Category Archives: Meta

All about the Lab – how we work, and who we are

Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab Logo

The Lab has been launched for a couple of months, and I figured now is a good time to put down a little bit about what we’re doing, how we’re working and who’s involved. I’ll update this as often as necessary, and I’ll also use this to point people to when they want to know about the Lab.

What’s the main purpose?

The Lab is essentially a multi-organisation, multi-discipline data lab. We are bringing together data and data/information specialists from the various organisations that work in Trafford, to work on particular problems, that we think data can help with. By combining datasets and co-locating people we’re pretty sure we can give a really good understanding of needs and opportunities in Trafford.

As well as using open datasets, we will also be looking to release as much open data as possible. Cleansed data will be a by-product of the analyses, so making them available as open data will help to support future work, as well as provide evidence for decision making. Part of this is making sure that people understand the data and intelligence that we produce, so we want to work with organisations to support bids for funding, or research projects, for example.

We are also looking at how we can use technology to improve the way we get, use and release data – things like sensors and web-technologies such as crowdfunding websites.

How does the lab function?

The lab’s workstyle is loosely based around agile – we are constantly talking to each other, and the people we do stuff for. We release things often, so that if there are problems, or a change in requirements, its picked up early on. We call this Rapid Iterative Deployment.

Projects are managed using Trello, which we’ve found to be very flexible.

We are trying to be open and transparent – blogging as we go along, and have active twitter accounts and facebook pages. Things that we develop are open source, and will shortly be available on GitHub. Sharing what we do increases its value enormously. We are currently thinking about how we can make our Trello board public, or at least a public view, so that anyone can look at what we are working on.

In terms of the work that we do, we have four priorities that have been defined by the Trafford Partnership:

  • Mental Health
  • Aging Population
  • Unhealthy Weight
  • Worklessness

Not everything we do has to fit into one of these areas, but it helps with the prioritisation of work.

We also have four objectives to adhere to. What we do should do at least one of the following:

  • Help to reduce demand on services
  • Help to redesign services
  • Improve peoples (citizens, 3rd sector, private, public) awareness / understanding of the area
  • Help to attract or retain investment into the Borough

Finally – we try and fit our work into the four broad categories of Digital Social Innovation:

  • Open Data
  • Open Knowledge
  • Open Networks
  • Open Hardware

Most of what we do currently comes under Open Data or Open Knowledge.

Who we are

The lab was established by Trafford Council, with input from Trafford Housing Trust, the largest registered social landlord in Trafford. Initial funding was provided in part by the Cabinet Office.

Confirmed collaborators

  • Trafford Council (Funding / data / resources)
  • Trafford Partnership (Network)
  • Trafford Housing Trust (Staff / data / resources)
  • Trafford Public Health (Data / resources)
  • Trafford College (Data)
  • Cabinet Office (Funding)
  • Trafford Community Leisure Trust (Data)
  • Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (Data)

Currently in discussion with:

  • Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Pennine Care Acute Trust (Trafford Division)
  • Greater Manchester Police


Profiles of all the staff involved in the lab will follow soon.

Where is the Lab?

We are currently based in Stretford Library (Bennet Street, Stretford, M32 8AP) in a room off the main library. We are looking to find somewhere a bit more flexible that we can use as a workspace and a hackspace, but that will come in time.

Some of our outputs/outcomes so far

Get in touch

The best way to start a conversation is by email , , or over twitter (@traffinnovation | @northernjamie)

You can phone us on 0161 912 5146, and you could write to us (!) at:

Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab

Stretford Library

Bennett Street


M32 8AP

Please feel free to get in touch..!




Open Data Manchester Presentation 2014/07/29 – Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab

I was asked if would like to talk about the nascent Innovation and Intelligence Lab at July’s edition of Open Data Manchester. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. It was to be a local authority special, with John Gibbons from Salford also on the bill – talking about INSPIRE (which Salford do very well)

At the meetup there were approximately 15 people, including:

  • Representatives from charities (NSPCC, Children’s Society, GMCVO)
  • Government Digital Services standards people
  • Manchester data people

Most people fitted into more than one of these.

I’ve tried to capture the gist of what I said, and what the room said as I went through the slides, below.

