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January 10, 2012 / Jo Ivens

That’s it, for now

So a final post from me on DataBridge, certainly for the time being, as I get to grips with my new job as Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove volunteering charity, Impetus.  But, you’ll be glad to know, the work continues.

The final report on the DataBridge project highlighted 10 themes and made recommendations against each theme. Five of these were related to evidencing impact and the the commissioning environment, the other half were around the wider open data agenda and how the sector and local government could respond.

Brighton & Hove convenes a City Needs Assessment Steering Group which is made up of reps from the Council, the Clinical Commissioning Group, Sussex Police and representatives from the voluntary sector through the Community & Voluntary Sector Forum and the LINk. The group aims to improve local outcomes by leading a programme providing evidence based intelligence for local decision makers on the needs of the population of Brighton and Hove. For information about the steering group you can contact CVSF Policy Manager, Emma Daniel.

I have produced a brief summary of DataBridge issues, recommendations, feedback from stakeholders and actions. I will update from time to time on how we are progressing against these, especially in conjunction with both the work on City Needs Assessment and the development of Brighton’s Intelligent Commissioning programme.

Below you will find those recommendations in full. More detail can be found in my blog post on the final report, which breaks it down into chapters so you jump to Chapter 4 for recommendations for the local partnership and Chapter 5 for recommendations on open data.

Recommendation 1 – Monitoring info

  1. Streamline monitoring or contract management data required of the voluntary and community sector – a common monitoring framework that feeds systematically into commissioning cycle

  2. Voluntary sector to respond in terms of more standardised data formats

Recommendation 2 – Needs Assessment

  1. VCS data feeds systematically into needs assessment and the commissioning cycle

  2. More time needs for input from voluntary and community sector organisations

  3. VCS leadership to encourage proactive sector engagement in information sharing for needs assessment  

Recommendation 3 – Outcome Measures

  1. Support Advice Partnership bid to be a pilot area for developing national standards for outcome measures and use as a basis for wider local work on outcome measures

  2. Establish cross-Partnership work on defining outcome measures and trial on a commissioning round by round basis, starting with Financial Inclusion, to tie in with national work

Recommendation 4 – City-wide Data

  1. Improved communication on city-wide intelligence ambitions and how existing strands of work are aligned to each other

  2. Involvement of all relevant partners in development of city-wide data sharing building on VCS-led work on data-sharing between partners

  3. VCS work on data-sharing within the sector should be brought together

Recommendation 5 – Social Value

  1. BHCC makes a commitment to Social Value and sets out a clear way of implementing this into commissioning processes and decisions

  2. VCS work on defining and measuring social impact to be undertaken through Dialogue 50:50, building on previous work and existing skills within infrastructure organisations  

Recommendation 6 – Ambition on Open Data

  1. Clarify open data ambitions, including links to existing data sharing work

  2. Create links between sectors to use open data for service improvement

  3. Integration into other initiatives on City-wide intelligence

Recommendation 7 – Understanding of Open Data

  1. Create a useable, accessible local inventory of public data bearing in mind a range of users and levels of technical skill

  2. Build on Brighton & Hove Open Data List

  3. List the main data-sources held but not published

Recommendation 8 – Use what already exists

  1. Strengthen publication of data on local populations & promote this to VCS partners

  2. VCS to consider the open data agenda in planning infrastructure support for the future

  3. VCS infrastructure groups (and / or CLG) commission a support resource to help voluntary organisations better use existing data & research

Recommendation 9 – Opening VCS data

  1. CVSF partner in work on data platform, lead on how best feed in VCS data

  2. Commissioners & needs assessors to use all available data, including from new or non-traditional sources

Recommendation 10 – Wider issues on Open Data

  1. Engage “data users” more closely in the open data process

  2. Staged approach, more collective thought about making open data useful, including support needs

  3. Transparency of process as well as openness of data

December 6, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Boosting our Circulation

Yes, this is a terrible pun on the title of NAVCA’s information and policy briefing magazine for its members – Circulation. The reason being that I was asked to write an article for their Winter edition on open data and what this might mean for NAVCA members.

NAVCA is a membership organisation representing infrastructure organisations in each area of the country. Members are charities who provide support, development, professional advice, advocacy and representation services for other organisations in the voluntary and social enterprise sector locally.

In 600 words I tried to draw on experience in Brighton to set out some of the opportunities and risks for Infrastructure organisations, and actions they could take to get on top of this agenda and make the most of it.

