Category Archives: The Lab

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..!




Using data to set priorities and get funding – A real life example

Back in the Summer of 2013, I was asked to deliver a ‘data presentation’ at each of our four Locality Partnerships. The brief was pretty simple – each partnership was having a workshop to set their priorities, and to do that, they wanted an understanding of the needs of each area. Each member was asked, prior to the session, to canvas views from residents and visitors to each Partnership area on what they liked, and what they would change about the areas.

To support the qualitative data, I was asked to look at as much quantitative data as possible, and present to the group the key messages that the data told. You can download a copy of that slidedeck here.

After the presentation, and much discussion, some priorities were identified, one of which was to reduce isolation in the elderly. The South Locality has an older population than the other localities (slightly older overall, but some wards very much so), and higher life expectancy. Having looked at the data, it felt right to me that this should be one of their priorities. Project groups were set up in the workshop, with named leads, to tackle each priority.

Fast forward to Spring 2014, I was approached again to support the Locality Partnership. This time, the project group had identified a potential source of funding to support the work, through Our Place In order to complete the bid, we were asked for data that demonstrated that there were people who would benefit from the project targeting isolation in the elderly, at quite short notice.

So we decided to use census data to establish how many older people there were, living alone, at the time of the census. Using table DC1108EW from the census (Living arrangements by age and sex, available on NOMIS) gave us the data that we need – the number of people by ward aged 65 or over, who were living alone, and the number of people aged 65 or over who were widowed.

Chart showing over 65s by Ward
Chart showing over 65s by Ward

The area of focus for the bid was Village ward (Timperley – an economically diverse Ward comprising the Broomwood Estate, and surrounding areas), and the data showed that there were 826 people aged over 65 living alone, which equated to almost 10% of the population of over 16s in the Ward. The high number, and the high concentration, meant that Village Ward seems like a very good place to deliver this kind of project. Here is the population pyramid for the Ward – very different from Trafford as a whole.

Population pyramid for Village Ward, Census 2011
Population pyramid for Village Ward, Census 2011

I found out that on Friday 3rd October that we had been successful with the bid, and had been awarded £20,000 to deliver a range of projects in the Ward, with various partners. Clearly there was a lot of input from other partners in the bid, bu the contribution that the data made should be evident.

Increasing ‘inward investment’ (bringing money into Trafford, by applying for grants or other investment) is one of the things that the Innovation and Intelligence Lab is hoping to do, and this evidences the fact that there is a need for it. As well as increasing investment, however, the work should also go some way towards improving the lives of elderly people in the Ward. Reducing social isolation will make them happier and healthier, which is obviously a good thing to do, but could also reduce demand on other services, such as GPs, and social care.

This, then, in a few short paragraphs is one clear example of how we’ve used data to prompt discussion, and identify a need. The data then supported the bidding process for an amount of money, AND allowed the partnership to target the money and resources in the place it would be most effective. The next step from a data point of view is to measure the effectiveness of the project, and see whether the model is worth repeating in the other Locality areas, to positively affect even more people.

High Five!

Don’t leave me hanging.

First Photos of Trafford’s Stunning Innovation Lab

Regular readers/followers/companions will know that we’ve been talking about the Lab for a couple of months now. We decided on a location – Stretford Library. We scoped out the mezzanine, excitedly took photos, got a quote for a lick of paint, decided where the Google Glass docking station should go (basically one of those polystyrene heads next to a plug socket), and thought about where the soft seating area should be.

Polystyrene Head
Google Glass Dock

Unfortunately, we didn’t count on the triple-threat of the Disability Discrimination Act, Fire regulations, and the fact that it’s apparently inadvisable to move 8/10 people into a space that has no ventilation.

So we had to come up with an alternative space for the Lab, and it turns out that there’s a room downstairs in the library, that we can occupy without breaching any regulations.

The only problem is that the room is currently in use – as storage for the library, and a monday job club. So we would need to work out alternative arrangements for both of these functions. Plenty of time to sort this, you would think, except we have two drivers – I can no longer park at the Town Hall, and my designated press officer is now on leave for two weeks, so the press release is already on the path to approval.

So we operated as the Lab today, for the first time proper. Soak in the ambience of the Lab in this fabulous collection of photos.

Lab Photo 5
Lab Photo 4
Lab Photo 3
Lab Photo 2
Lab Photo 1

On the plus side, the library is an absolute treasure trove of amazing stuff. Look at this:

Babybel Cookbook
Babybel Cookbook!

It’s a Babybel cookbook! The first of many innovative things to come out of this room.

What Next?

We will be clearing the room, brightening it up, and introducing some of the elements of an agile workspace – project board, showcase area, and a big screen where we can do presentations, demos, etc. The space has real potential for unlocking the creativity of all the Lab participants, and I am tremendously excited about some of the things that we’ll be making and releasing over the next few weeks.