A Rough, Transparent, Draft of my PhD Thesis

Matt Marshall

Chapter 1 - Introduction #notes

Background and Context

Section outlining broad thesis goals


Why Charities?

Why Accounting?

This section outlines why the focus of this thesis has been in investigating and developing accounting technologies, and how that situates the research in relation to the scope of impact.

Why Technology at all?

Research Questions and contributions

This section outlines each research question, with sub-sections for each question. Each sub-section will draw out the contributions of the thesis as they relate to the question.

Q1: How are the financial practices and transparency obligations of a charity manifested in daily workplace practices?

Q2: In what ways could digital systems represent the financial practices of a charity, in keeping with their obligations to the public and their stakeholders?

Q3: How can a system capture and represent the work of a charity through its financial data and other data, in order to facilitate its accountability to the public and its stakeholders?

Q4: In what ways can a digital system be configured to allow charities and stakeholders to interactively commission frames of data around work and spending, to produce narratives which may stimulate a dialog?

Thesis Structure

This thesis is structured much like most within HCI. It starts with situating my research, outlining my methods and practices used to organise the research itself, provides empyrical accounts of findings from design processes, and finally draws together these to produce contributions to the field.

The thesis proper starts in Chapter 2 where we situate the importance of this work in the realms Charities, Transparency, and Accountabiliy; and explore the terminology used to situate the thesis. Towards the end of the chapter we explore interactions between human beings and data and draw conclusions about the investigation and designs required to properly utilise data technologies in Charities.

Chapter 3 is, much like many theses, dedicated to exploring the methods and orientations utilised to organise, perform, and derive value from the research. I situate the organisation of the research as a Workplace Study, and lean on studies of Work Practice and User-Centred design to explain the methods. Some attention is paid to epistemology, as a Marxist stance to analysis is introduced to situate the exploration of values in design later in the thesis.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 present empyrical accounts of work. Chapter 4 presents an ethnographic study of Work Practice of a small charity, illustrating how work is organised and drawing conclusions for the design of technologies that may operate in this space. Chapter 5 presents an account of the design of these technologies (both the how and the what) based on these findings. It is significantly more technical than other the other empirical chapters. Chapter 6 presents an account of the deployment and evaluation of the technologies described in Chapter 5, drawing conclusions about the designs’ fitness for purpose and exploring further implications.

Chapter 7 presents the familiar metadiscussion of the findings. It critiques the technologies used alongside the methods used to design them, grounding this in the performance of HCI work within the “civic” space.

I finish in Chapter 8 by reflecting on

Methods Outline

This is a short section designed to brief the reader at a very high level what sort of data and analysis they should expect to see in the thesis. Work Place studies, Ethnographic techniques, and orientation to analysis are briefly touched upon.

Chapter 2 - Background and Literature #draft

This chapter discusses the background and literature of the various fields that inform this research. Given the interdisciplinary history of HCI research, and the socio-economic domain of non-profit enterprise, it should come of no surprise that this results in a rich and diverse nexus of perspectives which needs to be accounted for.

The chapter begins with grounding this focus within the space of Digital Civics before beginning an exploration of Charities and other forms of Third-Sector and Community Organisations in order to reach a workable definition of the term and ground the importance of these organisations to society as well as the challenges they face. Having reviewed these challenges the chapter then focuses on the Transparency and Accountability of these organisations and reviews the often ambiguous use of these terms and the challenges of producing Transparency and Accountability within an organisation. Next, the chapter explores the use of digital technologies as means to address these challenges through considering intersecting strands of research in interacting with data and finances through digital technologies.

Finally, the chapter ends by discussing the opportunities for research in this space that the thesis will explore in following chapters.

A work of Digital Civics

The research in this PhD thesis was performed alongside others and was framed as part of the Digital Civics program of work. As a term, Digital Civics is applied to a set of work addressing the roles, power, and potential of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) to explore, learn from, and shape civic life through digital technologies. It is not the remit of this thesis to provide a single canonical definition of Digital Civics however I wish to explore the term through reviewing work that was performed either explicitly under a Digital Civics banner or is otherwise held up as an example of the space.

It is my personal opinion that a definition of the term Digital Civics and its relationship to the work it represents is, like all things, dialectical in nature (Stalin, 1940). By this I mean that, by merely existing as a term, Digital Civics shapes and is in turn shaped by the work to which the term is applied. Therefore in lieu of a single, unchanging, definition with which I may boldly and confidently declare my work an example of, I instead wish to offer a short review of the space as I experienced it. First I consider broadly the use of the term Digital Civics before focusing on examples of research in the space that intersect or run parallel to my concerns – namely work that occurs at a local level and then specifically that which occurs within or is focused on charities and community organisations. Through this I hope both to establish this thesis as a work of Digital Civics, grounding its motivation and concerns, and open the space of Digital Civics itself to contributions from my research.

The Digital Civics Program

The term Digital Civics is not specific to a single stream of work coming out of Newcastle University but has been used internationally by researchers in the US, primarily in the Georgia Institute of Technology. Corbett and LeDantec explore the role of trust in technology, communities, and civic participation (Corbett & C. A. Le Dantec, 2018b, 2018a; Corbett & Le Dantec, 2019). Through collaborations with a municipal government in the US, Corbett and LeDantec explore how trust is operationalised in these settings through Trust Work and subsequently how trust may be designed for (Corbett & C. A. Le Dantec, 2018a). Further to this, they also discuss how technology may be used to design community engagement; asking the question whether Digital Civics interventions should be responding to user need or whether they should be designing for behaviour that is expected of the governance process (Corbett & C. A. Le Dantec, 2018b). Dickinson et al writes of the use of “civic technology” as a tool to support strengthen community assets, and how design may consider an asset-based approach to support building relationships between citizens and their governments; contrasting the “data-driven” agenda that conceptualises these interactions as purely transactional (Dickinson et al., 2019). In this vein Møller et al investigate citizen experiences of a social welfare system and highlight how the datafication of services shapes the experience of the system where data about a citizen is increasingly hard to access and contest by the very citizens it describes (Holten Møller et al., 2019). In the arena of public housing, Kozubaev et al demonstrate how smart home technology use in these spaces may be appropriated by residents as a form of self-organisation through tracking practices but demonstrates the blurring of the private and public that can arise as a result (Kozubaev et al., 2019), while Rumsey and LeDantec demonstrate that smart tracking technologies are now beginning to enter spaces such as the emergency services (Rumsey & Le Dantec, 2019).

The stream of work I am more familiar with is that coming out of Newcastle University where I was conducted my research as part of the centre for doctoral training in digital civics (Olivier & Wright, 2015). As noted by Olivier and Wright , the initial framing was to explore a more the ways digital technologies may support a more relational model of service delivery between local government and civil society. The early examples of these work (pre-dating the start of the doctoral training centre) are exemplified in projects such as PosterVote (Vlachokyriakos et al., 2014), Bootlegger (Schofield et al., 2015), Feed Finder (Balaam et al., 2015), and the subsequent App Movement platform (Garbett et al., 2016). All of these projects share as a concern the community production of value as well as acts of commissioning which are mediated or enabled through a digital platform.

The theme of platforms and commissioning influenced the “flavour” of some of the later work that was performed under the Digital Civics banner at Newcastle. Dow et al explore a platform for care organisations to commission feedback (Dow et al., 2016) while Johnson et al explored platforms for community decision making (Johnson et al., 2016). The value of this work both in its contributions to framing Digital Civics as well as their contributions to HCI and Design can not go under-stated, but Digital Civics expanded its reach to consider other forms of both local engagement and internationalist areas of work. The Parklearn project engaged in field studies to understand the role of technology in community-lead learning (Richardson et al., 2017, 2018) and WhatFutures considered the role of utilising existing platforms to design large-scale engagements rather than designing a new, bespoke, platform (Lambton-Howard et al., 2019). Prost et al consider technology’s role in Food Democracy (Prost et al., 2018, 2019) where Talk et al discuss the role of HCI and design in working within the contexts of a humanatarian crisis (Talhouk et al., 2018, 2019)

This is by far an exhaustive account of Digital Civics research but I hope serves simply to illustrate the breadth of concerns that fall under this umbrella. These researchers worked in a very diverse set of spaces in a diverse set of ways. Critically, they not only explored technology and design’s role in these spaces but drew insight from their engagements that helped to shape the way Digital Civics and HCI research at large is performed. Taking this into account, I feel that Digital Civics is less of a focus than a nexus of research and one that my work sits within. Where some work takes on a more explicitly internationalist set of concerns (e.g. (Talhouk et al., 2018; Lambton-Howard et al., 2019)), my work sits more closely in the sphere of local-scale engagements; particularly around charities and non-profit organisations. This review now turns to briefly highlight some work more closely aligned to mine in terms of both local engagements and charities.


A distinct theme within Digital Civics research as it was performed in Newcastle was that of localism – that is the local engagement of citizens, local politics, and other local civic matters. This took several forms within Digital Civics which I will briefly highlight examples of here.

The work of Johnson et al was mentioned briefly earlier in this section, where I cited it as an example of a technology that investigated community decision making (Johnson et al., 2016). Johnson et al’s work also contributes considerations into the role of the researcher as agent in civic technology deployments, and how the social capital of the researcher was important at a various points during the research (Johnson et al., 2016). Johnson et al expand their work around communities to explore and capture reflections on “deliberative talk” in consultative processes, and raise the implications of data systems’ supposed impartiality in supporting local deliberation (Johnson et al., 2017). Puusar et al similarly examines how groups may make sense and share data (Puussaar et al., 2017), but also, working with Johnson, Johnson a critique of how Open Data may be made more useful for civic advocacy through deployment of a data platform that supports citizen interrogation, and (Puussaar et al., 2018). Additionally, Johnson et al further explore the role of data technologies in policy making and contribute considerations for building democratic and epistemic capacity through data as a participatory process (Johnson et al., 2018).

Richardson et al also consider local space and engagement in Digital Civics. They highlight how mobile technologies (through the Parklearn platform) may be used for civic M-learning, but also provide implications for harnessing existing social and civic infrastructures within design (Richardson et al., 2017). Richardson et al then expand on this with field studies of Parklearn to complement classroom activities and present discussion of how these deployments lead to participants having increased senses of ownership of their civic spaces (Richardson et al., 2018). Wilson et al have similarly feature community ownership discussion through their work with Change Explorer; a platform which leveraged smart watches to promote citizen engagement in planning processes which was shown to support participants in thinking critically about the areas they inhabit (Wilson et al., 2017).

Charities within Digital Civics

The civic and often local nature of charities and similar organisations lends them to alignment with the goals and areas of Digital Civics research. Many of my colleagues have been been engaged in collaborations with charities in their work, often as the spaces they operate in are also the concern of charities and charitable work.

Dow et al, explored the role of feedback technologies (ThoughtCloud, mentioned above) in care organisations that were charities (Dow et al., 2016). Throughout an extended engagement with these partners Dow not only had insights pertaining to the design of feedback technologies throughout the project (Dow et al., 2017), but also at later stages of the research drew important reflections on the material concerns of working within the space and the contradictions between grassroots desire for change and institutional rigidity (Dow et al., 2018). A similar set of extended engagements is that of Bellini et al, working within charities most notably in the arena of domestic violence perpetrator programmes. This extended collaboration has involved delivering such a programme alongside Bellini’s collaborators as part of her research, and therefore has incredibly important lessons to draw on ensuring design work does not undermine the trust of the service-providers-cum-collaborators (Bellini, Strohmayer, et al., 2019; Bellini, Rainey, et al., 2019)

Another good example of Digital Civics work within charities is the work of Strohmayer; which also involves prolonged enggements utilising methods deriving from feminist and social justice methodologies. The first of these examples was through a partnership with the UK organisation National Ugly Mugs (NUM), and draws attention to the potential of carefully considered teechnologies and design to feed into the critical work of sex work support services; even through the use of technologies most HCI researcher may consider mundane (Strohmayer et al., 2017). A later collaboration with a Canadian non-profit expands this work to an international space and highlights the pressing need for contextualisation in technology design and to cater to multiple formats (Strohmayer et al., 2019). In doing this, Strohmayer et al also bring to the fore the need to understand contexts not from the position of researchers and designers but from the position one is designing from. An important consideration for any piece of work calling itself Digital Civics and one that exemplifies the dialectical nature of the term.

Finally, it should be acknowledged that this practice, space, or context of working within, alongside, or through charities and community organisations has been explored more explicitly through a previous collaboration between myself and Strohmayer at Newcastle but also international colleagues Verma and Bopp, as well as McNaney who was operating out of Lancaster at the time (Strohmayer et al., 2018). Although reflections on the performance of HCI and Design research within the “Third Sector” is still emerging as a scope of study, this work should be acknowledged as one that is both born of and contributes to Digital Civics research.


This section has considered the positioning, concerns, and shape of Digital Civics research as a field as well as individual work within it. I hope both to have showcased the variety of approaches and foci of work that is performed under the banner of Digital Civics and to have demonstrated that there exists a convergence of engagements that primarily centre local engagements as well as engagements with civic organisations such as charities and other forms of non-profit.

With this established, it may be demonstrated that my work sits within this programme of research and thus exists as a work of Digital Civics. This review now turns to exploring some the background of my more direct concerns around Charities and their role in civic life to ground the focus of my research in this space.

Charities, what are they good for?

This section explores Charities and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs); how they are defined, and what role they play in society. This is done for two reasons: firstly, to explore the ecosystems, landscapes, and settings within which these organisations operate so that the research is effective; and secondly, to ground the work’s relevance as playing a part in the everyday activities of the world.

What is a Charity?

Given that this thesis revolves around the design of digital technologies to support the work of charities, it is important to set forward a definition of a charity what its work may be. However, defining what constitutes a charity can be problematic because it is a specific form of organisation that belongs to an entire sector or family of organisations which have historically resisted definition Salamon & Anheier (1992b; Morris, 2000). This is largely due to the sheer diversity of both the organisations themselves as well as the legal and social frameworks in which they operate Salamon & Anheier (1992b). Even choosing which term to use is problematic not only because any given term can emphasise particular traits of organisations or exclude some organisations entirely, but choosing what term to use will give any discussion a particular national flavour. For example, the term ‘Charity Sector’ is often used in the UK whereas framing this discussion using the term of ‘Non-Profit Organisations’ (NPOs) makes it feel distinctly relevant to the USA Frumkin (2009). However, as noted, these organisations all share a genealogy, which means utilising literature that in turn uses a variety of terms to describe this group of organisations. A working definition of ‘a charity’ will be outlined at the end of this section.

Charities are a form of Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) which operate within what is often known as the “Third Sector” of the economy; emphasising their separation for public or state-owned operations as well as private for-profit enterprise Salamon & Anheier (1992b). The term ‘Third Sector’, however, is often used interchangeably with others such as “Voluntary Sector”, “Independent Sector”, “Charitable Sector”, or many others. Salamon and Anheier claim that this abundance of definitions often poses a problem, as each term emphasises a particular characteristic of these organisations whilst downplaying others – which can be misleading when attempting to describe them Salamon & Anheier (1992b). An example of this would be how the term “Voluntary Sector” emphasises the contributions of volunteers in the operation of the organisations, at the expense of organisations or activities that are performed by paid employees. Frumkin prefers the term “Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector” for this reason Frumkin (2009).

This diversity of organisations within the “Third Sector” means that a general definition is difficult to generate, however Salamon and Anheier go some way to provide one based off of the structural or operational characteristics of the organisations; which would therefore allow their definition to cater for the sector’s diversity of legal structures, funding mechanisms, and function. Their definition identifies five base characteristics common to the organisations (they use the term NPOs). These organisations are: “Formal”, having been constituted or institutionalised legally to some extent; “Private”, meaning they are institutionally separate from government; “Non-Profit distributing”, where any profits generated by activities are reinvested directly into the ‘basic mission of the agency’ instead of being distributed to owners or directors; “Self-governing”, with their own internal protocols or procedures as opposed to being controlled directly by external entities; and “Voluntary”, where the organisation’s activities or management involves a meaningful degree of voluntary participation Salamon & Anheier (1992b).

Frumkin gives three characteristics of these organisations which align with Salamon and Anheier’s framework. The organisations: do not coerce participation (ie they do not have a monopoly and interacting with them is optional); their profits are not given to stakeholders; and they lack clear lines of ownership and accountability Frumkin (2009). These definitions are not without issue, as they notably exclude various quasi-commercial entities such as those found in the UK – ie Building Societies and Cooperatives.

It is the exclusion of such entities that presents an issue for achieving a working definition. Lohmann calls for a more expansive view of the “Nonprofit Organisation” since definitions often account only for those legally bound by particular legislation and that if academics work only within these confines then they are limited in their attention Lohmann (2007). Lohmann also takes issue with the term “Third Sector” as it often is not presented in context of what it is a sector of. Lohmann argues that the organisations generally included in definitions of the “Third Sector” are actually simply a part of a broader grouping termed the “Social Economy” which would include NPOs and Charities but also others such as cooperatives and member organisations Lohmann (2007). Moualert and Ailenei elaborate that the term “Social Economy” is tied with notions of economic redistribution and reciprocity, and argue that a “one-for-all” definition is not useful to produce, as the organisations within the Social Economy are driven by local contexts Moulaert & Ailenei (2005). They put forward that the Social Economy as a practice, as well as the institutions that make it up, are linked to periods of crisis – and that the Social Economy is a method to respond to the alienation and dissatisfaction of people’s needs by the For-Profit and State sectors at any given time Moulaert & Ailenei (2005). Monzon and Chaves go into detail about defining the characteristics of organisations that make up the Social Economy, largely echoing the definitions for the US-centric “NPOs” discussed earlier Monzon & Chaves (2008). In addition to this is their elaboration that “[the organisations] pursue an activity in its own right, to meet the needs of persons, households, or families … [They] are said to be organisations of people, not of capital … They work with capital and other non-monetary resources but not for capital.” This indicates that the unifying characteristic of these organisations is their concern for people, and begins to define them based on what they are rather than the via negativa of “Third Sector” Monzon & Chaves (2008).

In the UK, the term ‘Charity’ is protected and has a specific definition enshrined in law. According to the Charities Act 2011, a Charity is an organisation that is “established for charitable purposes only”, where the Act then later defines a list of charitable purposes to ensure that the organisation is acting for the public benefit (‘Charities act 2011, chapter 25’, 2011). These cover a wide variety of purposes and such as “the prevention or relief of poverty” and “the advancement of citizenship or community development”. Whilst this mirrors the Monzon and Chaves assertion that organisations pursue activity to “meet the needs of persons…”, it is the opinion of this thesis that enshrinement in law is not necessary treat an organisation as a charity for the purposes of research. This is so that any outcomes of the research can be applied to intenational contexts – where different legal definitions of the word “Charity” may exist. To that end, our definition of a charity going forward takes the common threads discussed in this section that Charities are: not-for-profit organisations that are legally distinct from government; are set up towards a charitable purpose (regardless of whether that purpose is enshrined in law); and that a citizen’s interactions with the organisation are voluntary. This definition will allow the remainder of this chapter (and subsequent research) to consider multiple types of legal entity within the UK and internationally to explore this space.

Why are Charities Important?

Charities are seemingly inherently valued by most individuals in civil society. The social motivations behind Charities and the wide variety of activities in which they involve themselves, as well as the manner of their involvement often means that the health of the Third Sector and Social Economy (TSSE) are often used as barometers for the health of civic society Moulaert & Ailenei (2005). I therefore wish to to explore the importance of Charities and the TSSE to society in order to understand better the world in which they operate.

Hannsman writes on the role of Charities and the TSSE that they often emerge from a “contract failure” of the market to police the producers of services, and that it is very rare to find Charities operating in industrial sectors (Hansmann, 1980). According to Hansmann, economic theory dictates that the failure is in accordance with consumers (as a group rather than individuals) to do one of the following: accurately compare providers; reach agreement as to the price and quality of services to be exchanged; and to assess the compliance of the organisation to their part of the deal, obtaining redress if the organisation is seen to have not complied. Charities and TSSE Organisations emerge, therefore, when this process has failed to regulate For-Profit actors in any given economic activity: “The reason is simply that contributors [to a for-profit business] would have little or no assurance that their payments … were actually needed to pay for the service they received” (Hansmann, 1980, p.850). As noted, it is uncommon to find Charities and TSSEs operating in industrial sectors, and as such the services offered by these organisations can often be those that involve a separation between the purchaser of a service and the eventual recipient; e.g. the purchase and transport of food aid overseas. The inability of Charities to distribute profits to shareholders thus removes the incentive and power of organisations to reduce direct spend on the service; reassuring the purchaser that their money is not for the direct profit of shareholders (Hansmann, 1980).

Salamon writes that Charities and TSSEs “deliver human services, promote grass-roots economic development, prevent environmental degradation, protect civil rights, and pursue a thousand other objectives formerly unattended or left to the state” (Salamon, 1994, p.109). This insight reinforces Hansmann’s view that the activities of these organisations are concerned primarily with provision of services unattended to by For-Profit sectors. Salamon’s statement also implies the presence of State actors in a given activity and that State-provided services would mean that there is no requirement for a Charity actor if the needs of the people were being met. Frumkin argues that a core part of the TSSE is that it is responsive to demand; specifically the demands of a public who have unmet needs (Frumkin, 2009). Not only does Frumkin’s argument add weight to both Hannsman and Salamon’s admonition that the For-Profit sector is either unconcerned or untrusted with particular activities, but also that the State is either an absentee actor or that the service provided is unsatisfactory in meeting the needs of the public.

The nature and scope of activities in which Charities and the TSSE are involved are incredibly diverse. Salamon and Anheir outline a classification system, the International Classification of Nonprofit Organisations (ICNPO), that divides and classifies organisations into 12 groups based on economic activity, with an additional 24 sub-groups Salamon & Anheier (1992a). Whilst this classification system generally only provides high-level descriptors of organisations, lacking detail on the nature of how activities are performed pragmatically on-the-ground, they offer a starting point from which to begin to understand the far-reaching and diverse nature of the TSSE’s activities. Examples range from “Nursing Homes” and “Mental Health and Crisis intervention”, to “Housing” and “Culture and Arts”.

The activities undertaken by Charities and the TSSE are also important to society because they are generally understood to produce and sustain Social Capital King (2004; Wang & Graddy, 2008; Swanson, 2013). Generally, Social Capital is the term used to refer resources and access to those resources as permitted by one’s social network (Field, 2003). Putnam defined Social Capital as “features of social organisation, such as trust, norms, and networks, that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions” (Putnam et al., 1994, p.167). The ‘resources’ in Social Capital may be physical resources (ie tools) or more intangible types of resource such as possessing a skill or qualities that are valuable to society.

The amount of Social Capital an individual (or group) possess can have substantial effects on their day-to-day lives in a variety of areas. Field discusses how an increased amount of Social Capital has effects on personal health and happiness, as well as the educational prospects of one’s children, and the amount of “anti-social” behaviour present in their communities (Field, 2003). Conversely, low amounts of Social Capital within communities can manifest as poor socio-economic conditions such as higher crime rates and low employment. Field writes about two flavours of Social Capital: ‘bonding capital’, which strengthens bonds between sociologially similar groups such as close friends and family; and ‘bridging capital’ which connects members to existing networks originally distinct to their own (Field, 2003). Bourdieu discusses how the bonding capital can be a means to denote or sustain privilege in society (ie the Old Boys’ Clubs) (Nash, 1990), and Putnam similarly states that whilst bonding capital can get one by, bridging capital is required to ‘get ahead’ (Putnam et al., 1994; Woolcock, 1998).

