Data parties, wellbeing impact and alternative business models

updated on 29 July 2021

This article is about the business model behind Riposte – a new social sharing and wellbeing app from Aotearoa New Zealand. Spoiler: it’s not advertising.

During the last weeks, I’ve been writing about the Riposte app and how it’s designed to be healthy and safe, how it uses aggregated wellbeing data to enable positive impact, and how it aspires to pay people for their data. In all this, you might still be wondering about a really important question: if the Riposte business model isn’t advertising based and there is no subscription fee for people using the app, then what is the business model? 

In this post, we explore the Riposte business model and how it creates value that is not used for advertising space. This article is part of a series that introduces Riposte, a new social sharing and wellbeing app from Aotearoa New Zealand that uses data for collective wellbeing measurement. The other parts of the series focus on designing social media to be healthy and psychologically safe, aggregated analytics for collective wellbeing, and our purpose and vision.

From Data (Party) to Impact

The Riposte team works from an impact house called Tāiki E! in Gisborne, Tairāwhiti, Aotearoa New Zealand. Every first Wednesday evening of the month, we host a ‘Data Party’. It’s basically a gathering of data enthusiasts. We call it a party so that more people join in the fun. At these Data Parties we talk about all types of data and how we can use them to support impact work in our community.

One evening, we had a guest who’d just flown in from Auckland and spontaneously decided to join. He had a few decades of experience using data to improve the reach and relevance of marketing campaigns and was happy to share some of his insights. He pulled up a whiteboard, and wrote the letters D, I and K on the board. These letters, he said, stand for data, information and knowledge. He went on to explain how he had been able to create value for businesses. For example, by using data on people's area of residence combined with their bank card transitions to create a targeted mailing campaign for people likely to buy his clients’ products. He had taken datapoints, gathered information and fused that into knowledge that had commercial value. 

Data Parties attract a pretty diverse range of people and the discussion that followed was one of the best we’ve had so far. One lady, who teaches Te Reo Māori, was wondering about the value of this knowledge for the wellbeing of her mokopuna (grandchildren). Another person asked whether people were aware that their bank transaction data was being used for this purpose. A third asked whether we could add wisdom after knowledge, while admitting that DIKW doesn’t make for a very memorable acronym. Nobody was willing to take for granted that we should use data to generate commercial value without thinking about the broader impact generated. 

At Riposte we love the ‘data to impact’ model published by @gapingvoid. It starts off with the data, information and knowledge sequence, but it continues with insight, wisdom and finally impact. We believe in a world in which all decisions factor in the wellbeing of people. To make that possible, decision makers need wellbeing data. The more data, the more knowledge, the more impact. 

Data to impact model by @gapingvoid
Data to impact model by @gapingvoid

If you look at wellbeing measurement, most indicators are quantitative: people’s income, their housing situation, health statistics, etc. Qualitative wellbeing data is much harder to come by, but not less important. The most common way to gather qualitative wellbeing data is through surveys, but surveys have their own challenges. People (youth in particular) don’t enjoy filling them in, yet they would need to do so for every organisation that needs to gather wellbeing data on them. Surveys also become outdated and need to be filled in regularly to provide relevant data. 

As an alternative, Riposte allows people to post their own experiences in their own words in their own time. While contributors post their experiences on one platform, the knowledge that is gained can be used by multiple organisations that require subjective, qualitative wellbeing data. Thus the attention asked from the individual is minimised while the impact value is maximised.  

Impact value over commercial value

We have done a lot of tinkering and decision making around our business model and the ethics supporting it. As a company collecting data, our responsibility is to the people providing that data, but also to society at large. As a start-up, we must generate revenue to sustain our services. And as a social enterprise, we are wary of having a business model driven only by profit.

Exploring options, we decided that we did not want an advertising based business model, neither did we want to charge individual contributors a subscription fee. We always knew we did not want an advertising based business model. Primarily because we did not want to design for addiction, but for a healthy and psychologically safe experience. Asking contributors to pay a subscription free would allow for that safe experience, but has two other issues. First, it would be a barrier for inclusion that conflicts with our purpose and vision. Second, the contributions people make when posting are the basis for the impact value we generate so if anything, we think we should pay them. So we’ve taken a different approach. 

