Athletic shoe and apparel giant Nike recently announced that it is looking for a fellow to help ignite an open data revolution within the company. Nike’s vice President of Sustainability, Hannah Jones, announced the fellowship and a partnership with Code for America during a session at SXSW 2011. Nike has exposed internal data in the past and hopes to create a situation where other companies might follow suite for a greener future.
Early in March Nike’s Sustainable Business and Innovation Team held a one day unconference on opening up its data in Portland, Oregon. The conference was a first attempt at engaging civic minded coders to find out what they might be able to do with data covering product materials, factory locations, carbon footprints, water use and more. Nike was also looking for input on what other types of data coders would find interesting and useful. The unconference quickly evolved into coding Nike data into live mashups and brainstorming about many possible applications.
In 2005 Nike released the locations and names of its factories worldwide in a move that lead other companies to release similar information. Nike claims that this enhanced monitoring effectiveness in general and improved conditions for overseas workers. Nike hopes that successfully opening more internal data will lead to similar changes throughout the athletic apparel industry. “…and then we began to think about taking this a few steps further and what else are we sitting on as data that could potentially be an enabler of even greater change.” Said Nike VP of Sustainability Hannah Jones at SXSW 2011.
Jones went on to say that “…as of today we are going to work with Code for America and setup a Code for a Better World Fellowship at Nike.” According to the official announcement, the fellow “will help Nike determine the steps needed to open our sustainability data to communities of data-obsessed programmers, visual designers and researchers.”
The position reads as equal parts data guru, community evangelist, and developer. The successful candidate will be asked to come to portland to help mix Nike into the open data community. Applications are being accepted until may 15, 2011 so if you are interested act now.
Code for America is partnering with Nike to help with recruitment and offer the chosen fellow a wealth of technology contacts and mentorship. Nike has borrowed heavily from the CfA philosophy that passionate and engaged individuals can tackle difficult problems. Nike is “seeking applicants to help them promote openness within their organization — the same kind of positive disruption we’re hoping to achieve with our cities” said Abhi Nemani, Code for America’s Director of Strategy and Communications.
It is easy to become cynical when company like Nike talks about open data to promote workers rights and combat environmental degradation. Many will wonder if enhancing Nikes image as a global citizen is the main focus. It would be silly to think that public relations plays no role at all in the move. If one can look beyond the cynicism there also seems to be an honest effort to reach outside the company and find out what’s possible when data is placed in the hands of motivated developers, designers and activists.