With this in mind, it becomes easier to understand how the activities undertaken by charities and the TSSE are linked to the health of society. As discussed, their activities are generally grassroots in nature and as such can involve producing bonding capital between actors who are their beneficiaries in addition to providing opportunities for developing bridging capital that people would otherwise not be presented with. It is also worth noting that Field discusses that there requires an investment in more than just network building in order for society to benefit from Social Capital – the individuals who form the network must also learn skills in order to benefit each other (Field, 2003). This is also an activity that is generally attended to by charities and the TSSE; organisations within this sector often concern themselves with benefiting others in the form of ‘skills development’ of either specialist forms or of a more generalised and transferable nature that were denied to them because of their existing sociological standing (Anheier et al., 1995).

What are the challenges of Charities today?

Like any organisation, charities experience a set of pressures dependent on their circumstances, with the heterogeneity of the sector meaning that each individual organisation will be subject to unique pressures. Generally, however, it is understood that there are a range of pressures that operate on Charities and the TSSE across the board.

As of writing, in the UK we have experienced nearly a decade of austerity politics which has resulted in significant reduction of funding to national services as well as Local Government Organisations (known as Councils) (Reeves et al., 2013; Lowndes & Gardner, 2016). The result of this is that Charities and the TSSE are having to supply people with the services that they require either independently providing services that were once provided by the Councils, or working as a contracted official supplier of a service once provided “in-house” . At the same time, the change in national leadership associated with the austerity agenda has lead to uncertainty in UK charities securing adequate funding to meet their needs as government grants are reduced or disappear entirely .

In response to this shifting environment, many charities and TSSE organisations are switching their operational model to that of a Social Enterprise (SE) or Social Entrepreneurship in general (Borzaga & Defourny, 2004). SEs are, yet again, a diverse set of organisations — but one that specifically combines business-like elements, activities and structures from the For-Profit sector and applies them to activities that are intended for social betterment and benefit to society; much like traditional charities and TSSE organisations (Defourny & Nyssens, 2008; Doherty et al., 2006). Dart broadly describes Social Enterprise as “significantly influenced by business thinking and by a primary focus on results and outcomes for client groups and communities” (Dart, 2004, p.413), and Dees states that Social Enterprise combines the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline (Dees & others, 1998). In practice, this often includes activities and practices that include revenue-source diversification, fee-for-service programs, and partnerships with the private sector . Defourny and Nyssens describe the rise of SEs across the world, and that the UK has used the SE ‘brand’ within policy documents for years, and give as part of the working definition that the organisations profits are “principally reinvested for [a social mission] in the business or community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners” (Defourny & Nyssens, 2008, p.6). This definition shares similarities to that for charities and TSSEs discussed earlier in the review – however distinctly does not include the requirement that profits cannot be distributed to shareholders, only that they principally are used primarily towards an organisation’s social mission.

SEs are often cited as a solution to the issues being experienced by charities and the TSSE, but they are not without criticism. Eikenberry writes that organisations adopting a social enterprise model actually poses a threat to civil society (Eikenberry & Kluver, 2004). She argues that change in model leads to a focus on the bottom line and overhead expenditures, and exposes them to market forces that they would otherwise be sheltered from. Aside from the effects on the organisation itself, this exposure means organisations can often adopt “market values” and “entrepreneurial attitudes” which means that the change in their operational model is detrimental to society (Eikenberry & Kluver, 2004). Dart elaborates that SEs differ from traditional NPOs as they generally blur boundaries between nonprofit and for-profit activities, and even enact “hybrid” activities (Dart, 2004). This could include activities such as engaging with marketing contracts as opposed to accepting donations, as well as behaviour such as cutting services that are not deemed to be cost-effective. Whilst there are large implications for organisations accepting funding from for-profit industries, a major implication of changing operational model is that the shift of effort from effective service delivery to financial strategy impacts negatively on the Social Capital that is generated (Eikenberry & Kluver, 2004). This is through less emphasis on building relationships with stakeholders (previously an essential survival strategy) as service users become framed as consumers, and through market pressures diverting resources towards skills such as project management and away from activities that build Social Capital. Doherty et al. echo this in their description of Social Enterprises, distinguishing them from traditional models of charities and TSSE organisation by stating that the latter are “more likely to remain dependent on gifts and grants rather than developing true paying customers” (Doherty et al., 2006, p.362). Eikenberry’s concerns are manifested here, as the service user or “beneficiary” of an organisation becomes reframed as a “customer” due to the influence of market forces.

Social Capital plays a significant role in the success of a charity or TSSE organisation. As actors within social networks themselves, these organisations need to make use of Social Capital in addition to their pivotal role in producing and sustaining it for others. King writes that charities and TSSEs were formed using Social Capital and part of their role is to “sustain and broaden” it in order to provide opportunities and make the mundane operation of an organisation smoother (King, 2004). She writes that those in leadership positions within an organisation draw upon techniques such as networking and skills development in order to allow the organisation to perform its work and meet its goals – calling charities and TSSEs (she uses the term nonprofits) “the epitome of Social Capital in action” as the organisations can not only utilise but spread their Social Capital to others (King, 2004, p.483). Swanson shares these sentiments and explicates that strategic engagement of an organisation’s Social Capital should be a central tenant in its management and leadership, Fredette and Bradshaw echo this and discuss how bonding capital established between those in leadership roles allows them to collectively mobilise through the sharing of information and the building of trust (Swanson, 2013; Fredette & Bradshaw, 2012).

Trust is inextricably tied to Social Capital, as Field discusses that a network with high trust levels operates more efficiently than one with comparably lower levels of trust (Field, 2003). This means that in order for a charity and TSSE actor to achieve its goals more effectively, it must be trusted. Whilst it is important to note that there is some disagreement as to the exact nature of Trust within Social Capital ie whether Trust is a product or instigator of Social Capital; it remains that high levels of Trust allows an organisation to operate more effectively, and continue the cycle of production and sustenance of Social Capital for their stakeholders (Field, 2003). Schneier writes on Trust that it is essential for society at large to function (e.g. we trust in our currency, we trust in our qualifications etc.), although on-the-ground Trust plays a key role in accessing resources in the social network, since a transaction between two trusting actors is less expensive (both in terms of emotional labour and financial capital) to faciliate than a similar transaction between two actors lacking trust (Schneier, 2012). Trust, therefore, is an important factor for charities and TSSEs in the performance of their work as lack of Trust will impede an organisation as much as high Trust will aid them.


It can be said, then, that since charities and TSSEs perform work that is important to society and needs to be performed, and that since high levels of Trust allows them to operate more effectively; that it is important to society that we trust our charities and TSSE organisations to perform the work that they do. However, recent media coverage (at least in the UK) has often portrayed Charities and TSSE organisations as being irresponsible with funding, ineffective in achieving the outcomes they purport to desire, and in some cases unaccountable for their actions (Benedictus, 2015; Beresford, 2015; Bright, 2015; Laville et al., 2015; Letters, 2016; Smedley, 2015). This review now turns to examining the concepts and mechanisms to which charities and the TSSE can often be subject to related to their transparency and accountability.

Why is Transparency important to NPOs?

This section explores Transparency and Accountability in the context of Charities and the TSSE. This is done so that we may understand the mechanisms by which these organisations may become more trustworthy to their stakeholders, facilitating not only their daily operation (as discussed above) but in doing so; continue producing value for society at large. In understanding the roles that organisational Transparency and Accountability may play in this, we situate the research as operating within these spaces in order to provide a foundational understanding from which to begin working.

Transparency and Accountability are seen increasingly desirable in governments and organisations (Hood, 2010; Oliver, 2004; Heald, 2003). Oliver states that Transparency has “moved over the last several hundred years from an intellectual ideal to center stage in a drama being played out across the globe in many forms and functions” (Oliver, 2004, p.ix). Corrêa et al. say Transparency and Open Government is “synonymous with efficient and collaborative government” (Correa et al., 2014, p.806), and Steele goes as far to say “Transparency is the new `app’ that launches civilization 2.0” (Steele, 2012, p.70). Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) in the UK are held to stringent Transparency standards by an organisation known as the Charity Commission, which is responsible for registering and regulating charities in England and Wales “to ensure that the public can support charities with confidence” (Government, n.d.b). The development of trust is foundational in the relationship between an organisation and those invested in its activities or performance, known as stakeholders, which is compounded by the notion that a stakeholder in an NPO might not be in direct receipt of its services (MacMillan et al., 2005; Krashinsky, 1997). Beyond this, accountability is seen as a way of building legitimacy as an organisation (Anheier & Hawkes, 2009). Watchdog organisations such as the Charity Commission and others therefore play an important role in developing stakeholder relationships with NPOs through Transparency measures, making them accountable to those invested in them. Oliver writes that NPO expenditure is often the most “emotional”, and a person’s decision to invest in a charity will be down to how comfortable and confident they are in its operation (Oliver, 2004).

Hood writes that “Transparency is more often preached than practised [and] more often invoked than defined” (Hood, 2006, p.3). This section considers various definitions of Transparency in relation to the UK Charity Commission, NPOs, and the measures that are taken to make them accountable to stakeholders. It also inspects Transparency’s synonymity with Accountability.

What is Transparency?

Transparency and Accountability are seen as increasingly desirable traits in governments and organisations, and have moved over the last century from intellectual ideas in the wings to playing a central role across the globe (Oliver, 2004). Corrêa et al say of Transparency and Open Government that it is “synonymous with efficient and collaborative government” (Correa et al., 2014, p.806), and Steele writes that “Transparency is the new app that launches civilization 2.0” Steele (2012). However, the terms are still ambiguous. Hood writes that Transparency is “more often preached than practiced [and] more often invoked than defined” (Hood, 2006, p.3). This section therefore aims to explore various definitions of ‘Transparency’.

Historically, Transparency was inherent in the actions and interactions of everyday society since, in traditional societies, the density of social networks made one’s actions highly visible (Meijer, 2009). Meijer contrasts this with modern societies where “people do not know each other – many people in cities do not even know their neighbours” and argues that societies which operate at a larger scale suffer a decline in social control, which calls for new forms of Transparency that match the scale of the society (Meijer, 2009, p.261). The term Transparency has been a watch-word for governance since the late 20th century, yet its roots stretch back much further. Hood identifies three ‘strains’ of pre-20th-century thought that are at least partial predecessors to Transparency’s modern doctrine: rule-governed administration; candid and open social communication; and ways of making organisation and society ‘knowable’ (Hood, 2006).

The first of these “strains” of thought, Rule-governed administration, is the idea that government should operate in accordance to fixed and predictable rules and Hood calls it the “one of the oldest ideas in political thought” (Hood, 2006, p.5). This notion may be summarised effectively with the platitude of “a government of laws and not men”, where the laws are stable and governing is thus not subject to the discretionary attitudes of individuals. The second strain, Candid and Open social communication, had its early proponents liken Transparency to one’s “natural state”, and it saw an implementation in the ‘town meeting’ method of governance where members of the town would deliberate in the presence of one another – making all deals transparent and ensuring all parties were mutually accountable (Hood, 2006). The third of form of proto-Transparency doctrines, is the notion the social world can be made ‘knowable’ through methods or techniques that act as counterparts to studying natural or physical phenomena. Hood describes an 18th-century “police science” which exposed the public to view through the introduction of street lighting or open spaces, as well as the publication of information (all of which designed to help prevent crime) (Hood, 2006).

When viewed in this historical context, from these different perspectives, it can be said that Transparency is inherently concerned with information; access to it, and effective use of it. Oliver describes Transparency as having three key components: something (or someone) to be observed; someone to observe it; and the means supporting such an observation (Oliver, 2004). Heald discusses how these first two components can manifest in modern Transparencies with a property of directionality; a direction being an indicator of who is visible to whom (Heald, 2006). Heald conceptualises four directions of Transparency that exist across two axis: Upwards and Downwards; Inwards and Outwards (Heald, 2006).

The ‘vertical’ axis (Upwards and Downwards) refers to position in a given hierarchy, such as found within an organisation or a nation. An Upwards Transparency would indicate that those higher in a hierarchy can observe the conduct, behaviour or actions of those below them, whilst Downwards Transparency would mean that those higher on the ladder are made observable by those below them (Heald, 2006). The ‘horizontal’ axis (Inwards and Outwards) refers to relative position to an organisation and whether one can observe or be observed by it (Heald, 2006). An Inwards Transparency would mean that those external to an organisation may see into it, and conversely an Outwards Transparency would denote situations wherein an organisation may peer ‘out’ and monitor its habitat or other actors.

These forms of Transparency can (and often do) coexist simultaneously in a given situation, and any combination. Further to this, operation of a direction across one axis does not preclude the existence of its counterpart. For example, there may be a situation which can be described as possessing both Upwards and Downwards Transparencies. When this occurs Heald describes that axis as having “symmetry” (Heald, 2006). Real world examples can be analysed in this manner; a government’s surveillance of its citizens (or a private company’s surveillance of its workers) can be described as a combination of Downwards and Outwards Transparencies. The inverse of this situation, Upwards and Inwards, has also been encapsulated with the term ‘Sousveillance’ – a term coined by Mann meaning “to watch from below” (Mann, 2004). Mann gives two possible interpretations of the term Sousveillance. The first, as discussed, is an inversion of Surveillance formed by Upwards and Inwards Transparencies allowing citizens to capture abuses of power by those in positions of authority such e.g. by police officers at street level (Mann, 2004). The second interpretation of Sousveillance specifically refers to the relative positions of cameras in physical space such as the proliferation of cameras attached to modern smartphones. It can be argued that this has enabled the first form of Sousveillance, and that abuses of power that have always occurred and that they are only now being witnessed en masse . However, with the advent of digital monitoring endorsed by governments and corporate bodies, and the possibilities of these actors utilising citizenry’s smartphones – this means that Sousveillance can also have implications for the Downwards and Outwards forms Transparency discussed in the context of traditional surveillance. In addition to this, Ganascia also discusses how an increased desire for access to public information has lead to aspirations for “total transparency”, which in the US has resulted in government endorsement of data sharing (Sometimes called ‘Open Government’ or ‘Government 2.0’) (Ganascia, 2010). There have been similar moves in the UK (e.g. data.gov.uk) which are designed to improve the delivery and transparency of public services (Shadbolt et al., 2012).

Transparency through sharing data

As noted, the increased desire for public access to information from and about their governments has often lead to the provision of this information, theoretically allowing a concerned citizen to look Upwards and Inwards into the machinery of their state.

The sharing of data, however, does not constitute the entirety of Transparency. As discussed, the historical context of Transparency appears concerned with two aspects of information; access to it is indeed one of these, however the effective use of such data is also an important factor. Schauer writes of Transparency that it cannot be simply equated with knowledge, and at best facilitates it: for information or processes to be Transparent he defines the criteria of being “open and available for scrutiny” (Schauer, 2011, p.1343). This definition notably lacks an explanation how groups or individuals may make use of information, and the cost for them to access it. Hood also acknowledges this as a tension between the historical “Town Hall” forms of Transparency, related to Candid and Open Social Communication, and its distant cousin concerned with accounting and book-keeping (Hood, 2006).

It is this concern with accounting and book-keeping that is most often associated with Transparency in common parlance. In this context there are also distinct flavours of Transparency that must be acknowledged. In government and business, Transparency can take the form of releasing information concerned with accounts and expenditure on a regular or semi-regular basis. Oliver discusses how this is an older form of Transparency and almost purely reactive – often in response to a scandal (Oliver, 2004). Further to this, Oliver writes that the Old Transparency is giving way to what he calls the ‘New Transparency’, which is more proactive and the taking on a stance of “active disclosure” (Oliver, 2004). Similar to Oliver, Schauer provides a discussion on the dualistic nature of Transparency divided across the same lines of passiveness vs activity – to the point where he names the twin forms of Transparency “Passive Transparency” and “Active Transparency” (Schauer, 2011). From this point, Oliver and Schauer’s discussions converge along similar lines. Old and Passive Transparency is concerned only with information being made available “for others to see if they so choose, or perhaps think to look, or have the time, means and skills to look” (Oliver, 2004, p.3); which resembles the discussion that definitions of Transparency often don’t consider how stakeholders may access or understand information about an actor. New and Active Transparency is not only demanding, but concerned with information’s interpretation and access and should be thought of as of communication concerned with the organisation’s responsibilities. Heald discusses a very similar division of Transparency which he calls “Nominal Transparency” vs “Effective Transparency” (Heald, 2006). The term “Nominal Transparency” describes something similar to the Old and Passive Transparencies outlined by both Oliver and Schauer, but more ominous. Heald says that whilst Transparency of any given organisation may increase on an index, there is a divergence with Effective Transparency to the point where it is Transparency only in name – creating an illusion of Transparency. For Transparency to be effective, Heald writes that there must be receptors capable of receiving, processing, and utilising the information (Heald, 2006).

Heald’s dichotomy between Nominal and Effective Transparency sits alongside two other similar dichotomies that he describes as being important factors to discussion of the term: Real-Time vs Retrospective Transparencies; and Event vs Process Transparencies (Heald, 2006). The first dichotomy deals with the variable of time in the availability of information as a Real-Time Transparency would take a form of continuous surveillance such as that enabled by modern technologies such as CCTV or (a little less odious) open data APIs which may be continuously polled to retrieve fresh, up-to-date, data. Retrospective Transparency describes a reporting cycle during which an organisation operates and then prepares an account of activity. The second pairing of Event and Process Transparencies concerns the subject of the Transparency. Event Transparencies describe objects or states that that are more easily measurable than their counterparts, Processes, which are more likely to be described in attempt to be Transparent rather than reported on. Events and Processes are inherently linked, as it requires a Process to turn one Event into another form of Event, such as an Input into an Output via a Transformation process. A concrete example of this would be financial input being transformed via action or spending into an output, and then later linked into an outcome for reporting. Of these Events, Inputs are the easiest to measure and can be measured directly. Outputs can also be measured although such measurements are effectively proxies related to activities undertaken, and linking these to outcomes can be a difficult or impossible task (Heald, 2006).

Transparency and Accountability

The imposition of transparency measures is generally seen as tantamount to ensuring accountability of institutions, organisations, or individuals in power; and often the terms are used interchangeably (Fox, 2007; Hood, 2010). The two terms, however, are separate and have their own (if somewhat malleable) definitions (Fox, 2007). Fox discusses accountability in terms of “the capacity or right to demand answers” or the “capacity to sanction”, whereas transparency concerns itself with the public’s right and ability to access information; and whilst common wisdom dictates that transparency generates accountability, this assumption is challenged when held to scrutiny (Fox, 2007). Fox’s analysis of transparency divides it into two categories – clear transparency and opaque or fuzzy transparency – which closely resemble Schauer and Oliver’s definitions of the Active or New Transparency and the Passive or Old Transparency (Schauer, 2011; Oliver, 2004; Fox, 2007). Fox argues the importance of this distinction lies in the fact that as Transparency becomes an increasingly desirable term, opponents will express their dissent through provision of fuzzy transparency. This is data which lacks information that can reveal organisational behaviour and thus cannot be used to generate accountability (Fox, 2007). The Clear Transparency alluded to by Fox is defined as “information-access policies [and] programmes that reveal reliable information about institutional performance, specifying officials’ responsibilities [and] where public funds go” (Fox, 2007, p.667). Importantly, though Clear Transparency is concerned with organisational behaviour, it is not sufficient to generate accountability – which requires the intervention of other actors Fox (2007). Accountability is also explained by Fox as either Soft Accountability (the ability to demand answers) and Hard Accountability (the ability to issue sanctions).

Fox stipulates that appropriate levels of Clear Transparency gives the public the ability to perceive problems, and to demand answers – which is a form of Soft Accountability known as answerability (Fox, 2007). Further forms of accountability are founded on the ability to not only reveal existing data, but to investigate and produce information about organisational behaviour (Fox, 2007).

Anheir and Hawkes reflect Fox’s sentiment in their discussion of Accountability, where they describe Accountability as a “multi-dimensional concept that needs unpacking before becoming a useful policy concept and management tool”, and note that in the case of trans-national organisations; Accountability itself is a problem, and not simply a solution (Anheier & Hawkes, 2009, p.132). This discussion, whilst focusing on the difficulty of regulating accountability across national borders, has insight into the ways that transparency mechanisms may not be adequate for generating true accountability in NPOs. They highlight how it is often media companies that reveal ‘unethical behaviour’ to the public, rather than formal auditing bodies – an example from the UK would be how the NPO Kid’s Company experienced negative media coverage over their closure relating to alleged misuse of funds (Elgot, 2015; Anheier & Hawkes, 2009). Anheir and Hawkes also draw on Koppel’s ‘Five Dimensions of Accountability’ framework – which imbues Accountability with a five-part typology: transparency; liability; controllability; responsibility; and responsiveness (Anheier & Hawkes, 2009; Koppell, 2005).

Koppel avoids trying to produce a definitive definition of Accountability, stating “[to layer] every imagined meaning of accountability into a single definition would render the concept meaningless”, and the five-dimensional typology is instead designed to facilitate discussion of the term (Koppell, 2005, p.95). Transparency features prominently in the typology, with Koppell referring to it as one of “foundations, supporting notions that underpin accountability in all of its manifestations” alongside liability (Koppell, 2005, p.96). Liability, according to Koppell, is the attachment of consequences to performance and culpability to Transparency – punishing organisations or individuals for failure, and rewarding them for successes (Koppell, 2005). In this, the ‘foundational’ dimensions of Koppell’s typology are aligned with Fox’s definitions of Accountability which covers the capacity of demanding answers and to sanction, with Transparency as the ability to access the information in the first place (Koppell, 2005; Fox, 2007).

The remaining three dimensions of Koppell’s typology: controllability; responsibility; and responsiveness are all built upon the foundations of Transparency and Liability. Controllability is a form of accountability where if "X can induce the behaviour of Y [then] X controls Y [and] Y is accountable to X (Koppell, 2005). Koppell notes that Controllability can be difficult in organisations that have multiple stakeholders to whom the organisation is supposed to be controlled by (Koppell, 2005), though is also unclear when describing the physical mechanisms by which an organisation may be controlled by other stakeholders. Romzek and Dubnick’s description of systems such as internal Bureaucratic and external Legal systems, as well as Political responsiveness, being utilised to control an organisation (Romzek & Dubnick, 1987) would indicate that mechanisms which produce Controllability are situated within the Responsibility and Responsiveness areas of the typology. Responsibility denotes the constraint of behaviour through laws, rules, or norms such as legal frameworks or professional standards of conduct (Romzek & Dubnick, 1987; Koppell, 2005).

Romzek and Dubnick use the term Political accountability here, describing the relationship between those in a political office and their constituents, but the term could be applied to an organisation required to meet the needs of beneficiaries and thus falls into Koppell’s typology under Responsiveness

Responsiveness in the typology describes organisation’s attention to the needs of its clients, as opposed to the following of hierarchical orders (Koppell, 2005).