Slide 1

Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab
Slide 1 – Introduction

Here I introduced myself as Jamie Whyte, Head of Trafford’s Innovation and Intelligence Lab, part of Trafford Council.

Slide 2

I used this slide to talk about how use of data in Trafford has evolved, including my role. I have worked for Trafford for 14 years (i think I said 12 at the meetup), in a variety of data roles:

  • Schools’ data analyst
  • Children’s Social Care data analyst
  • Schools, children’s social care and child health data manager
  • Data innovation (covering all council services)

I then compared the current Innovation and Intelligence Lab to the Playstation 3 – and that PS4 equates to bringing the other public sector organisations in Trafford into the team.

(I also had it explained to me that there are 5 controllers and only 4 Playstation because the PS1 had two versions of controller – first without analogue sticks, then second with)

Slide 3

Now we start to get into the lab itself. I spoke about the fact that we are part funded by Trafford Council, and that the Cabinet Office/Open Data User Group/Local Government Association part-fund us through the Release of Data Fund.

I also spoke about the fact that the lab will consist of some council data people, a javascript/html programmer-type, and then data and/or data people from other organisations in Trafford – such as Housing association, police, leisure, CCG, Public Health etc.

I talked about the fact that we would be combining data with emerging technologies, and other Digital Social Innovation methods to radically improve the way we work. Methods such as crowdmapping/crowdsourcing, collaborative workspaces, data – open/linked, and others (read more about that on Nesta’s blog, and my response.

I also emphasised the fact that the Lab would be totally transparent in the way that it operates – blogging and tweeting as we go along, and releasing any data that we use as open data, where possible.

Slide 4

Map of blue plaques in Trafford
Blue Plaques as open data, and mapped

This is the first example of an open dataset released by the Innovation Lab. To find out more about it, you can read a blog post I wrote about it.

Discussion in the room picked up on the fact that following publication of the data, we were notified by members of the public about two further plaques that we didn’t have mapped, and weren’t on the list that is published on the Council website (Paul Young and Benny Rothman). This is almost a miniature example of how opening data can help organisations sort their own data out.

This data and report has been shared with English Heritage and Open Plaques.

Slide 5

This was all about the project with Gorgeous Gorse Hill – to combine their community planting with some sort of data visualisation with flowers. See this post for more info.

Slide 6

This slide looked at some of the things we’re doing to try and make data more real to people who are making decisions about services. The data shows children who have had their height and weight recorded as part of the National Child Measurement Programme.

We wanted to look at different ways of visualising data, and we think that this 3 rotating model would go some way to making the data more real for our public health analyst, and other colleagues in public health.

It was at this point that i mentioned I was thinking about the possibility of using Oculus Rift and VR technology to take this principle to the next level, by allowing people to climb into charts or maps , and walk around, picking out points and data items at will. We are pretty far off this though, I think…

Lot’s of discussion at this point around information sharing, where we have the technology to match this data to other data sets, but Information Governance rules prevent us from doing so.

Slide 7

Drawing to a close, i touched on some of the things that we’ll be working on. 360 Giving, which is a means by which we’ll be publishing open data about the money that we give as grants to voluntary organisations through ou participatory budgets.

libraries is extremely interesting for us. We are hoping to base the lab in a library, and develop the collaborative space so that it is accessible for all people in Trafford. I also spoke to the Head of Libraries in Trafford about opening libraries data, on the morning of the ODM meetup, and she was totally up for it.

We are currently in the process of implementing a new customer relationship management system, and I am working with the project team to ensure data is open and accessible, as an open311 endpoint.

Lot of discussion here around libraries data, and the possibilities that it would bring.

Slide 8

My contact details, though I left off my email address (accidentally jamiedotwhyteattrafforddotgovdotuk) and my telephone number (on purpose).

I also issued a plea for anyone to get involved, who feels like they could work with us. I emphasised the fact that we are looking to work with staff in any public sector organisation who may have an idea, developers or SMEs who may want data, or to test an app with us, students, in particular those doing STEM subjects at Trafford College, and voluntary/charity organisations, who would benefit from data in terms of identifying areas of need, or support with evidencing bids for grant funding.

The point was also made that it would be good if we could get hold of charities’ data, to really give a different view of Trafford.