NAVCA responded to the government’s Making Open Data Real consultation and you can read their response here:

Read the article on the NAVCA website:

December 2, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Yum, yum – lots of tasty data…

After a hectic month and a bit of a hiatus on the DataBridge blog, we’re back with a vengeance! This update contains the final report from OCSI on the work they did with local charity Amaze, who work with families of children with a disability. Below you can find the full report of what they did and their findings, and the full dataset to Lower Super Output Area.

The report sets out some techniques to help identify potential users, using public datasets and comparing with the charity’s own data. It uses visualisations to illustrate where the overlaps and gaps are.

2011 11 21 Databridge OCSI Amaze final report

You can access the full dataset here (excel).

Finally, Brighton colleague, Mark Walker, recently gave a presentation to SOCITM (the Society of Public Sector IT Managers) about how local authorities and the voluntary sector can work better together on intelligent commissioning, and the role of IT, technology and data. He talked about DataBridge as one of his examples, it was written up by the Microsoft UK Government blog and Mark’s slides are below.

November 14, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Finding public data – help is at hand!

One of the key findings of the DataBridge project was that groups we worked with often struggled to find data, even that which they knew was publicly available. DataBridge project partners, OCSI, have produced a short video illustrating how to use to find useful information.

Data4nr stands for Data for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration, and is run by OCSI on behalf of the Department of Communities & Local Government.

During the project, OCSI worked with local children’s disability charity, Amaze, to show how to use public data to better understand your beneficiaries, and potential beneficiaries. I’ll be posting the full Amaze work tomorrow.

For more information about please contact or look at

October 27, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Tips on using your own data

Our data analysis partners, OCSI, worked with one of the DataBridge groups, Amaze, on a project that shows how data held by local VCS groups can be  compared with nationally-published data, to identify  those areas or groups that are under-represented in the organisation’s work.

This is important to be able to show need and demand to funders or commissioners, to improve services or to reach a specific groups of beneficiaries, for marketing, for building networks and for advocating on behalf you users.

Download the presentation via the link below, or just click through the presentation:

DataBridge OCSI using your data

See more from OCSI at or @ocsi_uk on Twitter
October 26, 2011 / Jo Ivens

BNgeo – helping groups use their data

As part of the DataBridge project, the lovely Graham at OCSI created a tool for matching postcodes to super output areas called BNgeo.

Super Output Areas (SOAs) are a set of geographical areas developed to produce a set of areas of consistent size, whose boundaries would not change (unlike electoral wards), suitable for the publication of data such as the Census. They are used by central and local government in analysis, decision-making, and resourcing, so it is useful for voluntary organisations to be able to present their own information based on SOAs.

During the project  we saw that many groups have a great deal of data about their users and user needs, but it is postcode linked and difficult to map across to other units, such as SOAs. OCSI have developed a simple tool to enable groups to do this.

You can access BNgeo at and if you’d like to hear Tom talk through the postcode look up tool (2 mins) using the presentation below, you can watch that here – go to 17.34. Otherwise, you can just click through the slides below:

Visit for more from OCSI.
October 25, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Sharpies, pinched post-it notes and smiley faces…

Last Friday saw us presenting the findings and recommendations from the DataBridge project to an audience of voluntary sector, council health and university colleagues. The event was filmed by our nice friends at Public-i (webcast to follow shortly). Over the next few days we’ll post up the talks, presentations and resources that we shared on the day.

First up DataBridge recommendations with feedback

Ten issues / recommendations were presented to the group, who were asked to annotate, comment, graffiti their views:
Here’s the full presentation which has a little bit of background and context then the 10 issue/recommendation slides that are annotated above.  To hear about this in more detail, you can watch me give the presentation – go to 27.44 mins.
October 20, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Final report available to download

Over the last two days we’ve published a series of blogs reporting on the DataBridge project as we come to the end of this phase.

Chapter 1 – characteristics of the groups
Chapter 2 – reflections from groups
Chapter 3 – recommendations to the Partnership
Chapter 4 – recommendations on open data

If you prefer you can read the whole thing at once in a more traditional downloadable report format here.

The feedback event is tomorrow, where we will be presenting the findings and recommendations plus the learning from the demonstration project that OCSI have done with Amaze using their data.

The event will be webcast from tomorrow from 2pm.

October 20, 2011 / Jo Ivens

DataBridge report – Introduction

The DataBridge project came out of CityCamp Brighton in March 2011 from a conversation about how the voluntary sector could make the most of open data and capitalise on the burgeoning open data movement. After discussion with the sector and with project partners we adjusted the scope to look at how VCS use their own data, existing public datasets, as well as starting to discuss issues around data-sharing and open data.

