Longford Park is a big park in the North of Trafford. It used to have a pitch and putt course, but this is no longer in use. Trafford Council and Friends of Longford Park asked Didsbury Ultimate Frisbee For Amateurs (DUFFA), to help set up a disc golf course on the site.
Disc golf is like normal golf, except you throw a Frisbee at a basket, rather than hit a ball towards a hole. DUFFA set up Manchester Disc Golf to handle the campaign. The idea being that they would raise enough funds for a 9-hole course. Any additional money raised would go towards buying additional holes, with the aim of creating an 18 hole course (the nearest one to here is in Leamington Spa).
The course would be free to play, by anyone, at any time – though people would need to bring their own discs, or hire them from the café. Manchester Disc Golf are hoping that the course would act as a focus for the creation of a new community of players and volunteers, of all ages.
So – to the crowdfunding part. Manchester Disc Golf worked out that to pay for the course and equipment, they would need £5,500. They applied to Trafford’s Voluntary Sector Grants in July 2014, and were awarded some money (about £3k), which left a couple of thousand to raise.
To help with raising the funds, the group set up a campaign page on Indiegogo – a website for ‘activating the global community to make ideas happen’.
As well as the amount to be raised, and an indicator of progress against the target, the group have added a video, a description of planned activity, and a breakdown of the costs.
Campaigns are time-limited, to stop them dragging on, but this campaign is also set-up so that even if all of the targeted funds aren’t raised, the group still get everything that has been contributed – some crowdfunding models have a rule that if all of the money isn’t raised, then all money is given back to donators (this would be applicable where the project could not happen without all the funds. In this case, less money raised just means fewer holes).
People contribute money in exchange for ‘perks’ – with a sliding scale of reward, from a mention on the website, to hole sponsorship (ie advertising space). Awareness of the campaign is raised through social media, leaflet drops, open days and word of mouth.
So far – the campaign site is showing (at 11 November 2014) 89% of funds raised, with 6 days to go. This , I would say, is a success, and a pretty good demonstration of how crowdfunding can be used to support new community projects.
Sidenote: I actually went to the open day on the 9th November 2014 to have a go. It was really good fun – good exercise, fresh air, and pretty intuitive. I didn’t keep track of my score, though, because I had one eye on the children (who LOVED it), trying to keep them away from the part of the course that the map euphemistically describes as being ‘boggy’.
Each year, the Mayor of Trafford (and I guess other places as well) nominates charitable causes that they will support over the course of their term of office. The last Mayor of Trafford (Cllr Dylan Butt) decided that he wanted to focus his charitable work on purchasing automatic external defibrillator (AED) units, and positioning them around Trafford. Ordinarily, the Mayor would be supported by a committee of his choosing – other Councillors, friends and associates, to organise money-raising events. Unusually, because this wasn’t simply about raising money and handing it over to a charity, we decided to set up an officers group to work out where these AEDs might be best placed.
This group consisted of:
Partnerships / Communities Coordinator (to work with organisations, town centres etc)
Consultant in Public Health
Paramedic – Chain of Survival County Co-ordinator
There was a lot of activity around Gala Dinners, Heartstart training for Councillors, and links with a charity called Hand on Heart. This being ostensibly a datablog, I’m going to focus on how we used data to support the project.
We decided to make it properly data-driven – and really think carefully about how we would target resources. We knew that based on previous Mayoral campaigns, we could expect to be able to purchase approximately 15 units – at very approximately £1,000 each.
So we looked a range of indicators at quite small geographical levels (LSOA and MSOA) – physical activity, demographic details, obesity levels, mortality rates, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). We also used our geodemographic segmentation data to identify certain propensities – such as drink/smoke etc.
At the same time as this, we started to crowdmap locations of existing units. I’d expected there to be a handful around the borough – but we actually turned up around 30 – in GP practices, shops, leisure centres, gyms, schools. We mapped them to get an idea of where there were any gaps, and differentiated based on whether the unit is publically accessible 24/7. This helped inform the next steps.
The problem with using the indicators above was that all the data was centred around where people lived. And we (in conjunction with public health) determined that the first 10 units should be deployed into areas where there are likely to be large numbers of people for long periods of time – shopping centres, town centres, sports stadia, parks etc. So we drew up a list of likely locations around Trafford for the priority 10, that weren’t already covered by a unit. These were spread across the four localities of Trafford, and used mainly anecdotal information, drawn from local knowledge.
