Data Brew: Open Data For Everybody Workshop / Lichfield District Council Report

The workshop covered what Open Data is, why it is important, and what you can do with it. We also looked at great examples of where it is being used effectively in the UK and overseas, and where best to find it across the UK and the type of people and organisations that use it, as well as the aim of Data Brew itself.

What resources do you have at hand for finding data in the region, and are there any gaps or areas that could be improved?

We split the room into two groups to document their thought process and see what they mapped out. As with our first session it was really interesting to see how the two groups compared and contrasted.

Collectively the participants were majority council based, and remarked on the likes of the Government Data Portal, County Council and internal databases, electoral register, the Office for National Statistics, police and crime data, locality profiles, the Public Health Outcomes Framework, and community sources, as well as utilising other local authorities and external companies. It was assuring to see a depth of knowledge on where to find data both regionally and nationwide.

Both sides also mentioned using Google to perform simple searches and find new portals, but one group took it a step further and spoke of the data readily available via Experian, although some data is paid for, and utilising Zoopla for local area information (also noted in our previous session), as well as the use of Twitter and special interest social media groups as legitimate portals of data.

Both groups agreed that more needed to be done in terms of communication so that datasets are accessible but that people understand where to find it. Funding is also a major issue and needs to be looked at to ensure availability is not affected.

At Data Brew we feel we have a duty to ensure that not only is open data accessible to people but that they also understand it can be used to create change for social good. We aim to make sure that people have more awareness of the various places you can obtain data and what you can do with it.

Do you feel that community groups and third sector have the confidence to use open data in the region, and if not what can we do as a collective to change this?

Interestingly, one group decided outright that there is a lack of confidence in third sector being able to use open data and looked at how we can help provide that confidence in the future. The other group also went down a similar route of outlining ways to help with confidence where it may be lacking.

Support Staffordshire, actively encouraging social action in the area, were outlined by both groups, in particular linking them with providing data workshops that can help with third sector confidence. We also discussed publicising what is available via printed material and social media, lobbying elected members of council, getting in touch with CVS and community organisations to map out needs, and ultimately the possibility of making such an issue part of someone’s job at the council itself.

What kind of open data is of interest to your organisation and why?

- Environmental, meteorological, planning
- Crime data, traffic, ONS
- Health/wellbeing research
- Social care and disability info
- Housing
- Deprivation
- Market trends, population trends, key health indicators
- Data about parents/teenagers/younger children
- Open data on websites regards owned land / which sites are managed
- Open data which has a beneficial impact on open dialogue between the council and public
- Currently publish a lot on data.gov.uk - needs better management and more awareness of what’s wanted
- Understanding what people are looking for is key to publishing data and the success of it

The main focus here seems to be not only finding data to enable social good and make a real difference to communities but also discussing data requirements with the public so that voices are heard on what data is wanted and what people are looking for so that needs can be prioritised effectively.

What would you do with this data or what do you do with this data if using it already?

- Funding applications and reports
- Decision making
- Feed into strategies and improve existing services
- Create new services
- Grant applications
- To supplement internal data warehouse for retrospective and forecast
- Publish data on mapping and planning
- Inform strategy and policy development
- Improve service delivery
- Improve professional competency and development
- To plan events and activities
- Use to reduce questions faced by departments and to create positive communication with third parties and public
- Publish via data.gov.uk

It is assuring to see a vast range of points made on how to create social action, with a large emphasis on improving services, developing, and funding services, and then hopefully creating solutions to challenges faced, which I think is very important.

With almost 90% of the room rating a 4 or 5 in importance we can see that there is a need for greater awareness of Open Data in the Lichfield area, and we hope that we can help improve this situation in the future.

Video interviews

We also conducted short video interviews folllowing the session with some of the participants asking for their reflections.

In summary, attendees found the workshop very useful as it allowed for the needs of third sector organisations to be highlighted as well as discussing general knowledge on open data from council representatives, and then looking at working examples of open data in use to help enlighten collective understanding.

“It’s nice to get a different perspective on open data - when you work within the council you get the council perspective on what data you should be sharing, where actually it’s good to get the perspective of what the community wants and what the third parties want alongside it [...] so it’s nice to have that open dialogue to change your perspective and think outside the box” - Laura, Lichfield DC

“It was a really great opportunity to bring people together from different teams, people I hadn’t thought would work together in terms of data [and] really look at some of those opportunities that we’ve got, bringing in other sectors as well [...] fantastic time, really really good discussions” - Kevin, Lichfield DC

“I thought it was a useful opportunity as somebody from the voluntary sector to be able to influence what sort of data is produced, and how it is made available, and just to share some experiences [...] very useful” - Juliet, Red Box Project

“I thought the workshop was quite useful, because we do have a lot of open data at the moment at the council which currently we don’t really manage very well, so it’s good to know what it is, how it’s useful, what we need to do, now and in the future [...] we know what we need to do now and what our actions are going to be next for all of our open data that we publish” - Katie, Lichfield DC

“I think [we could benefit from] greater involvement from external people [...] it is a little challenging to get that view of what people may want” - Ian, Lichfield DC

“I found it fascinating, especially working with Lichfield District Council today, and an opportunity to understand Open Data from the local authority’s perspective” - Greg, United Living

Overall I think it was enlightening for a lot in attendance and provided an insight into new perspectives which can only be a good thing as we connect third sector with council going forward.