There was also a short discussion around whether we could create a sandbox environment, where we have a secure place where people can come and do stuff with anonymised data, but that can’t be released. There is definitely something in this, but we need to work with proper information governance professionals to make it work legally.

For everyone that was at the meetup, thanks for listening so intently, and for comments. If I’ve missed anything critical, or got anything wrong here, please let me know, and I can change it…

Getting Rid – Our approach to releasing the stuff that we make


Poster in GDS office saying 'Show the Thing'
Poster in Government Digital Services Office, Ben Terret, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Go Ugly Early. Rapid Deployment. Release Early, Release Often. Show The Thing. Rapid Prototyping.

These are all fancy names for an approach that we’re trying to take in the Innovation and Intelligence Lab.

The principle is that as we are making stuff, like maps or reports, if we make them available early on in the design process, then we can change it as we receive feedback from our users. We can also continue to develop the thing that we’re making, and iteratively improve it.

We are hoping that this will lead to better quality, more relevant stuff, because we’ll be more responsive to the needs of the people that’ll be using what we’re making, and we’ll be able to change things quicker.

The downside to this, I think, is that if someone looks at what we’re making early on, and it looks a bit rubbish, they may never look at it again.

There’s also the problem that this isn’t the way that we are used to working in local government, so it’s a bit of a shift in terms of how we think, but we think we can deal with that.

In the spirit of going ugly early, we’re calling our version of this ‘Get RID – rapid iterative deployment’. And we also need to come up with a better word than ‘stuff’, for the things that we make and do. Suggestions welcome!


Hooray! It’s the Trafford Intelligence and Innovation Lab!

Cow jumping over moon

Here at InfoTrafford towers we are absolutely over the moon at the news that we’ve been awarded some money from the Cabinet Office and ODUG’s Release of Data Fund, to support a really exciting project that we’ve been planning.

Building on the success of InfoTrafford, we’re looking to develop a Partnership Innovation and Intelligence Lab, which will take the principles by which we developed InfoTrafford, and use them to bring together a greater range of datasets from our partners.

Accompanying these datasets will be the people from the respective organisations who understand the data – where it comes from, how to get it, and, crucially, what stories the data tells. This means that we will actually be sitting and working together – using our collective insight and knowledge to give us an incredible understanding of the needs and opportunities in Trafford.

Whilst this is the main purpose of the lab, there will be other things that we’ll be doing. We’ll be using the InfoTrafford platform to make available even more data, analyses and visualisations. A key focus will be to make it easier to find information on InfoTrafford. We’ll also be adding all Open Data that we produce to, and investigating what we can do with

Where appropriate (ie – not personal data, or subject to copyright), our data will also be modelled and uploaded to the GMDSP quad store, which will hopefully lead to synchronisation with other LAs in Greater Manchester. This is how we will achieve 5* status for our Open Data, and will be supported by Open Data Institute Certificates (we already have a ‘Pilot’ certificate for our streetlights data – the first Local Authority in the North to achieve any kind of certificate, and the first Local Authority anywhere to get Pilot..!)

We will also be looking at new technologies, and how we might use them in our quest to make Trafford even better. Sensor arrays, machine learning, and drones are all examples of emerging tech that has the possibility to help (re)design services, or alter demand – we just aren’t yet sure how.

The final thing that the lab will offer is an ‘Open Workspace’. The principle is that we will dedicate a space in the office to allow members of the developer community; voluntary sector and charities; professionals; and students, to come and look over our shoulder at the work that we’ll be doing. They (you..?) will be able to ask for data, see what we hold that we’ve not released yet, test bids or apps with us, or just see how we’re using data and technology in partnership with others.

So what happens next?

I’ve met with all the people who’ll be involved from the beginning, and as soon as we’ve got a space to call our own, we’ll be starting to work together. For a variety of reasons, we aren’t sure exactly when this will be…

I’ll also be presenting the Lab concept to the Trafford Partnership at the end of July (Slidedeck to be made available)

We’ll get cracking immediately with a few pieces of work:

We’re intending to run this entire thing in the open, so we’ll be blogging here whenever we see fit to. I’ll also be tweeting as and when, @_datapreneur, so that’s probably worth a follow, if you are interested. You can also email me, at You could also try phoning me on 07541495259, if you want…

Please feel free to get in touch!