The charity committee then came to us to request a list of more potential sites – the amber list. We started to think about how we might do this, and we approached North West Ambulance Service to see if they could let us have any data that we could use, and they did! They gave us the number of ‘Red 1’ calls (immediate threat to life) that they had received over the previous year, by postcode sector (eg M33 4).
This was VERY useful in allowing us to think about a list of 60 or so sites around Trafford, where a unit would be appropriate. Based on the data, positioning one defib would remove several sites from the list.
This list allowed the Mayor’s charity committee to focus on particular areas for their fundraising. One of the things we did to support this was query our business database to produce a list of businesses within a 500 meter radius of each proposed site, so that the Mayor could write to them to request a contribution towards a unit that they’d be able to see (but hopefully never have to use…)
While this was going on, Partnerships people were working with a charity called Hand on Heart to put units into schools in Trafford, which was very successful, but not covered here.
Anyone that has seen me talk about data will know that I am totally and enthusiastically pro-data and pro-open. I firmly believe that the real power of data comes from making it available to a wider audience – both in terms of the things that people can do with it, and the opportunity to ensure people are able to make informed decisions about the areas they live in / services they receive, etc. It also makes it much easier for us to use our own data for good (aka dogfooding)
We’ve done a lot of good work in Trafford to try and move this forward, with DataGM, InfoTrafford, and now the Innovation and Intelligence Lab, so I was cock-a-hoop to be asked to co-lead on open data (with the excellent Lucy Knight), for Local Gov Digital, AND join the steering group.
I am really looking forward to working with Lucy on this, and everyone else that wants to get involved. It’s an amazing opportunity to build links with data people in other Local Authorities around the country, share some of the things that we’ve been doing in this space, and pick up stuff that others are doing and promote and develop it.
It’s also great to be hooking up with (and considered to be a part of) a group of recognised digital experts across local government, who are already developing some excellent stuff, such as Pipeline and Localo.
Local Gov Digital’s fundamental principle is that Local Government should be ‘Open by default and digital by design’. This is a very succinct way of articulating exactly what I’m trying to do with data here, in Trafford.
I was meant to write this post back in July, but never got round to it, so we just dropped a tweet instead. (I’ve just gone to find the tweet to embed here, and I can’t find one, so it looks like we didn’t even do that – for shame…)
Anyway, back in July 2014, we applied through the Open Data Institute website for an Open Data Certificate. At the time, they were pretty new (I think still in Beta). The dataset we were using was the streetlights data that we released as part of the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme. We wanted to use the certificate as a stamp of authenticity for the data that we released, to help validate the programme. The certificates are also intended to provide information and assurance to data users about how to get and use the data, and how secure it is.
The form took quite a while to fill out (partly because I was using Internet Explorer 8, and partly because the certificates were in Beta) – about 2 hours, but having put all the details of the dataset (such as where the data is held, how often it’s updated, how long we expect it to remain, whether we blog about it, whether it references other datasets, and many other questions), we were awarded a Pilot Level certificate. This is one above the basic ‘raw’ level, but shows that we are publishing data, and we are going a bit further to try and help data users access and use the data. So we were delighted with this. We were even more delighted to find out that we were the first Local Authority in the North of England to receive a certificate, and the first in the country to get Pilot level.
This has also left us wanting more – what exactly do we need to do to get ‘Standard’, or even ‘Expert’ (no-one has yet achieved expert level).
We also want to get certificates for all of our open datasets. We applied for a couple more (toilets and planning), but they are still time consuming to complete (about half an hour) – we could really do with a way of cloning certificates – most of the information will be the same for different datasets. Things like our social media accounts, or the contact details will remain unchanged, so we could rattle through quite a few certificates just by changing a handful of fields. Until then, we’ll continue to pick out certain high profile datasets that would benefit from a certificate.