In a nutshell, our business model is to generate impact value. For organisations needing to gain insight into people's wellbeing, Riposte provides access to emergent, subjective data and wellbeing knowledge that’s relevant in the now. We are very transparent about that to our contributors, because we want people to know that they are posting for a purpose. Organisations can gain access to wellbeing knowledge as a one time service, or they can subscribe and receive regular reports about their group’s wellbeing from our analytics team that they can use to translate into positive impact within their organisation.

Impact in action

Our role in creating impact value is to gather wellbeing data and turn that into actionable knowledge for people in organisations with a mandate to improve people's wellbeing. That includes teachers, employers, public servants and youth workers  – anyone responsible for the wellbeing of others.

The knowledge provided by the Riposte analytics team can be used to create impact on two levels. First, people can use insights gained to respond to trends and topics that their group is posting about. For example, in conversations that open space to talk about some of the more challenging topics people have posted about. Second, people can use the data to inform their insights when advising decision makers leading their schools, regions, businesses, or organisations. Both of these uses of the knowledge contribute to a more proactive and preventative approach to wellbeing.

Riposte currently focuses on young people because that’s where we see the biggest need, especially in Tairāwhiti, when it comes to mental health. Currently, organisations working with young people gage how they are doing in face to face interactions and surveys. Let’s look at an example of a person working with youth and how Riposte data can support them to generate impact.

Venn diagram showing the interaction between a young person and a professional working with them.
Venn diagram showing the interaction between a young person and a professional working with them.

Riposte has recently started working with the YMCA in Gisborne, specifically for their Y-Wahine program for young girls. Y-Wahine is a 40 week self-development program that aims to strengthen young women’s confidence, providing role models who support them on their journey. The program is delivered by youth development professional Heidi, through weekly co-created workshops and physical activities. Heidi has decided to work with the Riposte team to add to her insights on how the young women are feeling as well as assess their development journey. 

At the start of the program, Heidi on-boarded the girls onto the Riposte app and now they are posting their daily fistpumps and facepalms. Heidi follows them in the app and some girls have gotten some of their whānau to join as well. On a daily basis, Heidi can check in through the app and see how the girls are doing, as can the parents and the young womens’ friends on the app. The data generated through the app then goes through the Riposte bespoke wellbeing model and the analytics team generates a weekly wellbeing report for Heidi. 

Venn diagram showing the interaction between a young person and a professional working with them and Riposte supporting with the Riposte app and wellbeing reporting.
Venn diagram showing the interaction between a young person and a professional working with them and Riposte supporting with the Riposte app and wellbeing reporting.

The wellbeing report shows the net wellbeing score and highlights trends in emotions, topics and keywords from the girls’ posts. Heidi can then use this knowledge to create impact on two levels: 1) on the level of direct program implementation with the girls and 2) on the level of strategic decision making within her organisation.

In her program with the girls, Heidi can use her interaction on the app as well as the weekly wellbeing reports to inform her interactions with the girls. For example, if anxious is trending as a keyword, she can talk to the group about anxiety and ask whether they have any thoughts, experiences or stories to share on the topic. On this level, the knowledge provided through Riposte data gives her more insight into the girls’ wellbeing which she can use to strengthen her working relationship with them and offer them tools and techniques to increase their resilience. 

On an organisational level, Heidi can use the knowledge from the wellbeing reports to provide her organisation and its funders insights into the wellbeing developments taking place during the program. These insights can enable decision makers to provide the right conditions for future impact work.

If you are keen to know more about how people in your school, workplace, or organisation are doing and would like to explore how you could use Riposte for positive impact, get in touch with us or come in for a coffee. Or come and meet us at a Tāiki E! Data Party. 

About the author: Mariska van Gaalen is a Dutch-Kiwi who moved back to Aotearoa New Zealand after 26 years abroad. Her background is in sustainable development, mostly as a researcher and writer. She has settled in Tairāwhiti and is keen to work more locally supporting positive impact projects and ventures. She currently writes for Riposte, is learning how to grow oyster mushrooms zero waste, and does the occasional stint sanding houses. Mariska is also part of the crew at Tāiki E! Impact House, where Riposte is based.

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