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June 9, 2011 / Jo Ivens

Sharing information to understand our City better

The discussion at the Open Data Brighton & Hove group last night with Cllr Jason Kitcat and lots of others got me thinking about not just opening up data held by the council, but about the flow of open data in a more circular way, and who else has data to contribute to our understanding of the City – in particular, the voluntary and community sector.

Two pootling ten minute train rides and an animated discussion over breakfast pastries later, and I’m playing around with this model to help think about these ideas and how to progress them.


Obviously there ought to be many more arrows on here, for example, linking a VCS data store to Other Locally Generated Data, and linking Data Out to a VCS data store. In fact, I could have made it into a nice virtuous circle…a project for another day.

Under Data Out, I’m including the current work by Paul Brewer et al on the Google doc on opening up existing published Brighton & Hove City Council datasets but also, those that aren’t currently published, those that could usefully be published, and those from other public agencies such as the health services and Police.

Under Data In, I’m thinking particularly about the vast and varied data produced by the voluntary and community sector, but this would also include things like data sets on public transport. This could help build a more nuanced understanding of citizen needs and help make more transparent (and more supported?) spending decisions.

Under Data Between, I’m thinking about ways of enabling VCS organisations to use data from elsewhere in the sector to feed into their own research, decision-making and bidding.  A VCS datastore  is not a new idea, but something I’d like to explore locally through the DataBridge project, even if it’s only a very simple repository of shared data sets. I am choosing not to address right now the issues around data and competitive advantage for voluntary sector providers over other providers, which has been written about by others – but definitely one to come back to.

Is this a useful way of thinking about all this?  I think it breaks down what is a potentially vast area into more manageable bits, but all of which are supportive of each other. A work in progress, obviously, and thoughts very welcome.

So questions to you are:

  • A VCS data store is a vast challenge, and not one that can be created without a serious project plan and funding, but what other examples are there out there of areas tackling this question?
  • Are there templates or existing models used to share data within the VCS in a locality?
  • Do you know of examples where VCS data (from those providing public services and others) is routinely and systematically included as part of statutory partner decision-making (as opposed to blanket reporting by VCS to funders of inputs/outputs, and ad hoc requests for evidence)
  • Any other comments or suggestions?!
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