In the context of this typology, Koppell also puts forward a state resultant from an organisation’s engagement with the various forms of Accountability. Multiple Accountability Disorder (MAD) is framed as a condition afflicting organisations which attempt to engage in multiple, conflicting, forms of Accountability simultaneously; negatively affecting their ability to operate and perform their work as an organisation and dissatisfying the actors whom they are expected to be accountable to (Koppell, 2005). This is because the various forms of Accountability are rarely ever differentiated in practice, and “Organizations are often expected to be accountable – explicitly or implicity – in every sense” (Koppell, 2005, p.99). An organisation may experience MAD as a conflict between adhering to expected professional standards and responding directly to the orders of a stakeholder and in some cases, multiple stakeholders may issue contradictory directives to an organisation that are expected to be obeyed (Koppell, 2005).


This section has considered the nature and implications of various forms of Transparency and Accountability to charities and the TSSE. By grounding this as both a concern for these civic organisations as well as a complex space which must be navigated, I hope to have set the scene for the potential of digital technologies to explore and support charities and other TSSE organisations in becoming more transparent and accountable.

This review therefore now turns to examining the ways in which digital technologies may be designed to support this important part of life as a charity or TSSE organisation and therefore aid them in performing their important civic role.

How can digital technologies support the Transparency and Accountability of charities and the TSSE?

Transparency and Accountability can be said to be ultimately concerned with the sharing of information and the creation of pathways or mechanisms that allows stakeholders to act in accordance to it. Meijer argues that “Modern transpareny is computer-mediated transparency” (Meijer, 2009, p.258), and Oliver goes as far to posit that digital technologies have sparked a self-sustaining Information - Transparency Cycle which is “unstoppable” and that information is now a commodity which is cheap to collect, organise, analyse, and distribute; the result of which is a reaction to missing information and a return to the collection phase (Oliver, 2004). Similarly, Steele, in his Open Source Everything Manfiesto reflects on the ways in which the Internet has enabled the public to overcome previous restrictions on access to information and states, in no unclear terms, “This bodes well for humanity” (Steele, 2012, p.85).

Broadly, there are several strands of research into digital technologies that support interacting with information and data in this way; primarily these can be encapsulated within the areas of Open Data, and Human-Data Interaction (HDI) although the inter-disciplinary nature of HCI as a whole means that the subject matter naturally intersects or otherwise touches upon other research within the field. Also pertinent to the focus of this thesis is the broader “open” culture online (Open Source Software, Open Data, Open-Source Intelligence etc), as it often intersects with transparency and accountability in various ways.

This section thus explores the potential and implications for how data may be produced and appropriated by charities and their stakeholders through a discussion first around examples of Open Source and Open Licensing online, grounding these as historical precedent for digital forms of accountability, and then discusses the design implications of interacting with data through Open Data, Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Human-Data Interaction. It then turns to the pragmatic and investigates previous HCI research into previous examples pertaining to enabling interactions with finances.

Open Data, Open Licenses, and Open Source

Calls for greater transparency from government often result in the production of information in the form of Open Data. Open Data is “data that anyone can access, use, or share” (Institute, n.d.). It consists of organised data that is, generally, structured and placed online so that it may be consumed for use. Open Data can be produced, shared, and used by many people in many different contexts (e.g. scientific data sets, or government collection of environmental data). Often, it is parsed or processed in some way by digital technologies, and multiple datasets may also be combined in order to produce a desired insight for the stakeholder(s) consuming the data.

Of particular importance to Open Data is, almost ironically, licensing. Due to the presence of intellectual property laws in most legal jurisdictions; the reuse and redistribution of data is likely prohibited without explicit permission (Foundation, n.d.). For this reason there exists a number of licenses online that guarantee these rights to stakeholders such as the Open Government License in the UK (Government, n.d.a) or the Creative Commons family of licenses (Commons, n.d.). These licenses may trace their lineage back to the Free and Open Source software movements which have historically embedded values of openness and public access to information within their tools and distribution models.

Camp frames the access to source of a given piece of software as a form of Transparency and Accountability (Camp, 2006), a sentiment shared by various advocacy groups promoting end-user interaction with the software tools over proprietary alternatives (Pfaff & David, 1998; Balter, 2015). Camp outlines how that human-readable source code (specifically, source code that is not deliberately obfuscated) can be ‘audited’ similar to to an ‘open book’ form of transparency. Camp then transposes these concepts into governance processes; where ‘open’ code could be compared to digitised versions of an organisation’s governance processes. With an open model, an organisation could be held to the same scrutiny as Open Source or Free Software source code (Camp, 2006).

Free Software in particular also demands a particular form of accountability through specific use-cases, namely that of programmers deriving work from it. Free Software is often released under ‘restrictive’ or ‘copyleft’ licenses (e.g. the General Public License or GPL (Foundation, 2007)) which legally enforce that derivative software, or new software including Free-licensed code as a component, is also released holistically under the same license and thus under the same terms – enforcing access to the source. Stallman’s original GNU manifesto outlines the reasons why his GNU system employs a form of viral licensing: “Control over the use of one’s ideas’ really constitutes control over people’s lives; and it usually used to make their lives more difficult” (Stallman & others, 1985, p.9). In this, Stallman declares a unique form of accountability that can almost be seen as paradoxical – one that explicitly controls the actions of a particular group (programmers) in order to dictate that they relinquish control over another group (end-users access to and subsequent use of software tools).

Interacting with Data

The rise of Open Data and digitally-mediated forms of transparency brings about questions of how digitial technologies may be designed to support people interacting with such data. Since the result of entities such as governments and charities trying to produce transparency and accountability is often information in the form of Open Data, interacting with data is ultimately how people will be interacting with these entities themselves. Therefore interactions with data, and how digital technologies may be designed to support these interactions must be considered.

Human Data Interaction (HDI) is a coalescing field that is concerned with the social world of how people interact with data about themselves and others. Whilst it considers technical infrastructure surrounding data (McAuley et al., 2011), HDI also brings data’s role as a ‘Boundary Object’ (Star & Griesemer, 1989) to the fore and considers its role as a pervasive aspect of everyday life in terms of how to enable citizens to interact with this data in a more explicit fashion (Mortier et al., 2014).

A ‘Boundary Object’ is anything which may be recognised across different social ‘worlds’, yet may be appropriated and adapted by the needs of individuals and groups in a manner that pertains to their specific needs and context. Star and Griesemer describe Boundary Objects as “both plastic enough to adapt to local needs … yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites” (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p.393) A good example of this is a receipt of purchase; it is inarguably a receipt, yet may be used by the bank to verify a purchase, by a store to prove that you own the items you’ve purchased, and proof that a transaction has occurred between your bank account and a store. Further to this, Crabtree and Mortier elaborate that Boundary Objects are “inherently social” and possess a “processual character” as part of the infrastructure of everyday life. To this end, they argue that Data is not so much an object in-and-of-itself but rather an object that is inherently embedded in human relationships (Crabtree & Mortier, 2015).

Data’s use as a Boundary Object is demonstrated effectively by the rise in personal informatics. In the Quantified Self movement, individuals collect and process various forms and sources of data about them as individuals, generally for the purposes of recording progress towards various goals (Swan, 2009, 2013). Contrasting the movement’s general use of data as a pragmatic, goal-oriented object, Elsden et al demonstrate that data can be experienced by people in many ways and can serve different purposes such as providing playful ways to engage with each other and one’s own data (Elsden & Kirk, 2014; Elsden, Nissen, et al., 2016). In particular, it is posited that data can offer an ‘alternative lens’ that other media does not, allowing people to view or represent an event in a different ways than originally envisioned and one that can be combined with other more traditional forms of documenting; and in doing so indicates that the record is always unfinalised and is continuously open to reinterpretation (Elsden et al., 2017).

Additionally, Data as a Boundary Object has place within an organisational context, offering opportunities to use and present data in an exploratory context in people’s shared worlds. In an academic context (most UK Universities possess charitable status and thus belong to the Third Sector), visualising research funding across the institution was found to act as a means of supporting members of staff in understanding the funding landscape of the organisation and in communicating narratives to the outside world around perceived successes. The system (and by extension, its data) was also found to support the review and contestation of data when multiple interpretations were available, and Elsden et al explicitly note its implications for organisational transparency; with the caveat that a major design question raised by the research is whether contextualisation should occur merely through the data, or in conversation around it Elsden, Mellor, et al. (2016).

As discussed, the presentation of information is not enough to engage in more modern forms of transparent practice; and the use of data (however nicely it may be visualised) is no exception to this and risks simply rehashing the older forms of transparency with faster production of data. Cornford et al write that the UK Government’s agenda of producing Open Government Data (OGD) fails to address the questions of how information is to be interpreted for local contexts; mirroring the concerns of Elsden et al around how data should be contextualised (Cornford et al., 2013). Cornford et al argue that a wealth of open and structured data merely provides a ‘view from nowhere’ and that the true challenge lies in developing the interpretive communities that will utilise the information effectively (Cornford et al., 2013).

Some successes have been seen in the uses of OGD for engagement; the London Datastore collects, organises, and distributes a variety of Open Data pertaining to the City of London in the UK, and has seen great successes in terms of use-cases where developers and organisations have used data for service provision and governance purposes (Coleman et al., 2013). In the US, journalists have begun utilising data to fuel their practice (Ramos, 2013), and it has been argued that the proliferation of OGD has directly contributed to a ‘habit of engagement’ that in turn begins to develop a culture of civic participation through the use and responses to data about our civic world (Gordon & Baldwin-Philippi, 2013). Black and Burstein conceptualise a movement towards the ‘Twenty-First Century Town Hall’ (Black & Burstein, 2013) (possibly indicating a full circle movement to a more direct forms of Transparency discussed above) whereas Bloom postulates that OGD will form a new Commons resource (Bloom, 2013).

Sense making and engagement stemming from the use of Open Data draws upon the field known as ‘Open-Source Intelligence’ (OSINT). Generally, OSINT concerns itself with the gathering of intelligence for problem solving from various public information sources (Bradbury, 2011; Glassman & Kang, 2012). This places it in contrast to other forms of intelligence-gathering which are generally performed using specialist or secret sources of information. Traditionally, this would look like utilising sources such as newspapers and public records but in the modern era sources such as Open Data and Social Media profiles may be used as viable sources of information to begin making steps towards solving intelligence problems (Bizer, 2009).

The implications of an Open Data-fuelled OSINT for Transparency and Accountability are evident. As discussed, OSINT is concerned primarily with the application of information to solve issues or answer questions, so it stands to reason that an adequate data infrastructure would allow for (or even promote) engagement of stakeholders in OSINT for asking questions of charitable organisations (the ‘Habit of Engagement alluded to earlier (Gordon & Baldwin-Philippi, 2013)). At the very least, such an infrastructure would enable the organisations to produce effective and interactive responses to queries around the performance of their work and their spending.

Steele discusses the power of OSINT at length. Coming from a position that “the one unlimited resource in the world is the human brain” (Steele, 2012, p.146), Steele puts forward that the engendering of Transparency via the production of Open Data, and the resultant OSINT practices, would lead to a systematic practice of exchanging information openly (Steele, 2012). This would then allow societal actors and stakeholders to evaluate and respond to complex problems (Steele, 2012). Whilst Steele refers directly to engagement with Governmental processes, this could see use in the Third Sector as well; when a charity could present information about their work within the context of complexity. A pragmatic example that might be most interesting for charities is the example of a ‘True Cost’ calculation – wherein the True Cost of a white cotton T-Shirt is outlined in economic, societal, and environmental terms (Steele, 2012).

In the context of charities, Erete et al explore how NPOs use Open Data technologies to support their practice through practices resembling OSINT Erete et al. (2016). Data is largely used to create a narrative and engage in a story-telling practice around particular goals which differ in context – e.g. making grant applications, or internal management functions. Organisations are shown to combine multiple sources of data into a narrative, as well as being able to derive multiple narratives from a single data set Erete et al. (2016). Further to this, they discuss how NPOs operate with limited resources and as such may benefit from services such as Data Portals to enable them to acquire data easily to produce these valuable narratives, and put forward that additional value is created via such portals when they act to build or strengthen relationships between those seeking to use the data and those possessing skills or knowledge around its analysis. From the perspective of Transparency and Accountability, it stands to reason that systems can be developed that allows charities (NPOs) to engage actively in the data collection process, and allow them to construct multiple, and varied narratives from personal data sets that can be used in similar contexts to those described by Erete et al – ie supporting grant applications and internal management procedures, but also additional cases such as evidencing their work by retrieving and presenting information collected about it.

In summation, digital technologies surrounding Open Data and its use as a Boundary Object have strong implications for the support of Charities in terms of Transparency and Accountability. Use of data has in the past demonstrated a usefulness in civic and academic contexts, supporting processes that are integral to Transparency (review and contestation), as well as potentially acting as a vector to allowing stakeholders to explore the complexities orbiting particular topics such True Cost, and therefore spending. With this in mind the discussion now turns to previous HCI work in the area of interacting with finances.

How do digital technologies allow people to interact with finances?

HCI research has previously concerned itself with investigating the ways in which can facilitate people’s interactions around money. Work has largely been focused on small scale interactions such as those found at individual or family/small-group level. Examples include studies investigating how people manage personal finances in particular circumstances, as well as how people engaged with money on an experiential level (Vines et al., 2014, 2011). At larger scales, HCI has also taken into account the social world around financial transactions to theorise around the design of potential future payment systems Ferreira et al. (2015); and alternative forms of capital such as cryptocurrencies and the surrounding Blockchain technologies have are said to have accountability baked into the infrastructure of the systems themselves Birch & Parulava (2018). Previous HCI work demonstrates that people interact with money and their personal finances in a number of ways. Kaye et al discuss how interaction can play out at an emotional level; as individuals may make decisions that do not appear ‘rational’ from a purely financial perspective but are instead driven by other factors such as personal history or experience with debt Kaye et al. (2014). A second facet is a form of management of ‘pots’ of money. In this context, money is not treated as a single entity but divided up along lines such as origin or intended use, and people use a variety of self-made or adaptable tools (both digital and analogue) in order to achieve this management; such as folders, notebooks, and spreadsheets Kaye et al. (2014). This practice of dividing money semantically is notably also shown in the work of Vines et al when studying techniques people use to manage a low income Vines et al. (2014). Finally, dealing with the unknown or ‘higher powers’ is an important facet of people’s relationships with money as they may lack important information held about them by other actors; such as their current Credit Scores (often used as a measure of financial health in the US), and they understand that their personal futures may contain events that they have not financially planned or accounted for Kaye et al. (2014). Vines et al go on to describe how the systems people implement can give them a ‘confidence through awareness’ which may act as a ballast that partly allays their fears Vines et al. (2014).

At the community Scale, Ferreira et al explored the social world surrounding money, specifically a community currency known as the Bristol Pound Ferreira et al. (2015). Their work discusses how exchanges of money using the currency shared aspects of a conversation, as the transactors would engage in social interactions that were unbounded by the settings roles such as ‘shopkeeper’ and ‘customer’, prompted by the technology use required to pay with the currency. Further to this, the use of the shared currency (and the technological systems supporting it) gave the transactors an indication of shared values and interests Ferreira et al. (2015).

Other instances of digital technologies supporting group use of money is the use of ‘Crowdfunding’ websites such as Kickstarter, or GoFundMe. In particular, the language and mechanisms of these sites share similarities with the process of donating to charities. These sites offer options wherein donators to a particular fund may have their donation returned if, for example, the total requested amount of donations has not been met. Beltran et al extend this concept further with their deployment of ‘Codo‘ which they describe as “Fundraising with Conditional Donations” (Beltran et al., 2015). In this deployment, Beltran et al describe how they developed a logical grammar which allows a donor on the system to more richly prescribe (or describe) the conditions of their donation, such as matching funds from other individuals or those within a defined group. Whilst this system does not proffer much in the way of exploring how organisations can report back on their expenditure, it presents the case that conditions may be put forward and codified as a means of providing a rudimentary accountability; as an organisation may need to attract the support of more than disparate groups in order to receive their donations. This opens up the possibility that a system may be developed with an ’accountability spin’, where conditions are put upon funds by Funding bodies that request reimbursement under the event that conditions that they set out are not adequately met.

It is also important to note that my previous work has explicitly explored how Transparency and Accountability are, as of writing, poorly supported by digital technologies (Marshall et al., 2016). This findings of this initial, exploratory, work highlights similarities between how individuals semantically divide money into ‘pots’ and how charities’ finances are often restricted to particular use-cases due to how charity funding operates. This study also indicated that it may be appropriate to shift focus from financial transparency towards making organisations ‘visible’. This harks back to the historical roots of Transparency as a part-Science of making the social world knowable discussed earlier (Hood, 2006). The means to achieve this would be to produce a more qualitative form of accounting and supporting the interrogation of information collected by using standardised web technologies.


This review has introduced the research space of how digital technologies may be designed to support the transparency and accountability of charities and other TSSE organisations, grounded these terms with explorations of both transparency and accountabiltiy as well as what the definitions and concerns of charitable organisations are. This has also been framed as a work of Digital Civics, where work within this sector sits within this particular research space and contributes to the continued development of Digital Civics research. This review now turns to the opportunities of pursuing research into these matters.

One of the key opportunities research in this space lay in the fact that despite there being a lot of work discussing what forms of transparency and accountability exist (Hood, 2010; Oliver, 2004; Heald, 2003), and what these may look like as modern digital initiatives around Open Data (Coleman et al., 2013; Gordon & Baldwin-Philippi, 2013; Bloom, 2013), and the shortcomings of these (Cornford et al., 2013; Puussaar et al., 2018; Marshall et al., 2016); there is as of yet no work discussing how these transparencies are produced on-the-ground. My previous work highlights how charities in the UK context are obligated to produce reports around work and spending (Marshall et al., 2016) yet this failed to produce the intended results in Kidz Comapny (Elgot, 2015; Bright, 2015) – therefore understanding and designing for front-line production of new forms of transparency and accountability in charities is not only an opportunity but also an imperative if Digital Civics is concerned with this space.

Related opportunities also include the design requirements for these interactions supporting transparency and accountability. Where there is existing work understanding people’s personal interactions with finances (Kaye et al., 2014; Vines et al., 2014; Beltran et al., 2015), and I call for more qualitative forms of accounting (Marshall et al., 2016) to make organisations visible; there has not been other work understanding what the requirements of such qualitative financial are or what interactions such data would support. Further to this we see how data and Open Data’s position as a boundary object lends itself to a multitude of possible human interactions (Elsden & Kirk, 2014; Elsden, Nissen, et al., 2016) however we have not specifically seen what the interfaces and interactions with data are that support accountability and transparency in this space. While I have produced an initial foray into the concerns of funders and stakeholders (Marshall et al., 2016) there is potential for understanding and designing for their needs further. Considering Digital Civics’ desire to reframe interactions into a relational context, there is also scope to explore newer and more relational forms of transparency that may be enabled through the design of digital technologies.

In the context of Digital Civics, there are additional opportunities to explore the implcations of working with and within charities and the TSSE in terms of how HCI and Design may affect civic life. Although I have cited a lot of recent Digital Civics work at the start of this review, a lot of it was performed concurrently to this research and has involved different methodologies, foci, and relationships with partners. Therefore research into this space is an important context for Digital Civics work more broadly to consider.


This chapter has discussed the background and literature of intersecting fields that inform this research. I began with grounding the topic of the research as one situated within the scope of Digital Civics research, one particularly focused on local engagements with charitable organisations. I then produced a workable definition of the types of organisation I was discussing as “Charities and the Third Sector and Social Economy (TSSE) organisations”, and explored their concerns focusing on the importance of Transparency and Accountability to these organisations and the challenges inherent in grappling with these.

I then turned to explore the use of digital technologies to begin addressing the challenges through intersecting strands of research into Open Data, interactions with data, and interactions with finances. Finally, I discussed the opportunities and imperatives for further research into this topic. This thesis therefore turns now to a review of the methodology that this research used to properly investigate the opportunities in this space.

Chapter 3 - Methodology #draft


This chapter discusses the invesigative and analytical traditions of this thesis and how they were applied during the various stages of research that captures. As this research considers workplace settings its primary focus it is to be expected that the framing of the thesis, the analytical heritage, and practical application of methods all draw from established realms that centre the performance of work (and the implications thereof).

First the chapter considers the thesis’ place within the tradition of Workplace Studies. Setting out the characteristics of a workplace study; it outlines how these are useful and appropriate for the thesis’ focus and outlines how the subject matter and setting of the research within Digital Civics and HCI make it a natural fit for this framing. After establishing this I then turn to outline the thesis’ Orientations to Analysis wherein the analytical methods I described and justified. Alongside outlining my chosen analytical tools I spend some time along with some background to illustrate how the marriage of these frameworks is both appropriate and complementary given the subject of my investigations. After the investigation has been grounded in its traditions the chapter turns to the pragmatic and details how the research was actually enacted. I first present an Overview and Timeline of the research and delineate how each phase of the study was enacted and contributed to the investigation.

Finally, I end this chapter by recounting a Description of Methods used to perform fieldwork, design my interventions, and analyse data collected. These are situated within the traditions I outline in previous sections.

Digital Civics as a Workplace Study

This section situates the thesis within the tradition of a workplace study. Workplace Studies are a form of research that concern themselves with how workplace activities are organised and, in particular, the roles in which technologies play in assisting workers organising mundane activities and collaborative tasks (Heath et al., 2000).

Workplace studies came to be established within HCI and closely related fields such as CSCW and IS as a result of these areas of study moving beyond the scope of examining a single user utilising a single interface to consider group settings, as well as important revelations by Suchman that more consideration needed to be paid to the nature of interactions as situated in settings and context (Suchman, 1987, 1995). Kuutti and Bannon discuss a “turn to practice” within the scope of HCI and related fields, that encompasses this shift in focus from laboratory studies to studying and designing for real-world practices as they occur (Kuutti & Bannon, 2014). Schmidt writes of the critical role workplace studies have in dismantling supposedly common-sense notions of cooperative work by uncovering how it is routinely accomplished (Schmidt, 2000).

Within CSCW and HCI Workplace Studies have been used to inform systems design at various stages of design research. Plowmen et al note three phases of design where workplace studies have been used: Initial Research and Implications; Design and Change Phase; and the Evaluation and Development Phase (Plowman et al., 1995). The research encapsulated in this thesis covers all three of these phases situating it firmly within the tradition of Workplace Studies through its methods and narrative.

Workplace Studies have close ties with ethnography, particularly the analytical framing and studies of work practice (Nilsson, 2005). The value of findings from studying work places is core to one of the goals of this thesis to understand how financial practices and transparency obligations of a charity manifest in daily workplace practices so that they may inform design. Heath et al demonstrate how a workplace study may be used to derive implications for systems that support work practice with their analysis of dealers in a London securities house (Heath et al., 1994). Through analysis of the systematic way that dealers organise and co-produce their trading they elicit how systems may be better designed to support this work such as “Pen-based” systems to capture gestures that make the actions of others obvious and visible. In addition to providing the implications for specific workplaces Heath et al demonstrate the generalisability of their findings; highlighting the broader moves towards seamlessness between individual and collaborative activities through systems that enable cooperative editing. This thesis works within this tradition both practically and theoretically with the first phase of research embodying the Initial Research and Implications phase described by Plowman. In Chapter 3 I describe the performance of an ethnographic study of work practice which elicited initial findings and implications for the design of systems produced and evaluated later in the research. These “Implications for Design” (Dourish, 2006) address the research’s request for empirical data on what is done (and how) to produce transparency in a setting.

The Design and Change phase of a workplace study is concerned with the production of prototypes or change in working practices (Plowman et al., 1995), and this is detailed further in Chapter 5.

Lastly, the Evaluation and Deployment phase of a workplace study is presented in Chapter 6 of the thesis. In this phase I take the prototype systems that were implemented in the previous phase (and the design of which was informed by the first phase) and evaluate them over an extended period. This sits comfortably in the tradition of previous cases such as Sanderson’s case study of the implementation of a video conferencing system (Sanderson, 1992), Bowers’ work within the UK Central Government (Bowers, 1994), and Rogers’ evaluation of a multi-user system in a London workplace through field visits (Rogers, 1994).

Orientations to Analysis

This section describes the analytical orientations taken in this research and explains how they were applied pragmatically.

As this research is situated within the workplace study tradition this gives particular prominence to the application of certain analytical frameworks to consider work practice. Further to this the nature of the research space as involving the Third Sector, their work, and how they are made to be Transparent and Accountable for this lends itself to a focus on the political economy of designing in this space.

Ethnomethodology and Work Practice

The goal of this research was to understand the ways in which transparency and accountability are “done” in charitable organisations with specific regard to the role which digital technologies may play in facilitating this, and to provide these understandings as ingights that may be used for design workers and researchers in this space.

To accomplish this fieldwork was performed at an early stage of the research (described later in this chapter as Phase 1) and an ethnomethodological orientation was taken to the performance of this fieldwork as well as the analysis of the data that resulted from it. Ethnomethodology has a history and tradition within HCI and related fields of providing researchers with insight into the situated actions of settings; often being used to study workplaces (Plowman et al., 1995; Suchman, 1987) but can also find use in most settings due to its analytical focus on the sequential accomplishment of the social order (Garfinkel, 2005). Through a critique of contemporary ethnographic practice in HCI, Crabtree et al detail the history and continued value of Ethnomethodology to HCI and design; highlighting that this focus on “interactional work” has value to action and interaction in both the workplace and beyond (Crabtree et al., 2009).

This “interactional work” attested by Crabtree et al is a key characterisation of Ethnomethodology’s concerns. It describes how members of a social setting organise and produce their social world in an ordered way that is naturally accountable to all members (Garfinkel, 1967). While Ethnomethodology is not epistemologically indifferent, rooted as it is within phenomenology (Maynard & Clayman, 1991), it is said to carry “little or no theoretical baggage” and consists of analytical choices as to what the fieldworker attends to in a given study (Randall et al., 2007). The specific flavour of Ethnomethodology employed in my research was an Ethnomethodological study of work, where the focus of study is how a particular appearance or result (in this case Transaparency and Accountability) is achieved by members in a setting (Button, 2012). Ethnomethodological studies of work have a history within systems design such as Suchman’s seminal Plans and Situated Actions (Suchman, 1987) and Harper’s Inside the IMF (Harper, 2009), and thus are both analytically and historically closely aligned to the concerns of my research.

Practically speaking one of the benefits that Ethnomethodology brings to this is the encouragement to develop a vulgar competence in the setting’s work, where the interactional work of a setting is understood by the researcher in the same terms as it is by the members of a setting (Crabtree et al., 2012). This was beneficial to the research not only because it allowed me to understand the mundane acts of producing Transparency and Accountability in a charity; but because Ethnomethodology eschews the traditional dichotomy of subjectivity versus objectivity – instead acknowledging the natural reflexivity of members making sense of and producing their social order (Button et al., 2015). Reflexivity is particularly important to Ethnomethodology as, in lieu of the hand-wave to reflexivity performed by interpretive ethnographies to certify the researcher’s interpretation of an action, it is conceived of as a natural part of producing the setting. Therefore members of these settings themselves possess the natural and everyday analytical skills required to produce their own accounts of their work. This is essential in two ways. First, by developing vulgar competence in a setting I as a researcher-cum-designer may develop an intimate understanding of its work which may be used to develop praxeological accounts and inform design (Crabtree et al., 2012); since the goal of this research was to actually design in this space as well as provide long-term design requirements to inform future work this is not only appropriate but imperative. Secondly, reflexivity in Ethnomethodology is predicated on members’ engagement in interactional work that makes thier actions account-able to others in a setting by making them observable and understandable to all who care to look (Garfinkel, 1967; Crabtree et al., 2012; Button et al., 2015). Since the topic of this research concerns Transparency and Accountability, albeit in the grander sense of the terms, this makes it appropriate as an orientation to analysis as this orientation mirrors the subject of my attention as a designer and a researcher.

The scope of this analysis allows for asking how Transparency and Accountability are produced in a setting, what actions make it up, and how these are observable through the natural account-ability of these actions. Ultimately through asking these questions a line may be drawn from the study of the everyday production of Transparency and Accountability through to the design requirements that actually support the Trasparency and Accountability of an organisation.

A Marxist stance on Political Economy and Labour

As noted earlier in Chapter 2, the Third Sector exists because of the systemic failure of both the state and the private sector to provide for people’s needs (Hansmann, 1980). Feis-Bryce suggests that the Third Sector must forefront its inherently political nature in its work (Feis-Bryce, 2015). That this research is performed within the scope of Digital Civics and the Third Sector is intrinsically political it must be acknowledged that Digital Civics research within this space in particular is a political act. This is especially pertinent when confronted with the knowledge that this research, like all Digital Civics research performed through the Newcastle programme, was conducted against a backdrop of austerity politics in the UK (Reeves et al., 2013; Lowndes & Gardner, 2016; Bach, 2012). These austerity measures have drastically reduced the funding available to local government (Lowndes & Pratchett, 2012), effectively marketising public services; but also have implications for the shape and future of the Third Sector (Clifford, 2017; Macmillan, 2011). Therefore there is no neutrality in working within the Third Sector and I must take a stance as to how this research understands the political economy of this design space, lest a stance be taken for me that defends the status quo.

A Marxist stance was very suitable to inform the analysis because a Marxist (and later Marxist-Leninist) analysis of political economy and capitalism accounts for the inherently political nature of the space (Marx et al., 1974). Additionally, Marxist philosophy on labour and alienation provide an ample framework for conceptualising the labour relations of everyday work of the charity and the act of producing it. As I have established, Transparency and Accountablity is not automatic in the work of a charity – it is produced through the everyday actions of the members (workers) who make up its setting. Since these everyday actions are performed within the context of labouring at a job they must also be scrutinised through the lens of labour relations. Put bluntly; If I am concerned about the the everyday production of Transparency and Accountability in a charity I must consider this production in relationship to the means of production situated within a larger political framework (Marx et al., 1974).

Pragmatically, this stance is applied at several stages of the research by providing a sensitivity to particular things. As I note, when understanding the production of Transparency and Accountability I acknowledge that this production is subject to labour relations. Therefore an understanding of labour informed by Marxist political economy and philosophy (e.g. Productive Labour, Unproductive Labour, and Alienation) was used to determine how systems valued and devalue, and hid, particular forms of work (Marx et al., 1974; Marx, 1844). This is most clearly expressed in the findings of Chapter 4.

The terms Productive Labour and Unproductive Labour are introduced by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations where Smith puts forward that Productive Labour is that which generates additional capital value and commodities, and that Unproductive Labour is any activity that does not (Smith, 1785). Marxist analysis is critical of Smith’s definition of this because the definition of Productive is purely relativistic and dependant on the mode of production at the time (i.e. what is productive for a feudal society is likely different to what is productive for a capialist society) (Marx, 1844). Furthermore there may be no neutral defintion of the term as what is considered productive for one social class may not be considered productive for another (Marx, 1844). Labour, in a Marxist conception, is not naturally productive as it has a dependance on additional work to make it so and on tools and techniques that must first be produced (Marx, 1844). This conception of labour is useful in the analysis of the work of charities because, strictly speaking, none of the labour of charity workers produces surplus monetary value yet there I found that there was still a clear distinction between how stakeholders valued different types of work as “Productive” or “Unproductive” in this space; harking to Marx’s point that what is may be considered productive labour is purely relativistic. Namely, if the distinction between Productive and Unproductive Labour is based on an arbitrary dilineation, where was that line drawn in the field site? How did participants reason about what they classed as productive, and how was this accounted for to themselves and others?

Marx’s theory of alienation was also practical and beneficial to the research in several ways. Marx outlines four types of alienation: alienation of the worker from the product; alienation of the worker from the act of production; alienation from their species-essence; and alienation from other workers both in society and within the workplace (Marx, 1844). This framework contributed to the analysis of initial field studies in Chapter 4 as alienation was used to understand and later highlight how work practice (as conceived of in Ethnomethodology) is masked from the public and how digital technologies should be designed to overcome this. Further, a sensitivity to alienation helped frame the design stages of the research through provoking consideration to the particular forms of ownership of digital technologies. This was bolstered by drawing upon more contemporary Marxist analysis of the political economy of the web (Kleiner, 2010) as well as HCI literature around data ownership (McAuley et al., 2011). This enabled me to design technologies that strove to embody values such as worker control and flexibility, as well as provide reflection on my relationship as a designer to my participants, and thus their relationship as workers to the design process and product of our labour.

Finally, Marxist thought is underpinned by an understanding of Dialectical Materialism and therefore it must be acknowledged that this was used to inform an analysis of future technologies for Transparency and Accountability. Broadly Dialectical Materialism is the application of the Dialectical method to a Materialist view of reality (in contrast to an Idealist one). Dialectics states the following: that nature (the world) is connected and determined; that it is in a state of continuous motion and change; that quantitative change leads to qualitative change; and that there are contradictions inherent in nature (Stalin, 1940). Materialism also presupposes that: the world is material, not the embodiment of an absolute idea or universal spirit and thus; there is an objective reality existing outside of our consciousness; and therefore the world and its laws are knowable (Stalin, 1940). Dialectical Materialism offers this research a way of unpicking the internal contradictions with the material ways Transparency and Accountability are currently produced in a setting as well as the Dialectical natures of Transparency and Accountablity themselves – therefore contributing to the implications for future design and work in this space.

To summarise, a stance on political economy within the design space is necessary because to not explicitly take one is to have it assumed for me. A Marxist stance brings an understanding of labour relations, alienation, and Dialectical Materialism to the research and is appropriate for the setting, analysis, and design space I am working within in this thesis. Further, it fits with concerns raised in Chapter 2 around the marketisation of the Third Sector and situates this as well as the backdrop of austerity politics as attempts to extend the reach of capital further into service provision: a civic concern if there ever was one.

Marxism and Ethnomethodology in context

The previous sections outlined two distinct orientations to analysis that informed this research and justified their application and suitability to the setting and research topic. Both Ethnomethodological and Marxist approaches were used as orientations to particular things, but might require further explanation to fully reconcile due to the rarity of their co-presence in research and the historical attitude of Ethnomethodology towards traditional social sciences such as Marxism (Garfinkel, 1967; Button et al., 2015). This section now investigates the use of both of these orientations in context to explain how they are complementary to each other and this work.

Ethnomethodology’s primary contradiction with traditional social science is that the former takes as its focus the methods and interpretations people employ in their production of their own social order, whereas the latter employs a top-down method of theory and interpretation of the world (Garfinkel, 1967). While this may initially seem like this outlook prevents Ethnomethodology from existing in the same space as a worldview such as Marxism it remains true that, as noted earlier in this chapter, an ethnomethodological study consists of analytical choices as to the attention of the fieldworker (Randall et al., 2007). Pragmatically this means that it may be employed to provide accounts of, for example, how members of a setting reason about and produce Transparency and Accountability through their actions and what the design implications are for systems wishing to utilise this. This is may be seen at work in Chapter 4 where praxeological accounts of action are situated in a framework that includes “accounting for Hidden Work”. Hidden work here is aligned to the conception of unproductive labour outlined in Marxist thought. A Marxist understanding of unproductive labour was used to orient me to this concern, however the accounts of work surrounding it are purely based on members’ reflexive understanding of the setting. Furthermore, in Chapter 5 designs were produced to embody the lessons from the previous chapter’s study of work practice and drew upon both this analysis and a Marxist stance to inform design. Button describes how theoretical worldviews may provide designers with general heuristics and cites the Scandinavian School as an example of designing for worker empowerment but that this leaves unattended the situated nature of the work being performed (Button et al., 2015, p.57). My design work sought to bridge this gap by drawing upon both the understanding of interactional work provided by Ethnomethodology and a Marxist understanding of worker empowerment and labour relations. Thus a system was designed that would (hopefully) accommodate the work practice of the setting at an interactional leve as well as embody a Marxist understanding of worker control. Put simply; the system was designed to help them account for their work and spending (Ethnomethodological) and was also designed to be decentralised to support them controlling the technology (Marxist).

Aside from the practical in this research, Ethnomethodology and Marxism may actually be be more ideologically complementary than may appear at first glance. Kuuti and Bannon note of the turn to practice in HCI that the groundwork for a focus on practice was laid by Marx and his contemporaries – where Marx laid the groundwork for ‘practice’ as an object of study and unit of analysis (Kuutti & Bannon, 2014). Chua explores Ethnomethodology from a Marxist perspective as means by which ideological reproduction may be investigated, where ideology is conceived of as a symptom of social knowledge (Chua, 1977). Chua describes Ethnomethodology as a focus on investigating the rational nature of a setting’s activities and thus providing an analytical tool for Marxists to investigate how ideological systems operate as ‘natural’ ways of knowing and interpreting the world (Chua, 1977). Freund and Abrams share this sentiment and examine Ethnomethodology’s treatment of information and social perception as linked to the practical interests of those producing them, therefore showing that social perception and information produced by existing ,and therefore bourgeoisie, institutions is false (Freund & Abrams, 1976). This not only meets Ethnomethodology’s critique of top-down interpretations of the social order (Button et al., 2015) but also highlights the shared characteristics of Ethnomethodology and Marxism as approaches that both fuse theory and praxis and see social knowledge as being bound to the contexts and methods that produced them (Freund & Abrams, 1976). Chua elaborates that the specificity and characteristic indifference of Ethnomethodologically-informed studies means that results must be appropriated within the wider context of Marxist sociology, but that Marxists should otherwise encourage Ethnomethological studies (Chua, 1977).

Mehan and Wood also argue that Ethnomethodology shares with Marxism a unique heritage, where both are each a synthesis of two traditions that are normally mutually exclusive: that of the hermeneutic-dialectical and the logico-empiricist (Mehan & Wood, 1975). Mehan elaborates that the methodology of Ethnomethodology is firmly rooted in logico-empiricism (ie that it takes accounts of the researcher’s senses), wheras its theory is derived from hermeneutic-dialectics (ie its phenomenological roots). According to Mehan and Wood, this transendenacy of conflicting roots is why it is so often alienated as a method. Marxism similar straddles these realms with heritage in both camps. Marxism’s philosophical roots are in the hermeneutic-dialectical with its use of the Hegelian dialectic – yet it brings this into a materialist and scientific worldview in the development of Dialectical and Historical Materialism (Stalin, 1940; Mehan & Wood, 1975). This gives Marxism what is generally thought of as a scientific approach to the investigation of social life and political economy as it draws from the logico-empiricist traditions of Feuerbach and other scientific socialists (Thomas, 2008; Mehan & Wood, 1975). Thus, similarly to Ethnomethodology, Marxism’s method is rooted in logico-empricism wheras its theory is drawn from its antithesis in the hermeneutic-dialectical and they are compatible as bedfellows in their application.

This shared heritage is further highlighted with Marxism and Ethnomethodology’s common attendance to practical life. Ethnomethodology has as its chief focus of enquiry the practical accomplishment of work that produces the social order within a setting (Garfinkel, 1967; Crabtree et al., 2012), which marries Marx’s thesis that “All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.” (Marx & Engels, 1963, p.13). The latter half of this thesis also notably echoes ethnomethodologists’ critiques of top-down interpretations of a setting, and reinforces that the focus of enquiry should be in developing an understanding of practice; Mehan and Wood argue that following the conception of Ethnomethodology, Marx can be viewed as a “crypto-ethnomethodologist” due to this (Mehan & Wood, 1975).

Additional similarities arise in the core tenants of Ethnomethodology and Marxist approaches. In Marxist theory Labour is described as "Life Activity" ie not just participation in economic activity but all human acts from those of recreation and love to tilling fields and designing software (Marx, 1844; Mitchell, 2013). This matches with Ethnomethodology’s view that members of a setting are constantly engaged in Practical Action and Practical Reasoning in every activity such as “queueing for coffee, […], splitting atoms, singing, dancing begging […]” (Crabtree et al., 2012, p.p29). It follows then that the Interactional Work attested by Ethnomethodology, ie the accomplishment of activity through interacting with things and others (Garfinkel, 2005; Crabtree et al., 2012), could be described as an expression of Labour when viewed through a Marxist lens. This does not detract from Ethnomethodology’s famed indifference, nor ties it inextricably to Marxist thought – but alignment at this level demonstrates this complementary nature of the two frameworks.

Finally, Marx’s theory of alienation may be used to understand why Ethnomethodology produces Vulgar Competence. As noted above, Vulgar Competence is the ability to at-a-glance determine the interactional work used to produce the social world or the sequence of practical actions required for a task at hand (ie Labour) (Crabtree et al., 2012). Similarly noted above, Marx’s theory of alienation puts forward that humans are alienated from each other in society and the workplace due, in part, to specialisation (Marx, 1844). A blunt way to say this is that you are not “a researcher”, you are a human being who does research. Since doing research is made up of a practical set of tasks that are accomplished it stands to reason that people who do this research themselves, or attend to its accomplishment by others, develop vulgar competence in the activity or setting. That vulgar competence belies an ability to understand other human beings, what they’re doing, and the reasoning this doing embodies indicates that alienation between the researcher and the members of the setting is reduced. Indeed Mehan and Wood state that “Ethnomethodology displays the everyday practices of this alienation and provides a means to transcend it” (Mehan & Wood, 1975, p.521) – this transcendance occurs through the ethnomethodologists attendance to practical action and interactional work. This may be in the (re)production of the social order by understanding that 11:00 on a Thursday is time for tea, or the sequence of interactional work required to produce the monthly budget report.

To summarise, this research takes an Ethnomethological approach to analysing the interactional work in a setting as well as a Marxist stance on matters of human labour, alienation, and political economy. While at first glance these two approaches may seem contradictory due to Ethnomethodology’s perceived hostility to social science; investigation reveals that the two traditions share a common heritage and that the findings derived by ethnomethodologically-informed studies may be safely situated in the context of Marxist analysis. Finally both Marxism and Ethnomethodology together have a focus on the practical accomplishment of the social order; and Marxist views on Labour and Alienation accommodate the results of Ethnomethodological enquiry through the production of Vulgar Competence.

Overview and Timeline

This research began in late February 2016 when I reached out to the Patchwork Project (Patchwork) as potential participants (the reasoning for approaching this group in particular is given in Chapter 4). Following a brief meeting with them at a restaurant in Newcastle I began fieldwork the following week. The research then ended in late August 2018, culminating full-circle in a meal at the same restaurant (and on the same table) as it began. The work inbetween these two dates consisted of several “phases” of research within the context of the workplace study that addressed the material needs of the project: an initial in-depth phase of fieldwork to understand how the interactional work of transparency and accountability was organised within a charity; a phase of iterative user-centred design to produce responses to the initial findings; early and expanded deployments which involved multiple organisations to test initial assumptions in my design response and to potentially bring further insight into the design space from organisations which operated differently to Patchwork; and finally some additional evaluation designed to bring in perspectives of other workers within the ecosystem such as accountants and funders as well as gather field data on some final iterative improvements made to the systems.

In practice, the “phases” of research followed on naturally from each other and are not as cleanly delineated as Figure 3.1 implies. As the research progressed partners were added and my understanding of each facet of the research grew, the research and I needed to accommodate this growth despite perhaps having ostensibly “passed that phase of the research” previously. This was most prominent in the relationship between the “design phase” of the research and the “evaluation phase”. For example sometimes the addition of raw exposure through more time spent at Patchwork during deployments meant I partook in a conversation or observed something that lead to a new understanding of their work practice. Or a conversation with another partner organisation (e.g. Gateshead Older People’s Assembly) lent an important critique of the work so far. This is perfectly normal for evaluation, but notably lead to further iteration on tools and systems to incorporate the new knowledge. To do otherwise seemed unnatural and, frankly, unethical given the collaborative nature of the setting and the nature of each partner’s work. By this I mean that my presence in these organisations meant that my actions had an effect on them and their ability to delivery front-line work; and I viewed the purpose of this research (and Digital Civics more generally) as having the ultimate purpose of benefitting their ability to operate. I felt that not iterating on designs to respond to new insight would thus constitute a breach of my integrity both as a collaborator who was taking up the time of the organisations and as a researcher who was in genuine attempt to progress knowledge and practice.

As such the discussion of each phase of research in turn here denotes the dominant focus of the research as it progressed; but it should be acknowledged that in any given phase the activities of a previous phase continued. Field notes were always taken with a focus on work practice and the manifestation of transparency work, and small bouts of user-centred design were performed to fix bugs or add features when needed.

Figure 3.1: Timeline of Research
Figure 3.1: Timeline of Research

Phase 1: Initial Fieldwork ran from February 2016 to late summer of the same year at Patchwork. The purpose of this dedicated block of fieldwork was to orient myself to the work practices of the fieldsite. This initially involved looking explicitly at the different ways Transparency and Accountability manifested themselves as everyday practices through: characterising the performance of work related to Youth Work and management; and creating extra work from perceived or legal obligations for more formal forms of transparency and accountability. This phase of work started with weekly field visits to Patchwork, which overtime became either more frequent or less frequent as my schedule was intertwined with that of the organisation and different fieldwork methods were employed. Often I would visit several times a week in order to work on the accounts with the workers, volunteer, and take part in a team meeting. Sometimes, such as during the summer, I may not have visited during a given week. As noted, a variety of standard fieldwork methods were employed during this phase to develop praxeological accounts through techniques such as field notes, interviews, and participating in the work of the organisation itself. As the research progressed I became integrated into the daily life of the charity (and they became integrated into my daily life as a PhD student). The nature of my field notes thus shifted from “all-encompassing” to focused on specific phenomena, as I relied less on them to describe broadly how the workers at Patchwork organised their social world.