Where we’ve discussed open data, we have used the LinkedGov definition:

Open data is non-personally identifiable data produced by a public body in the course of its ordinary business, which has been released under an unrestricted licence (like the Open Government Licence).

It is underpinned by the philosophy that data generated or collected by organisations in the public sector should belong to the taxpayers, wherever financially feasible and where releasing it won’t violate any laws or rights to privacy (either for citizens or government staff).

About Us

DataBridge has been run by Jo Ivens, independent policy advisor on the voluntary sector and local government, and analysts at OCSI, a research organisation focusing on data analysis and public service improvement. Support and advice has been provided by Emma Daniel at CVSF.

The Project

Six groups were invited to be part of the project following conversations at CityCamp, with CVSF and with SCIP. As this was a light-touch, unfunded project we did not to run a wider recruitment process.

We interviewed senior managers in the six organisations along with staff responsible for data management where appropriate, and wrote a brief report for each group with our observations and any recommendations for them in terms of data sources. We have drawn most of our findings and recommendations from these interviews, and from wider conversations with council officers and voluntary sector experts. A full list of these is at the end of this section.

In addition, OCSI undertook a brief research project with Amaze, using their Compass database of children with disabilities. This project was designed to generate transferable learning and OCSI have produced not only a report and a series of maps illustrating their findings, but some ‘How To’ guides designed to enable other organisations to replicate this work. These will be published on Friday 21 October in conjunction with our feedback event.

This Report

We have divided this report into four sections which have been published as separate blogs, but can be read together as one report:


  1. Groups’ characteristics
  2. Groups’ reflections


  1. On sharing data and needs assessment
  2. On open data

The Groups

We spoke with the following people as part of the project:

Vicky Watson, Brighton & Hove CAB

Paul Sweeting, Advice Partnership

Chris Lau, The Carers Centre for Brighton and Hove

Ann Hickey, East Sussex Credit Union

Colin Holden, East Sussex Credit Union

Rachel Travers, Amaze

Tina Brownbill, Amaze

Kat Marples, MindOut

Helen Jones, MindOut

Chris Brown, Grassroots

Kerry Dedman, Grassroots

Other Contributors

DataBridge project and early findings were discussed with:

Paul Colbran Head of ICT, BHCC and Chief Information Officer

Sophie Cox Business Engagement Manager, BHCC

Mark Watson Head of ICT Systems, BHCC

Claire Wardman Research Officer (Needs Assessments), BHCC

David Golding Senior Research Officer, BHCC

Richard Miles Performance Analyst, BHCC

Simon Ewing Data & Information Manager (BHLIS), BHCC

Mark Walker SCIP

Andy Winter Brighton Housing Trust

John Holmstrom Brighton Housing Trust

Dave Wolff Director, Community University Partnerships Programme, Brighton University

For more information about the project or findings please contact Jo Ivens (

Go to:

Chapter 1 – characteristics of the groups
Chapter 2 – reflections from the groups
Chapter 3 – recommendations for Partnership
Chapter 4 – recommendations on open data
October 20, 2011 / Jo Ivens

DataBridge findings part 1

This 1 of 4 blogs on key issues arising from the DataBridge project to be published this week.

Aim: To summarise what we found with the organisations, their characteristics and capacity regarding data.

DataBridge set out to learn what we could about data use in six selected local groups, to assist them in their thinking and learning about data analysis, and to explore the potential of Open Data.

Brighton & Hove CAB is the local branch of the national Citizens Advice federation of CABx. They have 11-20 paid staff, and up to 50 volunteers. They are one of the larger VCS organisations in the area, and one of the largest advice providers, open to anyone who requests in on a range of issues.

The Carers Centre for Brighton & Hove is a local charity supporting people with a caring responsibility. They have 20 full and part time staff, the majority of whom provide direct support to carers, and a similar number of volunteers.

East Sussex Credit Union have 5-10 staff and 21-50 volunteers, making them a medium sized local organisation. They provide savings and loans, and light touch money advice to members who are from Brighton & Hove and East Sussex.

Amaze has 11-20 staff and 15-20 volunteers, making them a medium sized local VCS organisation. They provide support to families with disabled children, including a helpline, Disability Living Allowance support, independent parental support and transitions to adulthood.

