a positive result in that the premise is proven and the endeavour merits further investment.  As well as the technology platform, which iteratively evolved over the pilot as requirements emerged, a key output was the associated user research and particularly the basis of a community management strategy, a critical element to building a successful digital community.  We fully expect the project that builds on the pilot will be commissioned in the coming months. 

There are some still some challenges to address that where highlighted during the pilot, such as supporting “getting work done” rather than just generic collaboration, but the stakeholders are now confident that broadly the premise and general approach are correct.

This case study was contributed as part of techUK’s Digitally enabled public safety report: Harnessing the power of tech to tackle violent crime. You can access the full report here.

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