Phase 2: User-Centred Design (UCD) was the main characteristic of the next phase of research as focus evolved to investigating, designing, and implementing potential interventions. Fieldwork began to shift into UCD in late August 2016 with the completion of a design workshop focused around future technologies. In September the field visits took a short pause mandated by both Patchwork’s need to deliver the final part of their summer programme, and Open Lab’s need to deliver CHI papers. This afforded me the space to reflect on the findings of the fieldwork to date which resulted in the analysis presented in Chapter 3 of this thesis. The work’s rhythm resumed in October with design work consisting of early prototyping and regular design crits (Goldschmidt et al., 2010) worked into field visits and discussions and captured through field notes and requirements documents where appropriate. Design discussions maintained a vision of the larger system, but focused on different components in turn. October to December mostly focused on producing designs and implementations for a mobile application which became Accounting Scrapbook. After the winter break, development on what became Rosemary Accounts began and design was directed towards this away from Accounting Scrapbook. Throughout the whole process, discussions around the needs of the data and tools fed into the development of the Qualitative Accounting data standard, although it should be noted that Patchwork were much more interested in how the tools could produce and process information rather than standards development required for the design. This phase of research did not have a tangible drive by either myself or Patchwork to put our designs to use, simply develop them, whereas later stages of the research contained small pockets of iterative design and development while the tools were (supposedly) in use. In late April Patchwork and I were getting ready to begin phasing in use of the tools as additional partners were added to the research in the form of Edbert’s House and Gateshead Older People’s Assembly (GOPA). Early discussions with these partners revealed new needs which were acted upon through some further design and implementation work and extended this phase of research until the end of May to account for their needs, improve the overall quality of the tools, and encourage their participation during deployments

Phase 3: Early Deployments lasted a total of four months from the beginning of June until the end of September. The deployments themselves were mostly unshepherded, in that I did not instruct the participants to use the tools in a particular manner other than providing technical support on their use when requested. At the outset of the early deployments all participants expressed their enthusiasm at using the tools they’d seen develop, so my intention was to try and understand how these tools could be appropriated by workers to support their existing work as it pertained to collecting and presenting information. I did “check in” on each of the participant organisations throughout the deployment, although the nature of these was different depending on my relationship to each one. “Checking in” on Patchwork was integrated into my visits there, where I could observe the use and non-use of the tools and casually chat or interview the workers as the deployment went on. As my relationship with GOPA and Edbert’s House was not as strongly developed; my regular visits had a distinctly more formal feeling. These were performed either bi-weekly or monthly depending on the schedules of myself and the workers there. Occasionally some lightweight design work was performed to fix a bug or tweak a feature to encourage or facilitate use. Despite this and for a variety of reasons this phase of the research did not see a lot of engagement from any participants regarding the deployed tools (even at Patchwork). This is analysed and reflected on in detail in the discussion in Chapter X.

Phase 4: Expanded Deployments became necessary due to the poor uptake of the systems that had characterised the previous phase of the research. A year on from the original phase of design and development I renewed focus on making Accounting Scrapbook and Rosemary Accounts better integrate into the daily practices of my partners. Edbert’s House unfortunately withdrew from the research as the worker who had been my primary contact left the charity and, in lieu of the limited engagement so far, the organisation felt they couldn’t commit to maintaining our relationship. Patchwork and GOPA, however, agreed to commit to a more structured effort to use the technologies with a view of iteratively improving them as we continued the deployment. The deployments were characterised by being slow and requiring several different attempts to encourage engagement such as “weekly tasks” designed for participants to walk themselves through different features of the system which eventually became walkthrough sessions lead by myself. As such these structured deployments lasted a long time; from October 2017 until April 2018. It should be noted that the timescales for this phase of the research were extended due to the rise of mental health issues affecting my work during 2018. When both Patchwork and GOPA had completed the initial set of structured tasks I sought engagement from other actors within the sector such as funders and accountants. Several individuals were happy to give me their time and they assisted the evaluation of the tools by participating in interviews during the summer.

Phase 5: Additional Evaluation was performed in the final months of the research. This was, in my eyes, designed to compensate for what I perceived as a lack of proper engagement with the tools and to discuss with participants findings that had arisen during my conversations with funders and accountants. Through lessons learned from both earlier deployments, a short “challenge” was issued to participants to try and capture a “week in the life” of their organisation using the features of Accounting Scrapbook and Rosemary Accounts as much as possible. The engagement with this led, somewhat ironically, to the discovery of several technical issues in the systems which meant that the “week” turned into several weeks as progress was halted and began again several times. Following this dedicated use of the tools and reflection thereof through discussion, an exit interview was performed with each organisation to discuss the purpose and implementation of the research itself and the final state of our designs.

Description of Methods

This section outlines the practical methods which I utilised to undertake this research and describes their appropriateness both within the context of the Workplace Study tradition that my research continues and the analytical approaches that it takes.

Fieldwork Methods

As described earlier Ethnomethodology encourages the development of a Vulgar Competence of a setting in order to understand how members account for and produce the social order (Garfinkel, 1967; Crabtree et al., 2012). To accomplish this I performed extensive fieldwork within Patchwork, the rough shape and duration of which I outlined in the previous section. I wish to describe now the specific tools and techniques I used during the performance of this fieldwork.

The foundation of my fieldwork was extensive site visits at Patchwork, initially performed weekly but then changing frequency as I grew more involved with the organisation and our work rhythm became intertwined. Similarly, the types of activities I participated in developed in scope. In ethnographic terminology my participation in these activities may be characterised as Active Participation (Schwartz & Schwartz, 1955). During site visits I would: visit and work on the allotment alongside staff and the beneficiaries of the project (ie young people); assist staff in producing the budget and accounts; producing an annual report; help plan and deliver activities for group sessions unless inappropriate; report to trustees1; and many others too numerous to list specifically. As outlined by Crabtree et al in Doing Design Ethnography these activities served to develop my vulgar competence in the work of Patchwork but they also allowed me to gain acceptance in the setting (Crabtree et al., 2012). As I provided in input of labour through volunteering and assisting with preperatory work, and I demonstrated my commitment to seeing their work through their eyes, the workers at Patchwork began to see me as a member of the setting as well and this allowed me to have more frank and genuine discussions with them.

The extent of my participation at Patchwork allowed me to collect a variety of data and assemble a clear ethnographic record throughout. The tools and techniques I used here are standard to ethnographic enquiry, and should not need too much outlining. A lot of data was collected through the use of field notes and a fieldwork diary – which I populated with questions, observations, and diagrams to support my analysis (Crabtree et al., 2012, p.79) . An example of this is diagram of the Sequential Order of Work (ibid, p. 105) that I drafted in my notebook and then reproduced digitally for inclusion in Chapter 4. I was also able to perform individual or group interviews (ibid, p.80), which were useful to get an overview or to drill down into the work of something. In some cases these interviews were recorded whereas some of them were what I describe as “in-situ” ie they manifested as an in-the-moment questioning of a concept or some practical action being performed by someone there. Where not recorded these interviews were incorporated into my data corpus via my fieldwork diary. The fieldnotes and fieldwork diary, as well as interview transcripts, were used to create praxeological accounts of action and vignettes for presentation in this thesis and derived publications. These allowed for the conveyance of the local accountability and situated action that were important both to the overall research and the design process that followed the initial fieldwork (ibid, pp. 122-130).

As the fieldwork process continued into the summer of 2016 discussions at Patchwork began to slowly and naturally turn to what design interventions may manifest as a result of the initial fieldwork I had performed. To support these conversations and create explicit room for them I also performed three “workshop” activities inspired by the concept of Futures Workshops (Jungk & Müllert, 1996). A Futures Workshop consists of three phases: critiquing the current state of the way things are done; a fantasy phase wherein participants come up with grand ideas to respond to problems; and finally an implementation phase where these fantasies are brought back towards the pragmatic in terms of what may be accomplished (ibid). As part of the research, these activities mark a transition from the purely investigative phase of fieldwork to one that was directly working with members of the setting to inform design, and therefore they may be conceptualised as an investigation into the social order of the setting and how technologies may support this work.

While Jungk describes a Futures workshop as a single workshop (ibid) the pragmatics of doing work with Patchwork necessitated that the three phases of the workshop were split across three months from June to September 2016. The reason for this is that Patchwork were delivering their Summer program during this time, which left no time for full day workshop. This change in pace allowed me to reflect on the conversation that was had during each workshop, as well as design materials and activities to be used as conversation pieces during the next one.

Durin the first workshop, the participants in Patchwork were guided in producing an artefact which mapped the flows of information and interactions with technologies. My questions and their answers served to check my understanding of their situated work that I had gathered from fieldwork to that point and also also to question things that were not clear to me yet. Hearing the workers at Patchwork reason out loud together about their work practice as a whole, rather than discrete portions of it, also helped illuminate the interconnectivity of the setting’s interactional work.

In the second workshop, I produced a series of short Design Fictions (Hales, 2013) that were tailored to deliberately contrast or caricature the perceived values, behaviours, and norms of the setting and members. My intent here was to cause a reaction and make explicit the normal social order, and as such they may be considered as derived from Garfinkle’s “breaching experiments” – where the researcher disrupts the routine production of daily life in order to make this reasoning visible (Garfinkel, 1967). Crabtree writes of breaching experiments in technology design that they may be used to “provoke” (literally call forth) practice and that while they may be disruptive this is not necessarily the case (Crabtree, 2004). My Design Fictions were intended to be a little disruptive as I wished Patchwork to subsequently rally against the dystopian futures I detailed and instead proffer alternative designs that would be more closely aligned with their practice. In this sense they also touch on the notion of Provotypes; where a prototype is designed to provoke discussions around contemporary and desired future practice (Boer & Donovan, 2012). Provotypes also draw on Dialectics (outlined above) where the contradictions that give rise to practice are highlighted and then new practice may be considered; bridging investigation and design (ibid). While my samples of short Design Fiction may not be a true provotype (nothing was designed and deployed at this stage), they embodied this dialectical goal of assisting me in unpicking the contradictions in work practice and how this is made Transparent and Accountable; and ultimately lead to insights for design work. In the second half of this workshop Patchwork were asked to write their own design fiction and elaborate on what a theoretical pie-in-the-sky technology may look like.

The third and final workshop involved grounding the design insights from the first two workshops into what may achieved pragmatically. Because a month had passed since the previous workshop, a short design challenge was issued to the group to create Magic Machines (Andersen, 2013) that supported their organisation’s work in becoming Transparent and Accountable, and what the work practice was surrounding this. The results from these were then discussed as a group to unpick what desired work practice may be and how we may get closer to this given contemporary technologies and the scope of the research. This form of participation in the design process relied on the Ethnomethodological conception of reflexivity discussed earlier in thsi chapter; as Patchwork workers were constantly reflecting on their own work practice and offering each other (and myself) practical insight as to how they may interact with new technologies I was capable of introducing.

Design methods

One of the goals of this research was to actually design and subsequently deploy technologies for use within the setting to later evaluate them and another was to understand how technologies may be designed in Third Sector Organisations. As noted in the earlier overview this phase is characterised by User-Centred Design (UCD) methods which may be surprising since the Marxist values embedded in the research may indicate a preference for Participatory Design (Muller, 2003).

My use of UCD methods emerged in response to the pragmatics of designing in the research space. Daily life at Patchwork was (and remains to this day) very busy and they have a pressing need to deliver their services to beneficiaries and respond to their needs. Therefore, despite the best will in the world, Patchwork has limited capacity to sit down with me and co-design systems in the name of participation. Indeed it became clear when the design phase of my research was starting that they had little interest in designing systems together as they felt that it was my role to do the design and implementation work. I discuss this in greater detail in Chapter 5.

My response to this challenge was to involve Patchwork as much as I could during the design process. Following the completion of the three workshops outlined above the data from these fed into the larger corpus garnered during fieldwork and analysed to produce high-level implications for design, as well as indications for specific design elements to incorporate for a deployment here. Attention was paid specifically to the interactional work of the design ie the workflow of systems designed were derived from Patchwork’s model of work, and then these assumptions were tested during this design and later evaluation phases both inside and outside of Patchwork. Inside of Patchwork my weekly field visits continued ahead of my volunteering sessions and deeper integration into the workplace such as attending extra-curricular activities with the workers (e.g. Fell walking, allotments, etc) meant that I was served plenty of opportunities to check my designs and assumptions with the workers there. The most used technique here was the use of the Design Crit (Goldschmidt et al., 2010); weekly I would present Patchwork with ideas, sketches, wireframes, prototypes etc and we would discuss the design. Key notes from these were recorded into my notebook or, occasionally, a requirements document. I would make changes or otherwise progress the design before returning the next week for more of the same.

It is that design rhythm and workflow that leads me to call this phase of work User-Centred Design as opposed to Participatory Design or Co-Design. The Scandinavian co-operative design movement arose out of the concern of workers having technologies negatively influence their working practices (Schuler & Namioka, 1993) which was certainly an initial concern shared by myself and Patchwork. It could be argued that there are elements of Participatory Design present in the research. The way that I participated and integrated myself into Patchwork, as well as my fieldwork’s analytical focus on work practice and my genuine concern for the workers and organisation meant that gradually their concerns became my concerns. Therefore it could be said I was facilitating worker’s design of technologies or that participation was somehow “configured” (Vines et al., 2013) in the research as I part of my work there was to design technologies for which which I systematically and enthusiastically sought feedback and approval on.

Nevertheless, I do question how truly participatory the act of design may be in this context, or indeed needs to be given the nature of the organisation. My feelings on this are expanded on later in the thesis, but the core value embedded in this research is to support the Third Sector through my research and technical skills. Patchwork didn’t expect me to become involved in everything in the business and in fact explicitly noted areas where it would be inappropriate and similarly felt that it was inappropriate to apply themselves to an area that was clearly my wheelhouse. As an (initially) external technical expert I fit the bill as someone who was suited to the design and implementation of digital technologies and for them the act of participation was that I was there and contributing at all.

Late in the UCD phase of research I expanded the scope to include involvement with two other organisations – Edbert’s House and Gateshead Older People’s Assembly (GOPA). I was introduced to Edbert’s House as they were visiting Open Lab due to a collaboration they had with another researcher there, and they seemed interested in my work. Since I desired to deploy the designs that Patchwork and I had worked on I followed up with a meeting to which they invited the manager of GOPA. Initially this meeting was to introduce them to the technologies and garner their interest in participating in evaluating them, however the discussion raised new needs that required addressing. I followed up with several design crits with Edbert’s House and GOPA to account for this and improve the overall quality of the tools. These iterations were fed back to and checked with Patchwork as well, although the organisations never showed interest in meeting together.

Evaluation Methods

After the design phase was complete the tools were deployed for evaluation in order to understand their appropriateness and to further illuminate the design space for future work. As described in an earlier section, the design phase involved instances of evaluation through the use of crit sessions with participants. After this, evaluation took place across three distinct phases where each had particular methods attached.

The first phase of evaluation began with early deployments that were, as noted, totally unshepherded and used observation and some small interviews to understand the worker’s interactions with the technology. After a short instructional session at each of the three participating organisations (Patchwork, Edbert’s House, and GOPA), the technologies were effectively “left” with my partners in that apps were installed on their phones and they knew of the existence of Rosemary accounts and had outlined to me a rough plan for their use. At Patchwork my regular visits across the week provided opportunities to witness use (and non-use) of the technology, and in addition to this I did small interviews in place of the design crits that we’d normally have. These lasted no longer than five minutes each and were not audio recorded – instead making their way to my fieldwork diary. I did not have similar levels of access to GOPA and Edbert’s House since I had not integrated myself in the same way as I did with Patchwork. In these cases I performed regular site visits at each organisation which varied from bi-weekly to monthly depending on our schedules. Here I did not get the chance to observe the technologies “in the wild”, as it were, but casually interviewed participants about how they were finding the technology. This also presented an opporunity for them to ask questions of me about the pragmatics of using the technology. Again these were not recorded in order to put participants at ease (they were often embarrassed about their non-use of the technology) but similarly integrated these findings through my fieldnotes.

The second phase of evaluation, which I’ve termed “Expanded Deployments”, was instigated after four months when it became apparent that there was poor uptake of the technology at all organisations – which I could only account for at Patchwork initially. After some wrangling of the remaining participants (Edbert’s House dropped out), I redesigned some elements of the technologies to make it a little smoother to integrate into daily life and we renewed a commitment to evaluate the technologies with a more structured evaluation. There was an understanding across the participants that the research here would be slower as I considered the daily pressures at the charities. The structure took the form of “weekly tasks” designed to walk participants through the use of various features of the system, with the intention of interviewing participants at monthly intervals after they’d completed three-to-four such tasks. After a few of these interviews revealed that, similar to previous attempts, there was similar lack of engagement I turned to the use of think-aloud co-operative evaluation methods (P. C. Wright & A. F. Monk, 1991a, 1991b) with audio-recorded in-situ interviews. These allowed me to sit with the participants and engage them while they used the system, as well as create explicit space for engaging with the systems within each Patchwork and GOPA.

During this phase of expanded deployments I also approached other participant groups that oribited around the sector as I desired their input on how useful the systems could be for their work. I interviewed several accountants and funders to gain first-impressions of the technologies and discuss future possibilities. These additional perspsectives began to reveal what the “other side” of the interactions with the systems may look like given further consideration and development.

To tie off the evaluation a last “week in the life” deployment was performed. This used a similar unshepherded deployment method as used in the first phase, with the understanding that since workers were now familiar with the system and only had to commit to a week’s use that uptake would be more natural. There were a few technical issues which ended up restarting the deployment multiple times, however this was largely a success. During this week in the life of I didn’t perform any observations but instead interviewed individual participants about the system at the end of the evaluation. Finally, I performed two group interviews; one with each Patchwork and GOPA after the culmination of the research. We discussed the original aims of the research and reflected on its performance and challenges, as well as what future work in the space may look like. This was audio-recorded and transcribed.


This chapter has discussed the framing, analytical inheritance, and methods used to perform the research in this thesis. I began with establishing the thesis as situated in the tradition of a Workplace Study in HCI and design, before illuminating the analytical traditions that result from this tradition as well as the research space.

With this instituted I then mark out the practical performance of the research. First I outline the timeline of research and set out phases inquiry that gave rise to the use of particular methods. Finally I discuss in detail the methods used for fieldwork, design, and analysis of data.

As I have now provided a scrutiny of the investigative traditions and practical applications of these in the research this thesis will now provide a detailed account of the first phase of this; a fieldwork case study of work practice.

Chapter 4: Accounts and Accountability - A Fieldwork Case Study of Work Practice #inprogress


This chapter concerns the first phase of the research, which consisted primarily of a long period of ethnographic fieldwork with an orientation to work practice (Crabtree et al., 2012) and the labour required to produce accountability as part of everyday work in a small charity.

This first phase of research benefitted the overall process in a number of ways. First, the ethnographic method and orientation to work practice allowed me as the researcher to develop a degree of Vulgar Competence in the processes and on-the-ground work that any technological intervention would need to be based around, and support. As such, the design requirements discussed at the end of this chapter are the result of analysing actual work practices of the organisation. Additionally, the length of the initial fieldwork period discussed in this chapter illustrated to me a wider, much more complete, picture of the charity ecosystem; who the various actors are, and the various forms of accountable practice that a charity and its workers must employ to navigate this. Finally, I believe the initial period of fieldwork with my frequent visits and the work I performed as part of it lead to buy-in from the charity when it came to discussing, designing, and implementing technologies together at later stages of the research.

As such this chapter discusses the work practices of a small charity as they intersect with producing Transparency and Accountability. Attention is paid to the different forms of work that the charity undertook and in what forms these were accounted for to others. These are then analysed to produce high-level design requirements which influenced the later design of technologies which were deployed into this space.

Participants and Setting: The Patchwork Project

This research began in earnest with my reaching out to a Youth Work charity known as The Patchwork Project (hereafter Patchwork or sometimes referred to as “Patchy” by locals and workers). I had briefly met two of the workers during some previous research that was performed during my MRes (Marshall et al., 2016) and their contribution left a substantial impression on me due to their interest in my research and what I perceived of as a very reflective discussion of their work. I was keen to work with them again and, thankfully, after a meeting with them over lunch they agreed to let me engage with them through fieldwork.

Patchwork are a small, hyperlocal, charity and their work is inherently tailored to the needs of their immediate community. Since these needs shape the work and thus everyday work practice I feel that discussing work practice without providing a brief overview of the organisation and setting would provide an incomplete picture. Therefore I wish to briefly discuss the history of Patchwork and the community of Benwell.

In 1994, The Independent included Benwell, Scotswood, and Elswick together in its list entitled “No-Go Britain: Where, what, why”. The reasons they cited were “Crime, arson used to intimidate witnesses, feuds between rival families involved in drug dealing” as well as citing unemployment statistics of 24%, 28%, and 26% for the three areas respectively (‘No-go britain’, 1994). Colloquially, the area is seen as abandoned by the city council, and owes its reputation to the conditions that arise from lack of adequate services and funding.

Interviews with the staff revealed that The Patchwork Project began life as one of several projects originally operating under the banner of the Benwell Young Person’s Development Group (BYPDG).2 The group formed in 2001 (Findthatcharity.uk, n.d.a; Project, 2016) as an informal umbrella group to support the young people of the Benwell and Scotswood area of Newcastle, which was experiencing a withdrawal of local authority funding and feeling the effects of the resultant lack of service provision. Initially the group was very disparate and the various arms operated independently from each other, with residents providing community transport, toddler and infant care, Scouting troupes, and a football club as well as the youth work. The Patchwork Project began life with residents taking groups of children out for activities such as site visits and days at the local pool. Michael described the efforts as “Very amateurish. It was great.”. Later the group was formally constituted as a charity in order to “access funding and structure” according to Michael although “only Patchwork was its responsibility. The rest of the activities were mostly just doing their own thing. The charity was started to support Patchwork”

Michael describes how the success of the project lead to the entirety of the BYPDG becoming known by that name, and eventually the other activities either split off into their own local charities (e.g. the football club) or wound down due to the community members who drove the efforts retiring. Some elements of other activities were taken up by Patchwork such as the toddler group, but lack of available volunteers lead to this winding down as well. Michael stated that Patchwork continued to operate by itself within the structure of the BYPDG as a project but registered as its own charity in 2014 and taking over from where the previous organisational structure left off (Findthatcharity.uk, n.d.b) and also registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee in order to “protect the trustees in the era of risk assessments and individual responsibility”.

Patchwork’s stated aims of the charity on both their website and the Charity Commission are as follows:

To help and educate young people between the ages of 5 and 25 years resident in the West End of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the surrounding area, including those who are involved in the Criminal Justice System or at risk of becoming involved in the Criminal Justice System, without distinction of sex, sexual orientation, race or political, religious or other opinion, through their leisure time activities so to develop their physical, mental and spiritual capacities that they might grow to full maturity as Individuals and members of society and so that their conditions of life may be improved. (Project, n.d.)

The organisaton also specify a discrete set of needs that they seek to address with their daily activity on their website:

In-keeping with this I saw that the primary service users of Patchwork were constituted of people aged around 8 to 25 although it must be acknowledged that Patchwork will also offer support to individuals outside of this range if they feel it will support a young person. A consistent example of this that I witnessed often was a member of staff supporting a parent or family member of a service user with activities such as applying for unemployment benefits or identifying documents (ie driving license, birth certificate, passport). Patchwork’s service users typically come from the immediate surrounding areas of Benwell, Scotswood, and Elswick although families often move around and occasionally a young person will move to other areas of the city but still travel to Patchwork for sessions. A large number of the service users and their families are from Eastern European ethnic and racial background since the local area houses a number of immigrant families; primarily Czech, Slovak, and Roma although I often witnessed arguments amongst the young people I worked with as to where these cultural distinctions were drawn. The other large group that makes up the bulk of the service users is White British and there are also a few families from the Bangladeshi and African diasporas in the area. Michael, the manager at Patchwork, affectionately introduced their core demographic to me as “Slovak, Bangladeshi, and White Scum – as perceived by the government anyway!”.

The way Patchwork engage with their service users is often very bespoke to a given circumstance and they will tailor support to a person or family as required. However they build the relationships with people through three core modalities: drop-in sessions; working with discrete groups; and “detached” work which involves operating without the use of a building3. This set of approaches ensures that they may reach new people and build longitudinal relationships with young people across time. Drop-in sessions are generally held from the morning to afternoon as the project opens and group work will begin in the late afternoon and early evening as the schools empty and young people return home (or gather in the street). Groups are given a particular time slot (e.g. Wednesday evenings) and sessions are generally expected to last until around 19:00 or 19:30 in the evening. Detached work does not occur every night but often takes place around once or twice a week depending on priorities of the workers on a given week and generally lasts a lot longer, often going until around 21:30 at night. During the school holidays the regular schedule is suspended and Patchwork will engage with the groups to construct a schedule of full-day or half-day activities across the break which limits detached and drop-in time.

There are a number of activities through which Patchwork will work with groups and individuals. Groups will often go out for bike rides, climbing walls, visits to locations, cook outside in the park, do crafts, or go swimming (among a whole host of other things). Further to a regular cadence of activities a group or individual might be encouraged onto and supported through a Duke of Edinburgh award, or another programme through Patchwork. This will often involve workers taking weekends to take young people hiking or camping, and teaching orienteering sessions in Patchwork 1 on a group’s scheduled session. Patchwork will pay extra attention to young people who are either in more explicit need or more engaged. An example of this I witnessed was Patchwork hiring some young people to work as gardeners at their allotment in order to spend more time with them and to teach them the value of applying themselves. Another important aspect of Patchwork’s work is to support individuals and families who are currently within the criminal justice system. This involves prison visits, transporting people for court dates, providing formal wear, and other forms of bespoke support.

The service users of Patchwork are generally very consistent in their presence within the context of Youth Work. I am sure any Youth Worker will have the scars of trying to wrangle disaffected young people into a form of schedule and I saw that Patchwork was no different in this. I worked with the 8–12 year olds mixed group for several years and there was always a combination of: people who turned up every week; those who only popped through when they could; and those who would disappear for months and reappear later. Young people often attracted their friends to the group and when cliques formed sometimes this would prevent some people from attending regularly. This is exemplary of other Patchwork engagements that I saw. Older service users would sometimes visit every day during drop-ins; sometimes for direct support, to use the computers, or just to be around Patchwork for a chat (and sometimes just to get a free hot drink!). This also translates to the various groups that Patchwork work with; sometimes a group starts off very strong and then stops coming to Patchwork seemingly randomly which causes irritation on the part of the workers. Often the groups reappear for a variety of reasons, but most commonly because they want to take part in the summer programme.

This is to say that the work of Patchwork is exactly what one would expect of a hyperlocal charity working directly with young people in a community that is generally seen as alienated. It is myriad, ever-evolving, and bespoke to circumstance. Having illustrated this I will now to elaborate on the people at Patchwork and the organisation structure.

People and Organisation Structure

This chapter discusses the initial fieldwork that was performed from February 2016 to around June or August that same year; wherein it transitioned into a phase of design work as noted in Chapter 3. This is important because the findings in this chapter use quotes from, and observations of, people who no longer work at Patchwork. My research with Patchwork continued until late 2018 and during this time period there were several changes in staff at Patchwork as some workers left and others joined. Further to this my involvement with Patchwork did not end with the completion of this research and they have remained an important part of my life. This involvement has meant that I have witnessed further updates to the roster which I will note at appropriate times.

During this period of initial fieldwork Patchwork consisted of three full-time and four part-time staff. With the exception of “Ludek” and “Charlene” who I have pseudonymised for reporting; all of the names reported are de-anonymised. This was done on request of the workers who wished their story be told as accurately as possible in the name of Transparency. Ludek and Charlene had left the project by the time this request was given and so I’ve not revealed their names.

Andi is the full-time Senior Youth Worker at the project. Her duties at the project involve designing front-end service delivery but also searching for funding via grant applications. She is one of two people whose money is used for purchasing and thus may claim expenses, alongside Michael.

Charlene performed administration duties when I first arrived at Patchwork, although she was never explicitly referred to as an “Administrator”. Her duties included producing the budget and working on the spreadsheets alongside Michael, as well as ensuring all members of staff were paid and expenses claimed properly. She left Patchwork shortly after my fieldwork began in May 2016 to take up a full time position at another organisation.

Dean was a full-time Youth Worker at the project. Hailing from Benwell himself Dean first attended Patchwork as a service user before being hired by the project as a worker. As all workers are involved in planning and delivering activities to young people, Dean performed these duties alongside Andi and Mike; but took a special interest in organising trips for young people. Throughout my fieldwork, Dean also took part in submitting funding applications. In 2019 Dean submitted a resignation to Patchwork due to personal circumstances.

Ludek was a part-time Youth Worker at the project. He was originally involved in the project as a service user; being a member of the Slovak and Romani community that live in the West End of Newcastle. Ludek’s participation in Patchwork appeared to be sporadic and he often did not show up for work, leading to the organisation dismissing him during this initial fieldwork period.

Lynne is the project’s current administrator and took over from Charlene around May 2016. During the period this chapter reports on she worked two days a week at Patchwork (Monday and Tuesday), and worked the rest of the week at another project in the same area (West End Women and Girls). When she came aboard Mike mentioned to the group in a meeting that “It’s quite exciting because the Project hasn’t had a proper Administrator before”. Lynne has since increased her hours at Patchwork and works the majority of the week there.

Michael (Mike / Mick) is the full-time Manager at Patchwork. Hailing from Sunderland he has been involved in delivering Youth Work for many years, and came to Patchwork as a manager in 2005. As a manager and a youth worker himself Mike is involved in front-end service delivery as well as administration and management duties. He writes the majority of the funding applications, and is one of two people who work on the budgeting and accounting (alongside Charlene/Lynne), and also is one of two people who may claim expenses alongside Andi.

Sonia was a part-time Youth Worker at the project. She originally interacted with the project as a service user and, similar to Dean, became involved in delivery. She was the volunteer co-ordinator for the project during my time there and in 2018 moved to a full-time position. A focus of her work was supporting young women and girls and she also headed activities at the play centre. At he end of 2019, Sonia also resigned from Patchwork to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Sydney (Syd) is Andi’s dog but is often conceptualised as a worker in conversation, and is frequently positioned in the front of The Project and as such often interacts with service users and community members.

Throughout the extent of my research at Patchwork across 2016 - 2018 I also worked with a number of volunteers from the community who are too numerous to recount in full. However in 2019 Karl and Owen, two consistent volunteers and service users, began full and part time positions respectively as trainee Youth Workers on a trajectory similar to that of Dean’s.

Structurally the charity is, like all in the UK, governed by a board of trustees. There have been a number of trustees over the years and during this initial period of research my contact with them was limited. Later stages of the research involved the trustees more directly (for evaluation) and these participants will be noted then. A current list of trustees (including myself) is available at Patchwork’s website (Project, 2016). I also provide in Figure 4.X a diagram of the organisation structure as conceived of by the workers, taken from a drawing hosted on their website.

Figure 4.X A diagram of Patchwork’s organisational structure. Produced in 2017 and taken from their website in 2020
Figure 4.X A diagram of Patchwork’s organisational structure. Produced in 2017 and taken from their website in 2020

When this work began Patchwork operated on an annual financial turnover of approximately £130k and out of a single site situated on the main Benwell high street. The site serves as a community hub and central offices and is often referred to by several names including “Patchy”, “The Project”, and more recently “Patchy 1” by both staff and community members.

Soon after I began fieldwork with Patchwork they received a large grant (discussed in greater detail later in the chapter) and opened a second site nearby. This site was once the old community play centre which Patchwork received from Newcastle Council by way of Community Asset Transfer in early 2016 and is designed for young people’s play. Patchwork use this as a mutifunctional space for activities such as: young people’s play (primarily for groups aged 8–12 years); public events such as activity days; rented use such as by local religious groups (providing a stream of income for the charity); and storage for equipment that Patchwork use for other activities such as camping and cycling. The play centre is referred to as either “The Play Centre”, “Patchwork 2”, or “Patchy 2” in conversation. During the time of this fieldwork Patchwork also maintained an allotment at the Benwell allotments site although this has since been given up and turned over to others as the Play Centre has a patch which is suitable for growing vegetables.

Figure 4.X Map showing locations of Patchwork 1 (green) and Patchwork 2 (red) and walking route between them
Figure 4.X Map showing locations of Patchwork 1 (green) and Patchwork 2 (red) and walking route between them

Gaining Access, Integrating, and Research Activities

The fieldwork reported on here was conducted over seven months with Patchwork, beginning in February 2016. As noted in Chapter 02 this fieldwork and data collection were ethnographic in nature (Crabtree et al., 2012) and formed of participatory-observation activities at the charity. I involved myself in a very wide variety of activities at the organisation, including shadowing workers during their day-to-day duties, assisting with accounts preparation, and performing volunteering duties on a weekly basis.

Initially, fieldwork consisted of weekly meetings timed to coincide with Charlene’s shifts (on a Thursday) so that I could assist in administration and budgeting work. After three weeks I expanded this fieldwork to include participation in Patchwork’s work as a volunteer youth worker on Monday nights, and in addition to this would involve myself during the week – travelling to Patchwork and taking part in their activities during the day. These activities could be quite varied across the week and could consist of; planning and organising activities (including purchasing and budgeting); creating monitoring materials such as questionnaires; being involved in strategy meetings with partners; visiting the allotment and digging up food for preparation; responding to needs of service users as they wander in; visiting or hosting academics to discuss broader implications of their work; or writing funding applications.

I also partook in a lot of activities with the organisation outside of their immediate work duties; such as Fell Walking or climbing cliffs in Spain (and hosting Syd on a number of occasions while Andy was on holiday). Participation in these activities integrated me into the organisation not only by increasing my face-time with the workers, but demonstrating that I saw myself as becoming part of their community rather than an outside researcher. This in part has to do with how these activities straddle the workers’ personal and professional lives; this will be discussed in full later in this chapter.

Initially I relied on taking comprehensive field notes during visits, where possible. There were several instances where I was mocked (albeit lovingly) for having my notebook out, and others where the activity (such as digging) had to be reflected upon after the fact when I returned home. Later, when I become more confident, I began to ask workers for clarification on their tasks and purpose in the moment. I conceive of these moments as ‘in-situ’ interviews; and although they were not audio-recorded, they were integrated into my data through inclusion in field notes. As noted in Chapter 03 all of these activities produced my vulgar competence of Patchwork’s work and supported my integration into the organisation.

Following this period my integration with Patchwork increased and I eventually became a trustee of the organisation. However this chapter reports on work performed prior to that.

How do Patchwork account for their work and spending?

These accounts focus on how members of the setting achieve their goals through interactional work and are grouped based on the activities they relate to: Accounts of Spending; Accounts of Activities; and Accounts of Hidden Work.

Accounting for Spending

I describe here how the charity spends money, and what is involved in producing the accounts required by legal processes. Spending occurs in two ways: core organisational costs (salaries, building rental, etc.); and spending which is based in the activities of a given working day. These each have distinct mechanisms through which money is spent, and accounted for.

Everyday Spending

Everyday spending is made accountable internally by funnelling spend through two senior staff members. Charlene, the charity’s part-time administrator, described this:

Charlene: “The staff get paid back through expenses, and only Mike and Andi are allowed to make expenses claims which they’ll make generally when they notice their bank accounts are getting low”.

Charlene’s comment says two things. The first is that two senior workers, Mike and Andi, are the only ones allowed to make expenses claims for purchases. This allows them to ensure that all claims are deemed appropriate since they may monitor purchases and remove the possibility of abuse by other staff members. Their personal practices are also indicated by Charlene – they only make claims when they “notice their bank accounts are getting low”. That this is possible to do also indicates the practice of storing transaction records for compilation and reimbursement. While this may initially seem restrictive, I observed practices involving the devolution of purchasing work to other staff members, allowing multiple workers to make necessary purchases. I saw that this devolution of responsibility could occur in two ways. Below is a vignette describing each of these, which details events that occurred across two days of fieldwork:

Whilst helping prepare for a ‘Community Activity Day’, Sonia and I were tasked with producing a grocery list for the BBQ. While walking to the store we were approached on the side of the road by Mike in the minibus. He asks us if we’re “off to buy food?”. Sonia affirms and Mike replies “Here, take this” handing her his bank card, “Do you know the PIN?”. Sonia nods and Mike chuckles, saying “Aye. Half of Benwell know that PIN now” and driving off. When shopping, we explicitly choose the cheapest possible store-brand products. I ask about this and she tells me “We can’t be seen to be buying brands really”. We use Mike’s card to pay and later, Mike returns around an hour later and retrieves his card and the receipt of purchase from Sonia, checking over it briefly before putting it in his wallet. The next day, I was walking to the Play Centre when Mike pulled up in the minibus heading in the opposite direction at speed. He stops only to hand me 20 and tells me “We need toilet roll for the Play Centre. Go get some from Specials’ [convenience store] across the road, the cheap pack at the back of the shop”. After making the purchase I head to the Play Centre which is already full of activity. I find Andi and hand her the money, which she takes and asks me for a receipt. She stores the receipt together with Mike’s cash in her back pocket.

This illustrates how spending is funnelled through the senior staff whilst still allowing the organisation to distribute the labour of purchasing by devolving responsibility. Sonia is handed Mike’s debit card so that it is his money that is spent, and this acts as a buffer between the member of staff and the organisation’s finances. This buffer is also present when Mike hands cash to me so that they can participate in spending. There is also both evidence of an immediate internal checking process and an awareness of wider notions of being responsible with spending. Mike checks the receipt that Sonia presents to ensure appropriateness, and Sonia does not wish to be “seen to be buying brands”. Sonia may have to justify purchases if called upon by Mike, and in context of the charity’s overall budget – this is due to the perceived appropriateness of a spend. This is also seen when Mike explicitly provides me with instructions to purchase the “the big cheap pack” of toilet roll. This accounting to me also provides them a way of making sense of the organisational values at Patchwork. The activity of going and purchasing some toilet roll is the kind of work a new member of staff would perform when getting used to the organisation; Mike informing me of the purchasing requirements without prompting may be understood as an act of training where the end result is a member of staff (or the community) who implicitly understands that “the big cheap pack” of toilet roll is the best choice (and why). Overall, these internal measures show that the organisation may attest to being responsible with money when able to present context but this is unaccounted for via formal means.

Staff Salaries

In meetings with Charlene during fieldwork, I discussed with her how staff are salaried at Patchwork:

Charlene: “Dean and Andi get paid full time, I get paid part-time. Mike works full-time but he’s only paid part-time.”

Charlene lists several of the staff and their pay-schemes, but noticeably says here that Mike is working full time but only paid for part of his work, indicating that his salary is variable even though his role is central to the organisation. During a subsequent fieldwork session, Mike elaborated on this:

“It’s what’s best for …I don’t care how much I get paid, and it’s money that I have to end up looking for. I put salaries down for the last few years, and it took a while to put Dean up to £20K when he started because of money. With the Big Lottery Fund coming in now we can start thinking about putting the salaries back to normal.”

Mike’s discussion of the staff accepting lower pay provides insight into the values of the organisation. The staff are dedicated to the organisation’s work, and are aware of their impact on its finances; accepting lower pay in order to “keep things going”. Where Mike discusses having to look for the money to pay staff, he also touches upon how raising pay creates an increase in labour as he is required to expend effort sourcing funds to make up the difference. Further into fieldwork, Mike provides additional insight into this during discussion about staff salaries and standard pay increases amid the adjustment:

Mike: “We’re putting salaries up which is a big relief for everyone. I’ll be on £30K, but not really because that means more tax so you have to judge it carefully. Because of the tax brackets, past a certain point it makes no sense to give me a pay increase because of how much it’ll cost. An extra hundred to me per week will be several thousand a year to the charity which I have to find and justify finding. This way everyone still sees their pay increase, including me, but I’m not too worried about finding the extra cash. It’s still the least you’ll ever see another project manager get paid round here though. Some larger organisations have six or seven heads on about £100K; nearly a million you need before you even get anything done.”

This emphasises Mike’s awareness of how staff salaries impact the organisation; he is willing to keep his salary lower than that of comparable positions in the area (“round here”) and demonstrates that he would need to justify to others a pay increase that required searching for a disproportionate amount of further funding. Mike also mentions how the staff will be relieved that the salaries are being brought in line with standard pay rises; illustrating that the salary cuts have tangible effects on staff and further defining their position as a value-driven cohort. When Mike discusses the salaries of larger organisations he also reveals his views on what money and people are supposed to do in an organisation; they are supposed to be put towards the organisation’s work and paying head staff large salaries creates pressure from extra work and financial requirements “before you even get anything done”.

Compiling Accounts

Figure 4.X Verifying Accounts
Figure 4.X Verifying Accounts

All income and spending must be accounted for formally through compilation of ‘the accounts’; records of financial transactions that must be produced, audited and presented to bodies such as the charity’s Board of Trustees (like a corporate executive board who act in a supervisory capacity for a charity) or the Charity Commission (UK governing body). Compiling accounts was an activity I was involved in during fieldwork, generally performed alongside the administrator (Charlene, and later Lynne). When initially instructed in the task by Mike, I was given insight into the role of financial accounts in the organisation and what is involved in the task:

Mike: “We have this budgeting tool. It’s an Excel spreadsheet really […] this lad who used to work for us set it up, we can add funders and add spending and stuff and we can use it to see how much we have left in each budget. At the end of each financial year this gets sent to the accountant so they can sign it off for us.”

This encapsulates two things about how this work is performed. First, we see that it may be performed by several people, and that this role may be more transitory than others in the organisation. During the course of our involvement, the role of Administrator changes from Charlene to Lynne, and was previously occupied by another prior to research beginning (the “lad”). This brings into question how well imposed administration tasks fit with the value driven nature of the organisation’s other activities. It also reveals how the organisation views using the spreadsheet when doing budgeting; Mike refers to it as a tool, with which he can present an account of the budget to himself, and can be used to generate another account to others (one which is legally or contractually stipulated).

A major component of producing a canonical set of records to produce this account to others is the act of Reconciling expenditure. Reconciling is the process of mapping transactions in the bank statements to transactions in the budgeting spreadsheet. The process is required as a component of having the financial accounts ‘signed off’ by an independent accountant. I outline the process of reconciling accounts below with an extract from my fieldwork diary:

Lynne taught me how to reconcile accounts today. She first took a large wallet labelled receipts from behind her and inside there were two separate folders for Mike and Andi; being the only two workers who may claim for expenses. She also fetched a small box of printed bank statements. She handed me the wallet and we started going through them one by one starting with Mike’s. As I read the value and items from each, Lynne would note them in the spreadsheet along with the worker and adding a budget code. Occasionally when she knew which project an expense was for she would “cost” this to a fund in a dropdown menu in a column in the spreadsheet. She would then search through her stack of printed bank statement and find the transaction that matched the expenses claim for the worker. Where an expenses claim was comprised of several receipts, she would group these together in the spreadsheet and adjust the value column for the total, rather than the individual expenses. She would then physically tick the transaction in the statement, tick the receipt that I handed to her, and list an “r” in the spreadsheet which stood for “reconciled”

I note from this extract that three components are required for reconciliation: an entry in the logbook (ie the spreadsheet); the transaction in the bank statement; and the receipt of purchase. The first point of note is that the actual reconciliation work is performed by the charity workers themselves, and that the role of the accountant is to act as a checker. It is interesting to note that while the “accounts” are the result of the workers’ labour; the means of producing accountability using these records is not under worker control but is mediated by a paid third party. Patchwork may not present these accounts to the public and get them “signed off” by them but are required to contract out.

It is also of note that Lynne (and previously Charlene) developed their own internal processes to producing a record that maps onto an external standard. The standard in question is that of having a canonical record of their income and spending; whereas the process of adding ticks and the reconciliation marks (the ‘r’ in the spreadsheet) are their own way of expressing this critical matching stage of producing a canonical set of accounts.

I did, however, witness that there is an inherent tension when presenting accounts for auditing to a chosen third party. The final stage of making your accounts canonical is the auditing processes.These require accounts to be ‘ratified’ (checked and signed) by an accountant, and often experience conflict when engaging with commercial accountants. I describe this below:

During a meeting, Mike asks to speak to me about the accounts. “I’m not happy with the accountants at the moment, they’re being problematic”. I ask why and he responds “They just want us to use Sage do you know Sage? The accountants don’t like that we don’t use Sage, and I think that’s because they can just import it and have it do their job for them.” At a later meeting with trustees Mike speaks again on the issue, “We’re thinking of scrapping Ellison’s. They’ve upped the price to £1300 …, and they’re trying to force us to use Sage so we do their job for them. We’ve spoken to a woman we found on the Chronicle who says she’ll do it for £20 an hour and she’s happy to do them in whatever format we want. She’s been in and looked already and she’s told us that we’ve already done the job, and all she’ll need to do is double-check a few things and sign it off. We have to make sure she’s got the right, y’know, qualifications, to do that but aye it looks much better.”.

Here Mike shows that there is an explicit point of contention that arises when commercial accounting models are misapplied to charities. The accountants use expensive commercial software and apply it as a de facto standard, presenting a barrier to the charity engaging with the auditing processes required of them. These attempts to influence Patchwork’s toolkit and thus their accounting practices demonstrates a conflict that, in order to become transparent in a particular way, they must use methods imposed upon them that do not support their own practices of accounting for money and alienating them from their current accounting processes which match their work practice. That Sage Accounts is expensive commercial software is also of note. Patchwork own their spreadsheet; it is tool that they developed and use to produce their records. They do not own Sage, and in addition to the money it would further remove them from the ability to produce their own records in a form that becomes canonical and leads to the production of their accountability to others.

Other features of the tool and accounting process are brought to light when Mike details the process of ‘Costing’ to me:

Mike: “This lets us see how much money we have in each fund, and then in the other screen here I can assign it to a funding pot and then this updates.”

At a later point in fieldwork, Mike elaborates on this practice, and how the organisation benefits from it:

Mike: “I do this when someone tells me that a report [to a funder] is due. I’ll see what the fund says I can spend it on, and then I’ll cost things to it and move things around so that each fund is happy. Sometimes I do it when we need to spend money from a fund that’s due and I can go back and move things so it’s used up, then there’s loads to put in the report. Or sometimes if we need money for something, I’ll go and free something up from a fund by moving things to other funds.”

Costing work is as such related to the reports that funders stipulate as part of their funding arrangement with the charity. Mike shows that the organisation has some flexibility in the way that it costs things, and uses this to justify spending that may have been outside of the original proposed use for the funding.

Accounting for Activity

As well as having to account for financial spending, Patchwork are also required to account for their work activity. Accountability here is notably experienced through both formal procedures and more interpersonal interactions with the community. I outline below how the organisation navigates this, in order to explicate the work practices that support communicating the organisation’s activities to others.

Curating qualitative records

I observed the workers engaging in the production and curation of qualitative records that assisted them in presenting an account of their work. Some forms of record were stipulated as legal requirements, whereas others were produced at the prerogative of workers:

During a session, I observed Andi taking photographs using her phone. She would often approach participants to take a photograph of them. Whenever possible, Andi would call to another youth worker and ask them to get into the photograph as well. The next morning, I have been tagged in photographs by ’s Facebook account alongside the other workers and young people in the photographs.

Andi’s behaviour shows her producing a qualitative record of the event and activity that occurred. She can be seen collecting photographic evidence of their attendance in-situ, and using this to elaborate on the context of their work. The practice of uploading these to a social media profile produces an account of their activity for others, and tagging people in photographs on the platform encourages those tagged to look at them and potentially allows others (such as parents) to glimpse the activity as well. As well as on social media, print out a selection of photographs in a poster format, which are displayed around their main community hub. The workers reflected on this practice in a group discussion:

Andi: “Part of it’s capturing that moment in time because it’s gonna be gone. Y’know, and it would be very easy for them to forget […] So you’re capturing it for them, you’re capturing it for their parents to see what they’ve achieved, or for the [Young People’s Award] so they can prove whatever it is they’ve done. You’re putting on the wall as a celebration, you’re putting it in the annual report for funders to see and also for young’uns to see […] Like loads of kids will be like ‘will this be going on the wall?’.”

Mike: “We just take lots of pictures because it becomes a resource for us as well. The ones on the wall are of the Young People’s Award because they’re positive images. Sitting down two people and talking one to one and that — it’s not very entertaining.”

It can be seen here how the organisation use a resource bank of records built up by photographs for different types of accounts, to different people. This illustrates the elasticity a record may possess; Andi relates how photographs may be used as evidence for participant’s involvement in an award, whereas Mike conceptualises them as “positive images” and a resource for the organisation’s future needs. Andi also explicates how the photographs are shown to parents in order to provide an account of their child’s activity with . This also demonstrates how the photographs are repurposed to provide an account of value in the annual report, and to provide a personal record for the young people when it’s placed on the wall in “celebration”. The ability for these records to form a resource from which different accounts can be derived also sits in contrast to other forms of work that perform that, as Mike indicates here, are more difficult to account for (“Sitting down two people and talking one to one and that — it’s not very entertaining”). I observed this first-hand during fieldwork when Mike expressed frustration at the records that are required to keep of their meetings with service users, and how it is difficult to present these to others:

I followed Mike to a filing cabinet that was unlabelled. He took out a folder to show me an example, “Here. This is a monitoring form we have to fill out every time we have a chat with someone. You say who it was, what you chatted about and what the outcomes were. Standard ticky-box stuff. We’re meant to keep this, and we do by the way, but nobody ever asks to see it. I’ve got files here from ten year ago which haven’t seen the light of day. People complain at us that we’re not doing our job and ticking boxes but we are, but nobody ever comes in. Nobody ever asks.”

Mike’s frustration indicates that while he is fulfilling legal and stipulated obligations designed to make Patchwork accountable for their work, they are not given the opportunity to demonstrate this properly. When Mike describes how photographs of these chats would be “not very entertaining” it becomes obvious that while Patchwork could theoretically generate records of these the effort required to do so would not result in a substantial gain for the charity when trying to demonstrate their value.

Accountability of activity in the community

In contrast to the perceived indifference of regulatory bodies, I found that the workers at Patchwork saw themselves as being highly visible and thus accountable to their local community both in their roles as youth workers, but also as individuals within it due to an inherent visibility of their presence. This is characterised by Dean’s conception of accountability during a group discussion:

Dean: “There’s the visibility in and out of work. It’s not a one-way thing, I’m not Dean the youth worker during the day and I’m not Darts-Dean at night I’m both and I’ve got to be very aware that young people and the families that I work with, […], I live in the same area as them and they are watching me constantly. In and out. I’ve got to be visible. It’s… an awareness of your role within the community. And I think another one for me, being accountable is remaining humble and just thinking that I’m very much where I’ve come from and I’m very like the young people I work with and they know my family.”

With this, Dean shows us how he sees his role in the community by living and working in the same area. Dean provides a view that accountability for his actions as a youth worker is lived in each moment. He is constantly watched by those around him, even when outside of work during his recreation activities and can therefore be seen as a whole, rather than only through a lens of his output at Patchwork. I saw this value in practice through the way that Pathcwork configures their Social Media presence:

Andi: “We didn’t like having a Facebook ’Page’ because it treats you like a business and wants you to pay so everyone sees your posts. We want to be seen in the community. So we made the account a person instead and everyone is our friend and the kids message us at stupid hours …When Facebook changed it so that you couldn’t have a company name as a person, we changed our name to ‘Mike’ as Mike doesn’t use Facebook himself. [The community] know it’s all of us though, not just him.”

Andi emphasises the value-driven nature of the organisation’s work through how they’ve chosen to configure their Social Media presence. She notes that whilst there is a pragmatic benefit in how personal accounts are seen on the Facebook platform, this embodies their desire to be seen as part of the community. Later, the organisation took steps to maintain this dynamic by capitalising the identity of a worker, Mike, for use as a profile name. When Andi elaborates on her belief that the community understands they are interacting with all workers through the Facebook account, she belies her belief in the dynamic that the workers are visible and present as part of the community and are not abstracted by their involvement in the organisation – being visible and accountable.

Another way in which Patchwork curate accountability to their community is how the workers engage in extra-curricular activities involving both themselves and members of the community. These are ostensibly the workers engaging in recreational activites but in some capacity they almost always involved an element of staff training or engaging with wider members of the community. An example of this would be the activity of Fell Walking. Patchwork staff will often go out as a team to walk up the Fells, putting to use and further developing their skills in the activity directly, but in doing so effectively “scouting” the location as a potential activity to include young people in. That community members such as trustees or Benwell residents are often present also demonstrates Patchwork’s commitment to the area, and further facilitates their ties to their service users.

Accounting for Hidden Work

I have just shown how accounting and reporting for charitable activity is a key part of everyday life at Patchwork however I also witnessed that there is an understanding that a lot of the everyday work of Patchwork is hidden from regular reporting streams. I have termed this Hidden Work which refers to the effort required by the workers to make their work productive, and has been called Unproductive Labour in Political Economy (Marx et al., 1974), and Articulation Work in CSCW texts (Schmidt & Bannon, 1992). I concern myself not only with how this is performed but how it is accounted for and communicated to others. In this context it refers to effort expended by workers at the charity in addition to what the task demands in-the-moment. An example would be the planning required to execute community sessions ahead of time. I found that accounting for this hidden work occurs only in conjunction with its performance, during meetings, or discussions about activities and planning – it is rare for those outside of the organisation and immediate community to be made aware of this work. Accounting for hidden work is thus more informal, and often complicated by the nature of Patchwork’s activity. I elaborate on these points below.

Responding Work

A lot of hidden work arises from Patchwork’s open-door policy, which requires an immediate response to community members coming through the door for their services or informal discussions – disrupting the processes by which workers are performing (and accounting for) hidden work. This came to the fore in one discussion during fieldwork:

We were discussing another youth project operating in the city, as have recently acquired a Play Centre and are finding ways to use it most effectively so have visited other charities to learn from them. It’s mentioned that the other project execute elaborately planned evenings of activities for their attendees and Dean exclaims “They’ve got the time they don’t start until half four! As soon as that shutter goes up we have work to do!” He gestures at street-facing window towards the front of the room. The group nod in agreement

Dean is discussing how Patchwork’s activity cannot be judged against that of another organisation with different working patterns. He also makes reference to the open door policy and its effect on their working day regarding planning and makes clear that these informal meetings are conceived of as ‘work’; there is effort expended when conversing that prevents them from performing other tasks. These conversations must be engaged in because they also form an important part of how Patchwork organise their work. This was elaborated on during a group discussion with me:

Andi: “So aye, [anon] is a good example. […] I know he was doing football, I knew he was doing work experience so he’d have the time and you just think well it would be really good for him to do it for his future. Y’know, so having a conversation with him to say look are you interested in this?”

Engaging in conversations that arise from the open-door policy can thus translate to outcomes, in this case a beneficiary getting a work experience placement based around a hobby. This qualifies Dean’s earlier utterance that the organisation has “work to do” as soon as they start: these conversations are work that must occur for to achieve its goals effectively, but it is difficult to provide an account of this to others.

Understanding Hidden Work through Context

Hidden work is rarely accounted for outside of the organisation and immediate community. During fieldwork, however, Mike related how outsiders may be introduced to the context of the organisation to understand the labour required to perform everyday tasks and achieve outcomes:

“It’s like when this guy from [a funder] came in to check. Most funders don’t and they don’t understand us. He came in and he loved it. He said that he was amazed we could keep the place running, we had so much going on around here that we deal with on a daily basis.”

From this it is established that Mike understands the difficulty of accounting for this labour to others — most funders do not visit and thus do not understand how the project achieves its aims. The work involved in delivering results for Patchwork is responsive, complex, supportive of others, and facilitative of them accomplishing things in a way that makes it difficult to tie these to discrete acts to the project’s stated aims. That the funder is amazed at the scale of everyday work and effort being expended shows that this is not captured or represented elsewhere; and can be accounted for only by being present and producing one’s own account from the context of the activity. I later saw that this problem is compounded and is encapsulated with a vignette of activity leading up to a scheduled evening event in the organisation:

I was due to attend a session with a group referred to as the ‘Slovak Lasses’ group, comprised of young Slovak women aged between 15 and 24. The sessions run from 1600 approx until about 1830, and the plan is to run a BBQ event for the attendees. From 1545, two participants had turned up alongside a part-time worker and sat at computers browsing Facebook. Dean is also on Facebook using the account and has several chat windows open. When prompted, Dean responded that he is “chasing up” the rest of the group to make sure that they were coming. Whilst passing, Andi convinces the attendees to accept her taking a photograph of them. Dean signs off the computer at 1630 and at 1655, there is no sign of other attendees. Dean is visibly concerned, pacing back and forward. He mutters that “we should sack this group”. Sonia nods then says “this is ridiculous. We have two young people and four staff”. I am dismissed by Dean who says “You can go if you want. It’s a bit weird if we outnumber the girls and we have loads of staff in”.

This example shows two things. First, it reinforces the issue of hidden work only being able to be accounted for in-the-moment. Dean performs the additional task of ‘chasing up’ participants; work which emerges as the evening progresses and is only visible to those in the room. Secondly, it raises the issue of how the staff’s efforts would appear if mapped to outcomes in an accounting process. Sonia indicates that such a mapping would not appear favourable (“We have two young people and four staff”), and Dean hints that this is not an uncommon occurrence (“we should sack this group”). Patchwork has to balance the goal of maintaining a relationship with the beneficiaries – which can lead to important outcomes – with the need to make and be seen making effective use of their time and labour resources. The slower and seemingly less productive execution of the event also directly contrasts with what Mike describes as the funder’s surprise at the high levels of activity during a visit. This likely results from an intersection of elements such as the specific beneficiaries, the time of day, etc. but when isolated from context these two incidents each paint seemingly irreconcilable views of the organisation’s daily life.

Inferring Hidden Work

I did see that hidden work may sometimes be inferred by other members of the organisation, in addition to those present as it occurs. This is often achieved through the records that are produced as a by-product of activity in conjunction with the worker’s implicit knowledge of each others’ work practices:

I was participating in a planning session for the evening’s activities; initiated when Dean and Andi each took out large workbooks. Andi asks “Where’s Mike?”, to which Dean responds that he is “down the allotment”. Andi looks puzzled at this and Dean elaborates, “He’s seeing how [the gardener]’s getting on” and turns the notebook to show Andi. There is a task list which shows ‘allotment’. Andi looks at this, and nods.

This shows that workers may use records to infer the activity and thus the work of others in the charity. Dean shows Andi a workbook entry which contains only a single word that allows both Dean and Andi to construct a context around Mike’s current whereabouts. It can be seen how Andi and Dean understand that work is being performed at the allotment, and that Mike’s absence indicates that it is him performing it. Furthermore; the workers are able to infer the nature of this work, as Dean is able to ascertain that Mike is checking up on someone whilst there. Similarly, I also saw that financial records such as receipts could be re-appropriated and used for this inferral:

Mike was having lunch and moving items on the table out of his way, to place his laptop there and write a report. Moving a pile of paper, he turns to inspect it and finds a receipt, saying aloud “What’s this? Ohh. It’s the pancake stuff for tonight; Sonia’s been shopping.”

The receipt makes Sonia’s work accountable internally, as Mike recognises that the items are a list of ingredients to make pancakes, an activity commonly run by the charity. He infers that there has been effort expended in acquiring these materials when he says “Sonia’s been shopping”, and can attribute this to Sonia through knowledge that shopping was a task to be completed and that Sonia was assigned to it. The receipt also pertains to the charity’s activity – running a session involving cooking. This shows how accounting for this hidden work hints at the organisation’s work towards goals. Notably, this testifies that record may exist within several contexts: evidencing expenditure, the inferral of activity, and the by-product of work related to activity (a cooking session) that may be accounted for.

Summary of Accounting practices

This section has provided a detailed description of the work practices involved in making Patchwork transparent and accountable to its stakeholders. This accounting work has been presented as grouped based on the area of activity that this interactional work relates to: Accounting for Spending; Accounting for Activity; and Accounting for Hidden Work.

Each of these areas of this accountability work is achieved through a variety of ways which are organised to make sure that the organisation meets its legal and contractual obligations to report spending and activity as well as its immediate concerns of being transparent to the community.


My field observations demonstrate that those working in a charity may experience accountability in multiple ways, with reference to their values, work, and responsibilities both as an organisation and individuals. This fieldwork shows how legal and financial frameworks surrounding the organisation has a pronounced effect in the work required for a charity to account for the use of resources – both financial and labour – and also that members of the setting can experience this accountability as part of their everyday work in the organisation. I also presented evidence that the organisation and its workers view themselves as inseparable from their local community, thus accountable to it; this relationship requires a maintenance effort similar to the legal demands of government and funders.

These findings show how conflicts may emerge from the ways in which the charity views itself as accountable to various stakeholders such as its community, its funders, and governmental bodies. In one key instance, we see how Patchwork must be accountable to funders by reporting their use of grant money whilst simultaneously tailoring activities and spending with regard to the emergent needs of their beneficiaries. This conflict is rooted in the accountability pathways that they must engage in: charities are controlled by their funders to ensure that their spending falls within a specific remit, and this conflicts with a need to be responsive as an organisation and act in accordance with the needs of beneficiaries. This is discussed by Koppel as Multiple Accountability Disorder (MAD) (Koppell, 2005) and compounding this is the various ways in which the organisation is required to make itself transparent. As discussed, transparency is often seen as a foundational element of accountability but the relationship between the two is nuanced – where various forms of being transparent may generate different forms of accountability (Koppell, 2005; Fox, 2007; Hood, 2010).

This raises questions around the role of technologies in charities and how they allow workers to navigate conflicts inherent in their accountability requirements. In the following sections I discuss design considerations for future systems that seek to assist charities in managing the tensions associated with becoming transparent and accountable.

Support the Accountability of Work Practice

Our research began by examining accountability from the perspective of public and voluntary sector administration, where organisations may be accountable to others through a number of different pathways such as producing answers when questioned (Fox, 2007; Koppell, 2005). This is demonstrated in our findings as much of the work involved in ‘doing accountability’ involves workers producing answers for stakeholders in the form of reports on spending and how activities were delivered in relation to this expenditure. We posit this offers HCI an opportunity to affect change through a form of accountability with which it is intimately familiar: the accountable nature of work (Garfinkel, 1967).

While ‘work’ in Garfinkel’s terms refers explicitly to interactional work in the accomplishment of ordering social settings, these interactions are what form the basis of an organisation’s accomplishment of its goals. For example, my findings show that a receipt of purchase obviously means someone has been shopping, and is also incorporated as evidence in the financial accounting process. I show that an organisation can account for the work that it does towards its goals but that the emergent nature of outcomes means that this only provides a partial view. I show that visitors to Patchwork comment upon activity there as the work and the context of that work is made obvious; yet the accountable nature of that interaction is not supported through systematic processes for reporting.

Making accountability accountable here, then, involves producing systems that allow the communication of organisation’s accomplishment of their work practice in relation to their goals. This should be in such a way that the work of an organisation is made obvious at a glance. My findings demonstrate that the charity appropriates social media as an ‘organisational accounting device’ (Dourish, 2001), making their activities observable and reportable to those who care to look. As such, I propose that technologies be developed to support the communication of work practices in context with organisational goals. For instance, accounting software that appropriates social media features such as timelines, tagging, and events to contextualise financial records or work toward outcomes. This would provide a resource for both workers and stakeholders and in doing so may begin to address the current chasm between reporting processes and the emergent nature of outcomes; making it clearer to all parties how the work of a charity sits in its local context.

In speaking of providing resources for workers I feel that an otherwise obvious point must explicitly be made in that any systems designed for their use must be provided as a non-proprietary system. Patchwork express a clear desire to avoid costly software (“The accountants don’t like that we don’t use Sage”) and prefer to rely instead on their home-grown toolkit that they’ve designed and assembled to meet their needs. If Patchwork are to benefit long-term from any system deployed, then it must be developed explicitly as a non-proprietary system would be one that is released as Free Software under an open license so that they may use it without cost.

Since any new system will need to be both Free Software and purpose built to address the needs of Patchwork it must also address the issue of interoperability. Speaking again of their obligations with accountants Patchwork note of the accountants system that “they can just import it and have it do their job for them”. This fieldwork has focused on a single organisation’s work practice and design requirements but in order to leave the door adequately open to future developments this interoperability should be designed into the system as a core value.

It is also imperative to ensure that these systems cannot be used to control or monitor the actions of workers, effectively ‘managing’ productive labour to make this accountable to funders (Harper, 1992). Systems should instead provide workers with means to produce accounts of their work flexibly, and express these accounts in a diverse manner. This enables the different forms of transparency that predicate various accountabilities (Koppell, 2005; Fox, 2007; Hood, 2010). Such systems will thus need to enable the configuration of transparency to support making work accountable for those who care to look. I discuss how this may be achieved below.

Enable configuration of Transparency

Charities such as are shown to engage simultaneously in multiple forms of transparency to satisfy their accountability requirements. While regulatory bodies and funders are concerned with spending money and monitoring output this is widely accepted to be divorced from the true impact of an organisation’s work (Heald, 2006). Simultaneously, Patchwork take efforts to make themselves transparent and accountable to their community through practices such as using social media and having open-door policies.

These efforts are in line with calls to partake in more active forms of transparency which are seen as more communicative (Oliver, 2004; Schauer, 2011). It can be seen here, however, that this often requires extra work on behalf of the workers to articulate their results and efforts to the community on top of compiling reports for other government entities and funders. Important here is the narrative form this transparency takes, and HCI has previously seen how charities can construct narratives surrounding their work through the use of Open Data (Erete et al., 2016). Patchwork engage in a process which involves them collecting data which they fashion into narratives. Digital tools also play a role in ‘Costing Work’ to satisfy requirements that spending appears to have been in accordance with funding conditions, but is actually spent as the charity responds more directly to beneficiaries. This is an example of how charities may feel compelled to frame their work by tailoring reports to meet expectations (Lowe & Wilson, 2015), and demonstrates how the values embedded in the design have negative impacts on how the organisation may achieve its goals (Pine & Mazmanian, 2014).

While my previous work calls for qualitative forms of accounting (Marshall et al., 2016), I put forward that new systems must do more than simply incorporate additional data into the accounting process; they must be designed with embedded values that better reflect the needs of an organisation and its beneficiaries. As these may differ between organisations, systems should seek to support workers in easily matching their records to the required format per request without much additional labour. Providing interfaces to retrieve, combine, and present data in a multitude of ways would go some way in supporting charities experiencing multiple accountability requirements. Doing so acknowledges not only the conflict of multiple accountabilities and transparencies; but the problem that is the effort required to manage these conflicts separately. This would allow organisations a material means to configure transparency based on context. It also presents new opportunities for stakeholders to engage charities; if systems allowed the controlled retrieval of information (McAuley et al., 2011), then stakeholders may actually assist in configuration work and create new ways to interpret the data that is more meaningful for them.

This may be achieved practically through providing lightweight, interoperable, data collection tools and interfaces (e.g. mobile and web applications) that allow workers to easily collect, combine, and process information based on evolving needs but operate independently without commitment to one platform. Thus the design embodies values of organisational control and flexibility to support workers collaborating in curating an organisational account. This account would then take the form of an interrogable dataset that can be configured to meet the mode of transparency and accountability required for a given purpose. That these systems and interfaces must be simple to use should also be forefronted. Patchwork are a charitable organisation which means that any time (and money) spent on training may be equated to resources directed away from service delivery. Simple and purposeful tools accommodate Patchwork’s economic nature as well as the social character of staff turnover; systems should able to be learned easily from people with a variety of skillsets and backgrounds.

Providing this configurable form of transparency requires that systems consider the means by which the dataset is created, curated, and queried. I address this below.

Create Contexts through Linked Accounting

I have portrayed the challenges of accounting for Hidden Work; the activity behind what is being accounted for. This challenge also manifests in terms of the increasing demand for charities to not just account for their activity, but for their outcomes - the effect of their activity on the lives of those with whom they work (Lowe & Wilson, 2015). Holding organisations accountable for delivering outcomes (e.g. improving the health of a community) has been critiqued as they are often the result of overwhelmingly complex systems, which any given organisation cannot control, and therefore cannot be held accountable for (Lowe, 2013). Our findings demonstrate that a disconnect exists in how organisations may perform work and how it is reported upon; such as being concerned about numbers attending a group.

Historically, the ‘Linking Processes’ between input of work and money to work output and eventual outcomes has been problematic and poorly understood (Heald, 2006). People often seek to create ‘program logic models’ which connect activity to outcomes as a linear model of cause-and-effect (Schalock & Bonham, 2003) but as discussed; outcomes are generally emergent and such models are not representative of how they come about.

Since outcomes emerge from complex systems interacting (Lowe, 2013; Lowe & Wilson, 2015), I have proposed that digital technologies support configuration of transparency. The role of Linked Data (Bizer, 2009) is central in this for two reasons. First, data is a boundary object (Crabtree & Mortier, 2015; Star & Griesemer, 1989) that may be appropriated and adapted as a means of providing ‘alternative lenses’ (Elsden et al., 2017) on work and spending; as such, Linked Data supports the configuration of transparency by providing the material means to combine and show information in context based on need. This allows organisations to rapidly produce lenses on their work to satisfy reporting requirements while predicating only that an initial link be developed between income, work, and outcome to support traversal and presentation of the data. Second, Linked Data implies interoperability with other datasets which speaks to the complex nature of outcomes discussed above. These linking processes could support charities, or other actors, linking multiple datasets to better understand the complex nature of how outcomes are emergent; and from this produce a context that better situates the role of the charity in producing that outcome.

Such a system also has grounds in the legal procedures necessary to audit a charity’s financial accounts. I note that these are somewhat federated in nature; there exists a standard and agreed upon mechanism for having one’s accounts verified and signed, yet multiple actors may perform the ratification. This ecosystem resembles that postulated by the Dataware Manifesto (McAuley et al., 2011), and creating a Linked Data set within a charity would support this process through the controlled sharing of data. This federation may be achieved through making digital tools independent and interoperable, as described above. Furthermore, linking data could see this form of federated system used to produce other forms of transparency; processes acting on Linked Data could be used to create new interfaces around work and spending that support the more active forms of transparency discussed at the start of this paper (Schauer, 2014).

In doing this, systems would support the creation of ‘Linked Accounting’. That is to say these systems may engender accounting and reporting process built upon the premise that organisations are being asked to account for outcomes that have no control over, but their work (and spending) is accountable and may be linked to outcomes as having taken place. This shifts the focus of ‘accounting’ in charities towards the accountable performance of work, and contributes Linked Data for the wider community to use in mapping and understanding the complex systems contributing to outcomes.


This chapter has provided an ethnographic account of work practice within a small charity as it pertains to the everyday work of becoming transparent and accountable for their work and spending. The organisation was introduced before accounts of their work practice were provided and then these were discussed as a design space which indicates that accountability work may be supported by systems that: support the accountability of work practice; enable the configuration of transparency; and create contexts through linked accounting practices.

These design implications may be realised through the provision of a system that:

  1. Is provided at no charge to organisations
  2. Is simple to use for workers
  3. Provides a way of exchanging its data in a way which is interoperable with other systems that other actors may be using
  4. Provides a way of joining financial spend data to activity information
  5. Provides mechanisms for the workers of the organisation to curate the records that are in the system and the links between them
  6. Provides multiple ways of presenting or retrieving information from the system

The next chapter of this thesis illustrates the designing of systems that seek to meet these requirements.

Chapter 5: Designing Accounting Tools #notes

This chapter presents an empirical account of the design process that was undertaken in order to produce software that was later deployed. In addition to this, a technical overview of the software is also presented.


Study Scope and Methods

This section elaborates on the overall design process following the initial portion of fieldwork. The design process is discussed in detail with reference to literature used to ground the specific techniques used.

Participants and Collaborators

Initial Design Work (Futures Workshops)

Iterative Development and Design

System Details and Design Rationale

This section outlines the systems and design rationale of the software that was developed for deployment. Attention is spent on its federated architecture, and the two main components of the system are discussed along with a provisional data standard that was produced to promote interoperability.


Federated Architecture

As discussed in the previous chapter, one of the design requirements for this space was to support a Configurable Transparency which did not impose a specific presentation or collection process onto the worker; thus allowing them to present their work in a manner that makes sense in that moment for whichever purpose they wish. I also noted that this would be achieveable through interoperable, federated, tools; allowing data to be exchanged between systems whilst supporting collection and presentation in various formats. This mirrors the work performed by organisations already since organisations already engage in collecting a wide variety of information to be used for accountability, and recombine it in order to present it to a variety of audiences.

Producing a federated toolset also challenges the de-facto solution of producing a catch-all “platform”. One can produce a system which serves a need at a given time, but you force workers to engage with the metaphors and interactions that the platform allows (more on this later). Similar to the failings of the Charity Commission to support qualitative data Marshall et al. (2016) a magic platform to do the accounting we need it to inevitably becomes obsolete when society and technology progress, it thus risks causing more harm than good in the long-run when concerning interactions that support Accountability or Transparency. There is also always the risk of a platform acting as a “silo”, a term coined on the Indieweb to describe a site which retains user data and centralises control over it (Indieweb.org, n.d.). Other than the interactional risks of silos discussed here, and privacy concerns for sensitive data, there is also the obvious question of what happens to data when a silo goes down, and the political economy of whom owns the “means of production” when concerning producing accountability if it is achieved through the web (Kleiner, 2010). We have previously seen what happens when private capital attempts to own the production of Third Sector financial accounts (ie Sage Accounts, discussed here).

To that end, an attempt at a federated approach was present in the design of these systems. As noted by others (Pine & Mazmanian, 2014), values are embedded in the design of systems and a (somewhat) federated approach allowed us to embed our own values into the applications and systems designed. Most prominent were the values of Flexibility and Worker Control (discussed earlier). These are embodied in a federated approach by decoupling components of what would normally be tightly bound. In this way, a worker may use a data collection tool without requiring an account on a platform, whilst an organisation may maintain an account on a hosted service but receive (and retrieve) data from other platforms or services.

This additionally has the benefit of being able to add applications, services, and services to the federation very simply. Creating a potentially very large set of interfaces targeted at a wide variety of potential stakeholders. In this thesis, I concern myself with charity workers and thus the systems developed are targeted at their work; however the federated approach means that other interfaces, views, and interactions for working with the data may be developed and deployed easily with other stakeholder groups. In this way I hope the values embedded in the tools developed provide an alternative vision for accounting work where we stop interacting with systems and begin contributing to ecosystems.

This section continues by providing an overview of how a form of federation was achieved technically.

Data and API Standards

In order to achieve interoperability and move towards a federated ecosystem, applications and services need a common language with which to communicate; allowing them to share and process data amongst themselves. A standard is a way of defining rules that dictate how data is described and recorded in a particular use, and as such a prototype standard was designed with Patchwork to support later system designs.

This standard was tentatively named “Qualitative Accounting” (hereafter QA) in reference to the findings from earlier work (namely (Marshall et al., 2016)), although during the design process it was highlighted how the name might be misconstrued (discussed here). Regardless of this, the name remained in practice as focus later shifted towards developing the individual tools that implemented it.

The standard contains two main components: a data schema for collecting and annotating data representing money and work; and a Web URI schema which defined expected URI endpoints and behaviour so that systems implementing the standard could communicate with arbitrary domains using Web technologies.

The following sections were also presented as a public-facing website using language more geared towards prospective implementers.

Data Schema

The QA data schema is a JSON schema designed to represent an individual item or context, and to be as simple and flexible as possible. Not all fields will be required for each item, but having separate schemas for various categories begins to complicate matters and produces the arbitrary distinctions in accounting that the standard was developed to avoid. This way, it is left to the application developers themselves to determine how to interpret various combinations of fields and values that make sense for their application.

(TABLE NO) details the schema’s fields.

Field Type Description
id string Unique identifier for the transaction created by your system
date_created date-time Date the record was created on the system (ISO 8601)
date_given date-time Date given for the record, to allow for retroactive creation of accounts (ISO 8601)
tags array[string] Qualitative tag descriptors for the item. No hashtags (see below)
quote Quote (see below) Snippet of text to capture sentiment. E.g. “It was a good day - Anon”
financial_data FinancialData (see below) Financial data associated with the item, such as spend or income.
media array[string] Array of URIs to media items, such as images, documents, or videos. See below for details.
location Location (see below) Geographic location of item, such as an address or lat/long
description string Any additional information or notes that the producer would like associated with the item

This is the unique identifier for the transaction or item generated by your application or system. We recommend that this takes the form of a string in the format of applicationName_deviceid_transactionid. The deviceid portion is included to help prevent collisions as some software may be designed to run independantly om devices without a centralised service to manage transaction ids (e.g. a smartphone application). How you determine the deviceid is up to you. Transaction ID doesn’t need to be numerical or incremental at all, but must be alphanumeric and contain no special characters other -.

A possible id string for a decentralised set of systems:


Here the application has generated a unique device id from four random alphanumeric characters and the physical device’s model. Their transaction id is an adapted date-time object.

A possible id string for data produced by a centralised system (ie one that has some form of transaction management):


In this case, the application doesn’t need a complicated device id since all data is handled centrally. The transaction id is similarly simple, simply being a counter with a numerical id for each transaction.


The date and timestamp that the entry was created in the original system. Format should conform to ISO 8601.


Date given by the user that the item/context took place. This allows users to retroactively account for items. Format should conform to ISO 8601.


Tags allow an item to be given multiple, qualitative, short descriptors. It is recommended that software allows users to enter these tags manually. Transmitted tags should not contain any special characters, including hashtags. Whilst hashtags are useful and understandable, we believe that they are more useful as a visual metaphor for users of a system. We recommend that systems store all parsed hashtags without the hash prefix, so that they can be transmitted and converted to a system’s desired format more easily.


A quote represents a verbal or written extract expressing sentiment. Quote objects have two fields, allowing separation of content from attributation

Field Type Description
text string Content or body of the quote
attribution string The name of who or what the quote is attributed to

An increase or decrease of funds associated with the item. A positive number is associated with income, whilst a negative number is associated with spend.

Field Type Description
currency string Three letter currency code as designated by ISO 4217 (e.g. ‘GBP’ for Pound Sterling)
value float Financial value associated with the item. Positive for income, and Negative for expenditure

Media items such as images, documents or video files. This should be an array of URIs provided by systems to allow other software to access the media. For software that operates independently on devices, URIs can be derived through a service that provides the appropriate URI endpoints.

example entry:

  "media": [

Any geographic location data associated with the item. To allow for flexibility and the potential for protecting some sensitive contexts, this can be as broad or as specific as the user/producing application would like (or can reasonably produce).

Field Type Description
name string Name of the location
address float Address of the location
latitude string Latitude point of the location
longitude string Longitude point of the location

Any additional notes or text that the producer of the data feels are important. It is recommended to use this field to allow users of the system to enter text freely and provide additional context that may not be captured by the current version of the data standard.

URI Schema

Where the data schema describes what constitutes an item representing under QA, the URI Schema defines API end points that an application must implement in order to receive QA information.

This is done so that applications sending information can construct a full URI given only a domain name. From the sending application’s point-of-view, this means it can send the QA data anywhere given only a valid domain name.

Under the URI schema, three endpoints are defined to support the sending of data, shown in (Table XYZ). The schema decouples the sending of media and the sending of a data entry that may be associated with that media. This is so that use-cases such as mobile applications may send data entries and media asynchronously, and that upon failing to send a file the rest of the data is not lost and workers may recover the media another way.

Endpoint HTTP Method Description
/qa-data POST Accepts a JSON payload to store a single QA data entry
/qa-media POST Accepts a form-encoded POST request with form label media to support uploading files
/qa-media/[sha-1FileHash] GET Using the [sha-1FileHash] as a key, retrieves the media associated with that key to the requester
Sending Data Entries

Sending Entries involves the sending application performing the following steps:

  1. Determining the full URL to send data to, based off of the URI Schema and the domain name
  2. Translating its data entries into the QA standard based off of the JSON Schema outlines above, including URIs to any media.
  3. Sending the data entry with a HTTP POST request containing a single JSON-encoded entry.
  4. Repeating step 3 for all data entries.
  5. (conditional) If the data entry contains media that is stored locally (e.g. on a phone), send the media separately.

It is simple to determine the target URL for the data based off the URI schema outlined above. Given the URL https://rosemary-accounts.co.uk, the application knows from the schema to append the endpoint /qa-data to the domain; giving the endpoint as https://rosemary-accounts.co.uk/qa-data.

Sending Media and Entries with Media

Given the decoupling of JSON data entries with the media item, a problem emerges with sending data entries that have media affiliated with them; since the URI for the media will not be known ahead of time. One solution to this is for the sender to await a response from the recipient so that it may wait and send the entry with an appropriate URI. Another is to agree on a way that URIs pointing to media are constructed, so that applications can independently calculate a canonical reference to the media for transmitting data. We went with the second for several reasons remember to link me.

To generate the canonical URI for a file, the application or service makes a cryptographic hash of the file using SHA-1 (Burrows, 1995), giving a unique identifier for the file. While SHA-1 is not perfect (Biham et al., 2005; De Canniere & Rechberger, 2006) it was deemed appropriate for the research as it was lightweight, many programming platforms support it as a hash function natively (e.g. android and PHP, used in this research), and the use-case in the research would not be working with a large dataset where there were risks of collisions or exposing data to malicious attacks.

After the hash is generated, it acts as a unique key to form part of a URI slug. This slug is then appended to the path /qa-media/ on a given domain e.g.


Of course, if the sending application also hosted the media in a manner that was available over the internet (e.g. two hosted web services communicating), it would mean that a URI already existed and the generation step could be skipped.For other cases, such as in local applications (desktop / mobile), means that a URI can be generated and sent as part of the associated data entry seamlessly.

Receiving Media and Entries with Media

Receiving media (ie files) is straightforward as well. The receiver must make available a URI endpoint /qa-media, which accepts a POST request. This request is expected to have form-encoded data with a single field; media, which contains the file being sent.

Upon receiving the file, the service must perform the SHA-1 hash to generate the unique key and then store it as they wish, as long as they provide an endpoint under their domain (/qa-media/sha-1Filehash) which points to the file. This means that, if they choose to, a web service can decouple the access and storage of the media further by hosting externally and using their endpoint to redirect to another service whilst keeping the URI canonical. This could be done for redundancy, or to control access to the media where appropriate.

Rosemary Accounts

Rosemary Accounts is a web application that was designed to support the administration work of budgeting and accounting in small charities, as well as supporting the presentation of this information for consumption by workers and stakeholders. It seeks to make information traversable through explicitly presenting links between information in the form of tags.

Rosemary was initially designed using the metaphors of commercial accounting software, before extending these to account for curating accounts of work as well as budgeting. Its name reflects this extension – since Sage Accounts was presented as de-facto standard in financial budgeting, so Rosemary takes this a step further since Rosemary comes after Sage in the lyrics of popular folk song “Scarborough Fair” (‘Scarborough fair (ballad)’, 2018).

The following sections detail the behaviour and design rationale for each feature of the design. At one point, an entire side of the application was discarded (a public-facing API) by participant request. This is discussed in this section as a discarded feature.

Producing and Viewing Data

Rosemary supports all of the data types outlined in the QA JSON schema. It achieves this by mapping entries onto a Post object (Fig XYZ), named in reference to a piece of social media content (since in original designs all entries would form a social-media style timeline).

Rosemary provides several interfaces to generate data in the QA format; each attending to different matters of work. For example, the Add Income interface operates only on the financial_data portion of the schema and produces an entry with a positive value for this field. Add Expenses also operates on financial_data, but produces a negative value. Add Events and Add Images work on location and media respectively, without attention to matters of financial_data.

When retrieving data Rosemary provides several visual lenses in different formats. For example when looking at income, all that is shown is a table of income values (FIG). When looking at these same entries as a “Post” on a social feed they are displayed in a manner that makes sense using this metaphor (FIG). The more social-oriented interface also provided an interesting design challenge; while Rosemary provides interfaces that operate on the data schema piecemeal, the federated nature of the system meant that other applications could be developed which operated on the schema in a more holistic manner – and then send this data to Rosemary. In order to account for these variations, the template used to display a “Post” displays UI elements dynamically, building up the item as it finds data in the entry. As such there is no way in Rosemary to produce a single entry containing all of the QA components – although it is equipped to present such an entry to someone viewing it.

Financial Features

The financial features in Rosemary seek to support an organisation with its administrative work of budgeting. This section outlines the interfaces and features that were implemented in attempt to achieve this.

Income and Expenditure

Rosemary provides interfaces to produce data about income

Customers and Funders

Part of the work in entering income is making sense of where that income is from, and whether it constitutes a funding pot. To assist with this, Rosemary provides an interface for adding “Customers and Funders” to the system, which can be mapped to income. Semantically, a Funder would be an entity giving the organisation money in the form of a charitable grant, whereas a Customer would be someone acquiring services from the charity. This was grounded in the fieldwork as Patchwork were noted to be hiring out the Play Centre building, and as such the design needed to accommodate this. This also had the benefit of the system being able to infer a particular level of unrestricted funds; as all income derived from “Customers” would be unrestricted.

Internally, a single Customer entity provides the representation of a Customer or Funder in the system. To differentiate between a Customer and a Funder, a boolean isFunder is set when creating (see fig). This makes it simple for other interfaces to retrieve an entire list of Customer entities, or just those marked as a “Funder”.


Costing work was observed to play a significant role in the production of reporting to charitable funders. During “costing”, an expense is set against a particular income stream; usually retrofitted and presented in a way that matches the funding restrictions. This can be done for several reasons: to use up money from a particular fund so that the charity does not have to give any back; or to free up money for piece an expense that otherwise cannot be costed elsewhere in the current funding environment.

An interface was implemented to support costing work; in this interface a worker may look over their funders and grants associated with each funder. They then may take any expense that is “uncosted” and associate it with the fund. Conversely, they may “Uncost” an item to remove it from the fund (FIG).

Internally, this is achieved by establishing a one-to-many relationship between Post entities. A single Post may have many children, which are the expenses costed to it.

Budget Codes

Many organisations use Budget Codes to help label expenses. While Patchwork do not, it was decided to implement Budget Codes to accommodate other organisations. Budget Codes are used in many ways by organisations: some have only a few, some many; some organisations may give them a numeric code, and some choose not to; some allow multiple budget codes to be applied to an expense, whereas some are strict and allow only one. When considered like this Budget Codes effectively take the same form as Tags in that they are short qualitative descriptors that can be applied to mark up information.

Because of this, Rosemary stores Budget Codes internally as Tag entities, with additional optional properties isBudgetCode and budgetCodeNumber. An interface is provided to then add Budget Codes explicitly to the system (Fig). This differs from how other Tags are added; as there is no explicit interface for that and tags are added in-line, extracted in bulk from Posts.


An important part of Patchwork’s production of their budget is the “reconciliation” of entries (discussed here). In short; this requires three components to be matched.

  1. An entry in the budget tool
  2. A bank statement mirroring the transaction
  3. A receipt or invoice for the transaction

The actual matching work is performed entirely offline, by the administrator. Once all components are matched, Patchwork mark up the entry in the budget tool as being “reconciled”. To mirror this practice, Rosemary provided a checkbox on entries to allow reconciliation and Post entities were given the property isReconciled to support this. Reconciled expenses and unreconciled expenses are thus able to be looked up at ease.

Public-Facing Profile Page

The heavy use of social media by Patchwork influenced the inclusion of a public-facing profile page. The purpose of this page was to act as an alternative form of summary page suitable for a variety of stakeholders, contrasting the reporting style present on the Charity Commission. The design was heavily influenced by Social Media profile pages; with original designs prominently featuring a “Live” timeline of entries which had been entered into the system. There were also several pages branching off of the main profile page:

Later, discussions with both Patchwork and [EH] lead to the adjustment of the profile page’s core interaction; it was determined that it was inappropriate to display a “Live” timeline by default due to an organisation’s budget being an inaccurate reflection of their finances until finalised for the year (since spends are moved around) and additional concerns were raised over images posted to the site being made public by default – as both organisations worked with vulnerable people.

The redesign was implemented alongside the addition of the ‘Reports’ feature (see below). With the redesign, the Live Timeline is turned off by default for every organisation. The public facing profile page will then display a list of Reports that the organisation has chosen to make public. To support the public-facing reports, each Post contained in the Report is made public. The reflection stage during Report generation means that the organisation has the opportunity to adjust the settings of the Report before releasing it, so that they could remove any sensitive information and keep those Posts private. A setting was also introduced onto a user’s account, which allowed them to ‘opt-in’ to display a Live Timeline (which nobody did despite Michael saying it would be a good idea…).

(Discarded) Public-Facing API

The original plans envisioned for Rosemary included a public-facing API which provided endpoints to programmatically retrieve information from the service about an organisation. In this way, other applications could be developed to engage with the data in the system in ways not considered by Rosemary. This would have also supported an envisioned ‘final stage’ of the deployment which included building some lightweight alternative views on the data.

This was discarded due to a mix of concern and apathy on the part of Patchwork when discussing it. As their work didn’t necessitate a familiarity with the term API it was discussed in terms of what an API allowed – namely that it could support other applications retrieving the data they entered (provided entries were public). At first they didn’t quite buy the idea that this was necessary, and later expressed somewhat mild concern that the data in the system could be used to present an inaccurate view of the organisation. In order to ensure their continued support, the feature was dropped in case this became off-putting to other organisations in the future as well. Instead, I made sure to discuss with workers how they felt about the possibility of data being made available to other applications to make sense of.


Reports in Rosemary were designed to be a flexible way to produce summaries of work and spending, mirroring the way information is recombined by the organisation for various audiences offline already. To create a report, a worker gives the report a title e.g. “January Manager’s Report”, “Trustee Report”, or “Public Report 2018” and then sets a number of parameters for the report:

Choosing to enable or disable individual parameters was designed to allow the organisation to configure the presentation of the report

Importing from elsewhere

Via QA endpoint
Via File Upload
Exporting Data

Accounting Scrapbook

Accounting Scrapbook is a lightweight mobile application that was designed to allow the charity workers to collaborate in collecting and curating information about their work and spending. Within the application, workers may create entries to reflect their everyday work and expenditure such as Images, Quotes, Activities, and Spends. These can then be organised by placing them into one or more “Scrapbooks”, allowing them to be grouped thematically and associated with other content.

The following sections details the behaviour and design rationale for each feature of the design.


Types of Entry

The types of entry available to produce in Accounting Scrapbook are:

These types of entry were produced to mirror the components of the QA data standard (described above). Similar to Rosemary Accounts, the application’s database does not differentiate between data types and instead stores all entries as a single class. Unlike in Rosemary Accounts, Content Inferrence is not used to dynamically display entries. Instead, a single field is used to denote the “type” of entry as understood by the application and display it appropriately.

Insert UML diagram


Adding Entries

The app provides several interfaces for adding an entry to the system, each tailored to providing the information for a different type of entry (Image, Spend, Quote, Activity).

Adding Images

Adding an entry with images is done by selecting the Add Images button on the main menu, taking you to the Add Image screen (Figure). At the top of the screen there is a single button labelled “Choose Images”. Selecting this button brings up the phone’s gallery interface, allowing you to select one or more images that exist on the device already. When this action is complete, the gallery closes and the first of the selected images is placed on the UI to affirm its selection.

Adding Spend Data
Adding Quotes
Adding Activities
Common Elements


This section reflects on features and discussions in the design process in order to contribute to teh design requirements of software in this space. In addition to this, comments are made on the appropriateness of techniques utilised develop the designs in this setting.

Building metaphors and mapping - The work of standards

Open Data, Infrastructure, Tools and Platforms

My role as designer

Summary / Conclusions

Chapter 6: Evaluating Accounting Tools #notes

This chapter presents an empirical account of deploying and evaluating the novel accounting systems produced in the previous chapter, and the design requirements that arise as a result.


Study Scope

This study and evaluation covers a staged set of deployments of the tools designed in Chapter 5 across. During the final stages of the “User-Centred Design” phase of research two additional organisations were approached and were involved in steering a set of changes to Rosemary Accounts in particular. In June 2017 the tools were deployed with a view of evaluating their fitness for purpose as well as iterating in some small way to iron out problems and increase uptake.

As noted earlier , this took place across several phases of research as engagement and uptake of the tools was limited at first.

As the deployment and evaluation phase of the research was extended across some time and a variety of methods were used to engage participants in evaluating the systems. These methods are discussed more in-depth earlier in the thesis; but are touched upon here in order to situate them in the research’s timeline more clearly.

Initial Deployments

Structured Deployments

Interviews with Stakeholders


The context horseshoe (drowning in tags)

System use and non-use

TBC (Focused around desires for other stakeholders)


Dialectic Transparency

Summary / Conclusions

Chapter 7: Discussion #notes


Data design

Transparency as Infrastructure: Who should be publishing this open data?

Working in the Third Sector

Supporting Transparency Work: Dialectic Transparency

We can’t design away their wealth: Reflections on the Digital Civics programme

Chapter 8: Conclusions #notes


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  1. I later became, and have remained, a trustee myself.

  2. This is also traceable through open data. There are GrantNav entries for each the BYPD and The Patchwork Project which shows the transition between the two legal structures.

  3. Detached Youth Work is an approach to youth work which attempts to reach young people who are “detached” and approaches them on their terms and in their “territory” (Kaufman, 2001; Smith, 2001).