We are also planning to put all of our certificated(?) datasets on one page, under the appropriate badge, so that we can keep a tally of how many we have. We are hoping to use this to help quantify our open data output, because there’s a degree of external moderation there (though the certificates are self-evaluated, they can be verified by the community). If others do the same, then we can start to compete! There are approximately 170 certificates on the ODI website, many of which are there because of the LGA Incentivised Open Data Scheme. So people are aware that they exist, and it might just help if we instil a competitive element (maybe with rewards..!) to releasing and applying for certificates for open data.
(As a final point, I would reeeaaaallllly like a physical version of the badge, in sticker form, that I and the rest of the lab can put on our laptops, if anyone that can do that is reading…)
We are now a few months into phase 2 of the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme (GMDSP), and I figured now would be a good time to reflect on what has happened so far, what we (Trafford) are getting out of it, and where I see the programme going.
If you already know about the GMDSP, skip this bit. GMDSP, or DSP for short (I know!) is a programme designed to synchronise the release of data across all local authorities in Greater Manchester (Clockwise, from bottom: Trafford, Salford, Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Tameside, Stockport, Manchester). The idea being that if we release the same data, to the same definition, then we will create datasets that cover a larger geographical area and a larger population-base, and are therefore of more use to more people. These datasets were to be made available as linked data, which allows other computers to read and understand the data, and match it with other datasets, such as those held by the Office for National Statistics, or Ordnance Survey. To help us do this, ‘Code Fellows’ worked with each authority to get the data standardised. The Code Fellows are civic-minded hackers, with expertise in data and systems.
The Programme is funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) through two catapults – the Connected Digital Economy Catapult, and the Future Cities Catapult. These two catapults fund the programme in the hope that it will achieve i) stimulation of business growth (through app development, data services, data use) and ii) strengthening relationships between the participating local authorities, so that we share data, knowledge and experience.
Phase 1 of the programme involved three local authorities in Greater Manchester – Trafford, Salford and Manchester. A special database was set up, by a Manchester-based company called Swirrl, called a quad store, which allows us to put a LOT of data into it.
We then worked together to identify some datasets for release – after a period of negotiation, we selected:
Some of these seemed to be of little interest to the public/developer community, but Phase 1 was mainly about looking to test the modelling process in phase 1, and prove we could work together.
So we worked on getting the data out of the various systems they exist in – the Code Fellows were instrumental in this. Modelling the data, in particular, would have been near-impossible for us to do on our own. Steven Flower, the code fellow who worked with us in Trafford, brought with him the concept of using OpenRefine to sort our data out.
The 24h Coding Challenge
On the 29th March 2014, the first Hack was held, where approximately 25 developers came to Tech Hub Manchester, for 24 hours, to see what they could do with the data. There were groups from across Manchester, and even a team from Istanbul.
It turned out that most of the developers that had come for the hack weren’t familiar with the format the data was in. So the first hour or so of the hack was spent teaching the developers how to use linked data, and Sparql to query and get the data. This was actually a very good thing to have done – an opportunity to show the developer community of Greater Manchester how to use linked data (linked data is gathering pace as the way in which public organisations make their data available).
There were two things that came out of the Coding Challenge that were of particular interest to us, as a local authority. Light Raider is an app which aims to turn streetlights into virtual collectable items, so that people are encouraged to move around more, by walking past the streetlights. You can read more about that in this Manchester Evening News article. This is a really exciting development, and something we are looking to support in Trafford, hopefully using Trafford Council staff to pilot the app.
The second thing that was of interest was developed by a data scientist from Salford, who took data from 30 years of planning applications, and used natural language processing on the text of the application, to test how much influence certain words would have on the likelihood that a planning application would be approved or rejected (eg “oak” and “conservatory”). This is interesting because this level of analysis and understanding could be a way to indicate whether a planning application is likely to succeed, prior to submission. It could also be used to identify trends, especially where there is many years worth of data, for example increasing use of the word “porch” could be correlated with changing crime rates, or education levels (note: this is a dreamt up example – not fact). It would also be very interesting to apply the same methodology to other datasets where there is lots of text, with a clearly categorised outcome. I think it’s worth exploring whether this processing could be used against structural surveys, or risk assessments, or social care casenotes, for example.