MindOut have 1-4 staff and 11-20 volunteers, making them a small local VCS organisation. They provide support services to LGBT people with experience of mental health issues including advocacy, casework, group work, anti-stigma activities, mental health promotion activities and peer support.

Grassroots has 5-10 paid staff and 1-4 volunteers, making it a small social enterprise. They provide training and consultancy to social care and health workers, and to community members on suicide prevention, intervention and mental health both locally and further afield.

What do groups mean by data?

DataBridge started with the assumption that in this context, organisations’ data could mean very broadly any set of information about the organisations’ users and services. We explored this through our interviews with the groups, their interpretations can be summarised as:

  • Information on users: numbers of users, their geography, details of demographics & services used

  • Information for funders: monitoring information collected for Partnership funders, commissioners or trust & foundation funders

  • Qualitative information: softer information on user experience, need, anecdotal evidence gathered from conversations, focus groups, observations of staff

  • User experience: feedback, complaints from users, discussion with other organisations

Awareness of external sources of data was varied, with some organisations using a variety of government data sets, such as Job Seekers Allowance and other benefits data, the Indices of Multiple Deprivation and Census 2001 data. Some (due to capacity or skill issues) tending to rely on local or national infrastructure or issue organisations to analyse trends for them, and then relate these findings to their organisation second hand. Only half of the organisations were aware of or used local sources such as the Brighton and Hove Local Information System (BHLIS).

Awareness of open data was generally low (a later blog covers open data in more detail), with groups aware of the term, but limited understanding of what data this might refer to or the opportunities that it could present to their organisation.


The size and resource level of the group did not necessarily correlate directly with the value placed on data and the amount of time given to data management & analysis in the staffing structure. Organisational culture, business approach and practical awareness of data in a strategic context were more significant. For example,

  • Brighton & Hove CAB (large organisation) maintain a very detailed database as part of Citizens Advice information protocols, but do not employ a specific staff member for management and analysis of data. Data analysis and its relation to policy undertaken by senior staff as part of their wider role.

  • Amaze (medium) employ a dedicated database manager thanks to being contracted to provide a statutorily required database, and an organisation-wide commitment to data collection and use. Effective use of this staff member across management all of their services.

  • Grassroots (small) invest significant time and energy in getting their evaluation and data collection systems right with the involvement of most staff, plus work of a part time intern, with a focus on quality of their product and business development.

Skills and capacity

Most organisations felt that they had at least some skills on data analysis, but none were 100% confident that they had the right skills or sufficient staff time to make the most of their data, to do major analysis projects or to make the most of potential opportunities presented by open data. Pressure on resources and need to prioritise funding frontline work was inevitably highlighted as a key factor behind this.

5 of 6 organisations used their own ‘hard’ (i.e. quantitative) data to analyse trends in service use, for example, East Sussex Credit Union’s monthly monitoring of Key Performance Indicators such as number of members, shares (savings), share value, % members on a payroll scheme, how many paying in benefits, amount of loans, number of loans, average loans.

In at least one case within the cohort, significant work would be needed if they were to establish electronic data collection about services and users. This need may be much more widespread in the broader community and voluntary sector in Brighton. Data collection and data management support needs could usefully be explored further by infrastructure organisations or Dialogue 50:50 in the future.

Need v demand

There was a tendency for groups to use identification of users (demand) as a way of showing need. Most organisations expressed a desire to do more on analysis of need.

4 of 6 organisations, to varying degrees, used external data in conjunction with their own data to examine service uptake (demand) compared to the potential population of service users. For example, the Carers Centre compare their data on local users to Census 2001 data to examine the % of carers in the population.

3 of 6 organisations used data to examine need and potential need for example, Amaze are aware of the limitations to their knowledge about the population of children with disabilities in the city, where they are and what their needs are. Based on national estimates that 5-7% of children have a disability, Amaze estimate they have details on perhaps half of all eligible children in Brighton.


The six groups were chosen to represent a rough cross section of the local voluntary sector in terms of type and size of organisation, but may be more focused on data analysis than the broader population of VCS groups.

The sophistication of data management and analysis reflects organisational culture and resourcing as much as size or client group.

All the groups undertake, to varying degrees, analysis of internal and external data to look at service uptake, trends in service delivery, needs of their client groups and demand for their services.

With the increasing importance to each organisation of demonstrating the need for their services and the quality and impact of those services, having the skills, capacity and culture to make effective use of the available data and evidence is becoming critical to VCS organisations.

There is much more that could be done to identify: