About

The Challenge

ChainReact is about collaboratively generating, mapping, interpreting, and activating information about corporate networks and their impacts on society and the environment. The network approach is vital because without understanding the complex relationships involved in global supply chains, stakeholders cannot hold the companies they know accountable for the abuses – or the advances – of the many dependent companies they fuel. The greatest challenge to making corporate networks sustainable is that at present they are largely hidden. Even the most concerned companies and their stakeholders (investors, employees, customers) have limited understanding of their network’s extended footprint in the world.


The fog of complex networks means small companies in remote jurisdictions can pollute and dump and abuse and neglect with the implicit support of indirect funding from companies further up the chain who may not even know they exist. This ugly pattern is clearly a problem for our society and environment, but it can also damage companies’ bottom lines. Without clear visibility of what happens throughout their supply chain, the companies and their stakeholders are at increased reputational and legal risk, as scandals such as Rana Plaza fire have shown. For the fog to clear, it is not enough to make corporate networks visible; they must also be made understandable. Comprehensibility, too, is challenging because corporate networks are complex and can weave together control networks (ownership, governance, etc), brand networks (franchises, consortia, etc.) and supplier networks (material providers, service providers, etc). Untangling these blends together data challenges, interface challenges, and, in places, philosophical challenges.


There is also a chicken-and-egg quality to the challenge of making corporate networks sustainable. On the one hand, there is often little incentive to gather data about the smaller companies at supplier networks’ edges, because the data are seen as worthless unless connected to brands familiar to western markets, and that requires network maps. But those who begin to work on network maps find that they are generally making connections between more and more companies about which there is very little data.


Here is the deep value of the ChainReact proposal: by bringing together a savvy consortium to focus on three platforms at once, we can much more efficiently tackle a multi-faceted challenge that would defy a more piecemeal approach.

 

“I think we're going to start to see a new model of civic advocacy where people get
together once in a while to protest, but it's more about an ongoing, sustained engagement
in issues, networks and communities about which people care.”
- Alex Steffen

Vision and Objectives

ChainReact will foster collective awareness of corporate network impacts and channel that awareness to drive
social change. We have divided this mission into the following three main objectives, each of which is subdivided
into clear, measurable subgoals:

Objective 1: Identify irresponsible corporate activity
While it is already possible to aggregate existing source material (news, CSR reports, etc) about corporate
activity on WikiRate.org, WikiRate is primarily presented as a site for data interpretation and as such is not
ideally placed for soliciting and managing original source material, particularly from disadvantaged
populations. Therefore ChainReact proposes to create TalkFree.

  • Subgoal A: Create a multilingual reporting platform, provisionally named “TalkFree”, to solicit reports about corporate behaviour. TalkFree will allow any individual or organisation to conduct customized reporting campaigns. It will support many modes of reporting, including text messages, text, pictures, audio and video. The software will support customization via “settings” so campaigns can be tailored to the needs of different issues, localities, and environments.
  • Subgoal B: Run at least three reporting campaigns sponsored by international advocacy groups to drive participation on TalkFree. Each campaign will exploit different campaign settings to provide preliminary feedback about the efficacy of different engagement strategies.

Objective 2: Connect issues at corporate networks’ edges to network drivers TalkFree reports need to be tagged with companies, and those companies need to be connected via network maps to the larger companies that ultimately drive the corporate networks in question.

  • Subgoal A: Seed and make navigable ChainReact’s corporate relationship mapping data by automated processing of official public documents and cross-platform integrations. OpenCorporates’ enhancements to their already-extensive corporate mapping will include control networks, brand networks, and supplier networks. Corporate entities on WikiRate will be mapped to OpenCorporates, and network data will be used on both TalkFree and WikiRate to offer a structured analogue of Wikipedia’s disambiguation pages to support corporate brand disambiguation when reading or contributing information
  • Subgoal B: Deepen and improve corporate network maps by engaging corporations and their stakeholders via disclosure outreach. Both on TalkFree and WikiRate, contributors will be able to clarify or extend OpenCorporate’s network mapping. Reports and supporting information submitted to TalkFree (see Objective 1 Subgoal B) may uncover new links which are not documented elsewhere. WikiRate will also conduct top-down campaigns by engaging with companies to support the mapping of their supplier networks. We will work with Walk Free’s extensive corporate network to secure buy-in from a few global companies who perceive a competitive advantage from supplier network disclosure.

Objective 3: Incentivize companies to address network issues Companies will be incentivized to act on the above data via metric-driven media campaigns.

  • Subgoal A: Support community development of network-aware corporate metrics on WikiRate.org. WikiRate community members can design and create metrics with either directly-entered or calculated values. Network-aware metrics will be able to traverse a company’s relationships and weigh corporate network performance (including, often, a major premium on transparency) according to metric designer specifications. As with all metrics on WikiRate, community members will then discuss and vote on metric designs, and the best-regarded metrics will be given highest site prominence.
  • Subgoal B: Conduct integrated issue-focused ChainReact media campaigns that highlight corporate performance. Working with major advocacy groups, ChainReact will design campaigns around specific hot-button issues. Walk Free will design and publicize our first such campaign, which will focus on driving attention to the impacts of corporate supplier networks on modern slavery.

The Approach

At present, a person who witnesses or directly suffers from irresponsible corporate activity has no simple, obvious place to go to report what has happened.  Thousands of government agencies and non-profits accept reports of different kinds; this causes an issue because people with something to report about a particular issue are often unaware that there is a specific place for them to report about that issue. Given that the proportion of the population with something to report about a specific issue is small, and the visibility of most issue-specific reporting platforms is low - these challenges often ensure that either (a) no reporting happens at all, or (b) nothing comes of the report because the platform it was submitted to has not acquired critical mass.

 

The TalkFree platform has been conceived as a means to address each problem respectively by (a) making it simple to report, (b) making it easy for advocacy groups to begin collecting reports (without the necessity of developing their own platform), (c) establishing a platform which people are aware of as a place to ‘inform’ generally, and (d) creating mechanisms to use the reports to effect change.

 

Work Packages

Work Package

Title

Objective and Scope

WP1

Project Management

The general consortium management, including financial, legal, administrative and research coordination aspects.

WP2

Research Informing Design

This work package will conduct research which informs the design of the TalkFree and WikiRate platforms through the production of scenarios, and subsequently validates the design through user testing and the analysis of procedural data. This work package also devotes attention specifically to the issues of report verification, guaranteed anonymity of reporters, and ethical considerations of the project.

WP3

TalkFree Design and Development

In quarterly meetings we set development and research priorities. We use “user stories” as focal point for our agile website development process. Activities are based on recommendations from WP2, and feedback is given to WP2 in terms of feasibility. This work package also covers the actual coding work for TalkFree.

WP4

Soliciting TalkFree Reports

This work package is covering the set up needed to execute on the selected reporting settings, and will include for example arrangements with frontline organizations in Walk Free’s network.

WP5

Corporate Network Mapping – Design and Development

Interactions between the TalkFree, OpenCorporates and Wikirate websites are considered here, and the required extensions to Wikirate are considered. This work package also covers the actual coding work.

WP6

Soliciting Disclosures for Corporate Network Maps

This work package will work on implementing the corporate network mapping and company disclosure features in regards to uptake by the various actors, e.g. companies and Wikirate users.

WP7

Evaluation

This work package involves research which takes a step back from the project and considers it in the broader context of collective awareness platforms – producing publications which will add to the literature in this area.

WP8

Dissemination and Exploitation

Disseminate the project to the public. Engage and stay in close contact with the community. Develop and execute an exploitation plan, including communication with stakeholders.