Phase 2 of the programme began in the Summer of 2014. There were some subtle changes to the design of the programme – the CodeFellows were restructured into two teams – one data team, and one systems team. We also added two more local authorities – Stockport and Tameside, as well as data for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
We identified a further two datasets that we could model and release – business rates, and libraries data. We have also made the decision, based on feedback from phase 1, to use Open Refine to process all the data – this has meant that all 5 authorities will be using the same tool, and we have already started to have sessions where the data people from the authorities are working together, in the same room, on different datasets. Crucially, we are able to share the processes, so that one authority deals with one dataset, then makes the files available on Github. The others can then tweak and localise them, massively reducing the net time and effort we spend processing data.
The authorities now also have access to the staging area of the quad store, which means we can upload data ourselves, and test it in a safe environment.
Phase 2 has also seen collaboration with Leeds Data Mill, where GMDSP is co-hosting events with Leeds, and helping build connections across the Pennines.
We anticipate that more and more of our data will be released through the quad store. Assets, such as parks, community buildings, and defibrillators will all be added. We can then use the data there, and pull it back into our own maps and analyses whenever we need to – as can anyone else. We will also look at publishing quantitative data through the quad store – eg area based counts of referrals to children’s social care, for example.
We will also continue to work together as a group of authorities. We can learn from each other as we look to make better use of our own data. The principles of linked data mean that we could carry out complex, multi-authority data pieces, pulling data from other sources, such as census data.
Finally – longer term aspirations for the programme involve drawing sensor data into the quad store – such as that from smart citizen monitors, increasing the number of partners, and repeatability of the model in other regions/countries.
This post accompanies the lightning talk that I gave at the Leeds Data Mill event – ‘Sport In Numbers – What Makes a Sporting City?’ on the 7th October 2014, although this post does also stand up in its own right… See the slidedeck from the event.
Trafford has a very strong sporting pedigree – Manchester United Football Club, Lancashire County Cricket Club, Altrincham Football Club, and Manchester Phoenix all play home games here. We also have Sale Sharks Rugby Club and Manchester City Football Club who have their training grounds in Trafford, and I reckon I could hit Salford Reds’ Stadium with a stone from the boundary between Trafford and Salford. I’ve also recently learned that Samuel Ryder grew up in Sale. Samuel Ryder donated the Ryder Cup for golf’s only most interesting competition.
Trafford was also a host Borough for the London 2012 Olympics, is an Ashes venue, and is home to the Greater Manchester Marathon – the flattest marathon course in the UK (useful for personal bests, apparently).
To support the Sport and Physical Activity Partnership, to help target resources, and identify needs and opportunities , we decided to use multiple datasets to profile areas in Trafford, creating something that we call ‘The Indices of Sporting Need’ (we actually call it ‘that sport data’, but…), and we definitely need a better name for it.
The index was roughly modelled on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (though with less statistical rigour applied). As such our ISN was built according to these principles:
Indicators must be available at Middle Super Output Area Level
Indicators must measure something which could be affected by increase or reduction in sporting provision
Where possible, data should be open
Data should be clearly referenced, and updated regularly
So we started to go through potential indicators, and came up with this list:
Indices of multiple deprivation score
Childhood obesity (Reception)
Childhood obesity (year 6)
People in not good health
Male life expectancy
Female life expectancy
Participation in sport*
Male deaths from coronary heart disease
Female deaths from coronary heart disease
People in drug and alcohol treatment**
* Denotes the data is a modelled dataset
** Denotes the indicator is locally calculated, not nationally available
The minimum and maximum values for each indicator were calculated, and became 0 and 100. All other values were then converted to a centile score. This gave a coefficient for each indicator that we were able to colour accordingly. We also totalled those scores, to give an overall coefficient.
This overall coefficient was used as the defining value for the choropleth map.
Once the coloured map was ready, and we had the patchwork spreadsheet, we invited the sports foundations in Trafford in to see outcome, and get a feel for whether they felt the model was a good one, and whether the story that the data told felt right. Thankfully, they liked it…
We then added a layer of our known sporting assets to the choropleth, to give an idea of the sorts of sporting provision that already exists.
What was interesting was that in Partington, a town in the West, red MSOA, there is a cluster of points, showing a leisure centre, a sports village, football pitches etc. And yet there is still, according to the model, need. We decided to take this to the Locality Partnership responsible for the West of Trafford, and it would appear that the local population do not use the facilities. The challenge, then, for the Locality partnership is to work out why this is the case, and how we can better connect residents with the available facilities – which is what they are now working on. An example of using open data to inform partners, and change communities.
We think that there are some real opportunities to develop this model, make it a bit more robust, and scale it, across Greater Manchester, or beyond! Following the presentation at Leeds Data Mill’s Sport in Numbers event, we have had discussions with Leeds Data Mill, and with Devon County Council, about scaling the model. As a group, this would be a good test – with Trafford (sort of suburban), Leeds (Urban), and Devon (Rural), different issues will present, such as overcrowding vs distance from a facility.
We have also had early discussions with Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire Community County Sports Partnerships, about potentially using the model to aid priority-setting, and understanding the communities they work in.
We also need to review the indicators that were used to inform the model. I think that there are too many modelled indicators in the list, and I suspect that a proper statto would want to apply weightings to the individual coefficients.
Finally, there are probably things we could do to link to data held by Sport England, and the National Sports Governing Bodies that could really give an amazing view of sporting opportunities, and where they can make a difference.
I think that the important thing to note with this whole concept is that it isn’t perfect, and we know that, but we have started it, and made something that we can build on (hopefully in partnership with others). If you have read this, and want to know more, or get involved, the project will be added to Pipeline, the LocalGovDigital collaboration tool. Or get in touch with me directly, and we can keep building it up. Or, if you know of something that’s already happening in this space, again let us know, and we can might be able to hook it up.
On Wednesday 8th October, I went to an event hosted by Nesta in Holborn, London. The event was pitched as an opportunity to find out more about the opportunities that Digital Social Innovation (DSI) presents. I have written a post previously about DSI, and how we in Local Government could make use of the principles. We reckon that a lot (if not all) of the stuff that comes out of the Lab will fit under DSI, so it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to go and learn more from genuine experts, in what is really a nascent field, especially, seemingly, in the Public Sector.
The afternoon was split into 3 sessions (4 if you count the networking drinkup, which I most certainly do):
1. What do we mean by digital social innovation?
2. Creating digital social organisations
3. Creating the right infrastructure for digital social innovation
There were around 120 people in the room, a few familiar names and faces (from real life, and twitter), but most were unknown to me. As I scanned the list of attendees, I was struck by how few public sector organisations were represented – around 6. I also noted that the room was pretty much 50/50 men and women, which seems to be significant – most of the ‘tech’ events that I go to are man-heavy, and this equal demographic split would suggest that DSI appeals to a broader audience (which is amazing, if it’s the case..!)
1. What do we mean by digital social innovation?
So the event kicked off with Geoff Mulgan, Chief Exec of Nesta, and Peter Baeck, Principal Researcher at Nesta, talking about what exactly Digital Social Innovation is. The definition that I wrote about in that previous post looked at 11 different areas. That (thankfully!) has been streamlined, to 4: Open Knowledge, Open Data, Open Hardware and Open Networks, though still encompassing the same ideas.
There followed a series of lightning talks, from Tomas Diez, of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, who spoke about FabLabs and the opportunities they present to communities, and Smart Citizen sensors (I was at the Manchester launch of these kits at Future Everything’s 2014 conference).
Hannah Keartland was up next. Hannah heads up the Citizen Science unit at Cancer Research UK – and gave a talk about how Cancer Research UK are working with games developers to create cancer research tools that masquerade as games that the public play. Tools like Cell Slider, in conjunction with Zooniverse, and Genes in Space. This was AMAZING! Over 500,000 people have taken part, inadvertently researching cancer cells. Results are consistent with those achieved by actual experts, but 6x faster..!
Dr Laura James, CEO of Open Knowledge (not all open knowledge, just the work of the open knowledge foundation), spoke very eloquently and passionately about open data, and open knowledge. About the open source platform (CKAN) that they provide to governments around the world, including data.gov.uk, data.gov, and our own datagm.org.uk.
After this, the first coffee break was up, and I was looking forward to eating a pile of biscuits (because of a timing issue, I hadn’t had time for lunch). Before I could fill my plate, I was approached by the organiser – Peter Baeck. He told me that one of the speakers for the final session had dropped out. Someone at Nesta had read this blog (not this post, obviously), and liked it, and asked whether I could step in and talk about the Lab. This was a fantastic opportunity for me and the Lab, but meant that I only had one eye on the second session, while I tried to work out what I would say that would add value to the event.
2. Creating digital social organisations
The second panel session was about how DSI can be used to stimulate business growth. The panel were legends in this space – Francine Bennett, from Mastodon C (did the big statins analysis), Jonathan Waddingham, from Just Giving (the charity-enablers), Paul Miller, of Bethnall Green Ventures (Nesta-funded startup accelerator), Dan Sutch, from the Nominet Trust (serious tech funder) and Chris Taggart, from Open Corporates (massively comprehensive open international database of companies).
The general tone of this panel session was that there are people and organisations who are there to help people who think they can grow a business using DSI (Bethnall Green Ventures and Nominet Trust), but that it is hard (Open Corporates and Mastodon C). Francine Bennett also made the point that not everyone is in the start-up space waiting for a venture capitalist to come along and flip the company for millions, which was really nice to hear…
Jonathan Waddingham then told the story of Yimby, a spin off product from JustGiving. JustGiving facilitates donations to charity, but if the cause isn’t a charity, it can’t help. So Yimby (Yes in my back yard) plugs that gap, with a site that supports crowdfunding to make good things happen. A very nice story, interesting also for the fact that the product was developed rapidly, by a team made up of JustGiving staff and externally hired-developers.
3. Creating the right infrastructure for digital social innovation
The third panel session of the day was about infrastructure, and how public sector can help drive DSI forward.
Emer Coleman spoke about TransportAPI, and the way they pull together many transport-related Open Data feeds to create their service. TransportAPI has a free service, and a paid for service, depending on the number of API calls an app makes. They provide the data for over 400 apps, providing travel information to citizens.
Carl Haggerty (from Devon County Council, Chair of Local Gov Digital and winner of the Leadership Excellence award at the Guardian ) spoke about the skills gap in Local Government – that staff aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with digital. He also rightly said that all stakeholders must work together to make a real difference. There was a brief discussion with the crowd on the differences between urban and rural areas, and how perhaps there should be less of a focus on cities.
Finally, I was up. I introduced the (mainly southern) crowd to Trafford, where we are (South-West of Manchester City Centre), who we are (political, organisational, aspirations, demographics), and what we’re doing with DSI. I spoke about Open Data Manchester, and the thriving Open Data Community. I then moved onto the Lab, and our way of working (rapid prototyping, transparent, multi-organisation). I spoke about how we’d started experimenting with Crowdmapping – blue plaques, faith groups), and how we were beginning to try to offer analysis/narrative alongside the data that we make available as open data.
I also explained how I am very aware that though I have a website with ~3,000 pageviews per month, and ~1,000 twitter followers, much of the data, analysis and maps that we make are not reaching people in the communities of Trafford. I then went on to talk about our project with Gorgeous Gorse Hill, visualising data with flowers in the streets around the ward, to try and get people thinking about data and information who wouldn’t normally have any contact with it. I really believe that the more informed people are about the area that they live in, the better equipped they are to improve it, and I think that this is a very nice way to do that.
The formal session was brought to a close, and we reflected on the fact that of the four broad areas of DSI, there is a lot of activity relating to Open Data and Open Knowledge, but less around Open Networks and Open Hardware. This was true of the speakers at the event, and it’s also true of activity in Trafford. We do open data well, and we’re getting on with open knowledge. But for the other two, we’ve started to think about getting hold of a couple of the smart citizen sensors to contribute to the Smart Citizen network. We’ve also had conversations in the Lab about getting a 3D printer, but we’ve really not made any progress. I think to do that – we need to strengthen our links with people that have successfully run projects in these areas. Hopefully further Nesta events will help with those connections.
4. The drink up
The networking drinks were AMAZING! I met the legendary Shirley Ayres – Connected Care, Carrina Gaffney of the The Good Systems Team, Tom Harrison of the London Borough of Hackney, Dalton Coker – cancer analyst from Imperial College, and many others, both there in person, and virtually through twitter.
All in all, a very worthwhile day/night. Learned a lot from the leading experts in this space, was able to bring Trafford and the Lab to a different audience, and had some very stimulating, and thought-provoking conversation…