How data assets are being used at a local level

Power To Change: empowering people

Power to Change is an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England. With an endowment of £150 million in 2015 from the Big Lottery Fund, Power to Change helps local people run community businesses.

“Our vision is to create better places through community business. We will use our endowment to strengthen community businesses across England. This means providing money, advice and support to help local people come together to take control. At a time when many parts of the country face cuts, neglect and social problems, we want to make sure local areas survive and stay vibrant. We do so by being bold, collaborative, open and informed.”

New research

In May 2017 Power to Change commissioned AHA Digital Ltd and Puntofisso Ltd to look at pockets of activity where data assets are being used locally.

When we met to discuss the project, Gen Maitland Hudson, who heads up Data and Learning at Power To Change, explained that they already had a good sense of the kinds of problems that people face when trying to use data at a local level, but were less clear about what data is already being used, and the extent to which it provides reasonably reliable information. Power to Change wanted to learn more about what is already happening around community data use, to help inform the targeting of future support.

Our approach: talk to those who know

We drew up a long list of data practitioners across a range of different sectors and locations, and then narrowed the list down down to those we knew were actively using data at a local level. We then spent several months over the Summer conducting interviews. We originally anticipated interviewing around a dozen people, but ended up speaking to more than twenty to try and get a good cross-section from different sectors and locations.

Having completed the interviews, we wrote up our notes, pulled the various strands together into a spreadsheet, and tagged the conversations with a set of meaningful keywords and dataset names. We then analysed the results, and identified a number of common themes and a few similarities among organisations.

The report

Our report: Data for the Community, published in November 2017, uncovers pockets of activity around data, highlights some areas of difficulty, and identifies some good practices which may be useful to community groups wishing to produce and use good quality information about their neighbourhoods.