Nike seeks Fellow to embrace open data

Nike is looking for a Code for a Better World Fellow, an ill-defined role that demonstrates a surprising commitment to the cause of open software and data from one of the world's largest sporting goods brands - but why?

The company has certainly been making moves into the software market: its launch of Nike+, a GPS-powered fitness package that tracks your daily runs, in partnership with Apple came as a surprise to many - but this latest job opening aims a little higher than allowing users to see how far they've travelled in their trainers.

In partnership with Code for America - which will provide the Fellow with access to its support network and offer a mentoring programme for the successful candidate - Nike is hoping to open its internal store of data in order to help solve future sustainability issues - and, it claims, help propel social and societal changes that will benefit mankind as a whole.

Speaking to thinq_, Nike's Kate Meyers explained that the role is flexible at present, given that it's the company's first foray into such a field. "The person who comes on board will be responsible for helping scope out the body of work and helping us develop the framework for what we need to be focusing on," Meyers told us, "to solve some of the big sustainability questions.

"One of the questions we want to answer is how can the data Nike has in its systems be combined with external data to fast track social and environmental change," Meyers explained - claiming that the company will embrace transparency, making its internal data open for individuals all over the world to pore over and integrate into new models for sustainability.

The job description for the post is full of the latest key buzzwords: the successful applicant will be expected to "landscape current data and craft a desired future state; bring knowledge from the open data community back to Nike as actionable steps; and ultimately create/steward the creation of prototypes that demonstrate how opening Nike's sustainability data can be a force to drive change."

While Nike's advert is at risk of seeming to be nothing more than a publicity stunt designed to make the company appear more open and friendly, it comes on the back of work carried out by the company's Sustainable Business and Innovation division - a 130-member team spread across the world.

The changes that Nike is hoping for are predictable: an end to reliance on resources like water - better used for drinking - and oil - which is rapidly running out - during the manufacturing process, along with commitments to making its manufacturing "lean, green, equitable, and empowered" - terms with which the company, which has been accused of exploiting sweat-shop style labour in developing nations, would like to be associated.

It's an interesting approach to the issue: by opening its data to third parties, it runs the risk of tipping its competitors off to any advances that are subsequently made - but it also gains the ability to harness the power of what Nike describes as "communities of data-obsessed programmers, visual designers and researchers" who will, the company hopes, willingly work on Nike's problems for free.

With Nike committed to developing an open data framework, its competitors are likely to be following closely behind - and success in this this area could start a chain reaction, convincing more companies to open their internal data for the good of both society and their own bottom lines.

For those who want to apply, Nike's list of desired attributes is prohibitively long. "The ideal candidate will be part developer/programmer, part researcher, part designer, part business analyst," the company explained in its job posting. "He or she will have demonstrated expert experience with databases, programming in multiple languages, in visual design and with statistics. He or she will have an understanding of the existing open data communities and networks of visual designers and researchers who love data.

"He or she will be comfortable blazing new ground, working with lots of unknowns and collaborating with many different types of people. He or she will be interested in and inspired by the desire to change the world and captivated by the potential of building on Nike's experience and reach in bringing about a better world." Presumably 'travels faster than a speeding bullet and has X-ray eyes' was nixed from the final draft.

The post, which is a one-year temporary position, has an unknown salary attached to it - "dependent on the expertise and experience of the successful candidate," Nike tells us - with application accepted until the 15th of May. More information on the role is available on Nike's 'Better World' website.