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July 21, 2011 / Jo Ivens

DataBridge July update – and a cake analogy

Just a really quick post about where we’re up to with the ‘fieldwork’ of DataBridge, some thoughts on the questions that are emerging, and an open data/cake analogy…

Tom from OCSI and myself have had our meetings with the six DataBridge organisations during June. I am currently writing up a summary of the issues we discussed with each group including some recommendations from OCSI on other data sources that may be useful to them. In conjunction with CVSF I’m hoping to bring together (or plagiarise – please make suggestions in the comments!) a list of resources and tools available around practical issues such as data collection and management, and perhaps more widely on evaluation.

In terms of our findings, some of the issues that were commonly raised were that organisations are keen to have more detailed local population data than they currently have access to; a general belief that little is done with the monitoring data that is required by funders and commissioners, and of course a widespread concern about resources available to invest in data collection, management and analysis.

Our next stage is to work in more detail with data from the groups to illustrate how their own data can be used in conjunction with existing public datasets, and to think more specifically about what Open Data the local authority or health services can provide that would usefully feed into this picture.

This data analysis phase is keeping a practical focus and is gearing towards a Feedback session for the groups and others in the voluntary sector, in early September, and a series of step-through guides on how to replicate the analysis OCSI did.

Thinking about the strategic side of the project, I will be writing up what we learned that will be important for the Partnership as it thinks in more detail about implementing Intelligent Commissioning and how it builds systems for gathering city-wide intelligence.

An important part of this conversation will be about the value the Partnership places on sector data and the resource needed to access it. My other big question is: we assume that better information can lead to better decisions, but how can we ensure that it does?

A critical question for the sector will be how willing are we to share our data, with each other, with local government and with the public (and therefore, potentially, with private sector competitors)? What will it take to do this? How do we come to terms with the challenges of working more in collaboration with organisations that have historically been competitors, albeit usually friendly ones?

Finally, I am keen for the Open Data angle to remain at the forefront of what we’re thinking about with DataBridge. I was most struck at CityCamp by the Chief Information Officer for the Partnership saying ‘Just tell us what you want, and we’ll release it’. A brilliant offer, and one that I’m planning to call him on, but in itself rather overwhelming!

A bit like saying we have all the ingredients in the world, you can have whatever you like to make your cake. First of all we need to decide what kind of cake we’re going to make…

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