Open Data


Doing is what makes things better…..

Posted on 3rd June 2014 by

I found this set of thoughts on Wicked Problems (jargon for social problems that are right tricky to solve) and Open innovation   via Andrea Siodmok’s post on twitter.

I’m not convinced by everything here but on the third slide  there was one simple idea which experience tells me is very true…

“You only understand the problem once you try solving it.”

I’ve often found that I set off with the serious intent to solve a problem, but in truth succeed in understanding what we could do better next time. I know that’s a statement of the bleedin’ obvious but it sometimes helps to do that.

This is why iterative change is important.  This is why rolling up your sleeves and doing something, then pausing, reflecting and doing some more is so important.  It’s why community lead solutions can often be very effective and planned top down ones often fail.

So thanks Andrea and Sameer Vasta for helping me clarify that in my head.

More links and things we’ve been up to: Care Data and some other stuff

Posted on 21st March 2014 by

The end of Stirchley Community Centre and some fab social reporting.

We’ve been working to get local volunteers and local officers sharing the changes around Stirchley Baths.  A couple of peopl we taught with out social media surgeries di some cracking social reporting of the last days of the Stirchley Community Centre (closed down because of a Tesco development and being moved to the Stirchley baths site when the work there is done:

Here a link with plenty of videos from Stirchley.   And here’s a video of the Stirchley Stitchers created by the brilliant Jess Allen – who’s natural social reporter.

Bishops Castle and Household Energy, homeless young people and women in Wolverhampton!

Steph has been all over this week – helping out some people starting a social enterprise in Bishops Castle – the Household Energy Service -  and also a group of women as part of the work we’ve been doing with Women of Wolverhampton.    Lloyd Davis has been an loved extension of Podnosh with our work with the Foyer Federation in Stratford,  East London.  Some young people in the E15 Foyer have started a site about life in East London (after a good discussion about ways to build stronger relationships with the local community and potential employers) – although we’ve still to crack the business of getting them publishing between out visits!.

Friends of Brandwood End Cemetery

We worked with fbec a good while a go to help them get a site set up which gave them control over what they could publish.  We also supported them with a number of sessions of one to one help to encourage them to share useful material and share it often.  Sometimes you look away and hope things stick.  I looked back today  and can see how often they’re publishing now – simple things like a notice for the AGM – or a report on a visit from the Lord Mayor.  I wonder if they’ll be bold enough to liveblog their AGM?

How much does it cost to look after people?

Lesley Curtis of the Personal Social services Research Unit in Kent has published this research on the Unit Costs of Health and Social Care 2013>  Only available as a pdf – would be much more useful if the data were available as a spreadsheet.   Potentially useful for Paul Bradshaw’s Help Me Investigate Health.

Unit Cost of Health and Social Care 2013.

The Sprit of BCCDIY rides again – an open data platform in a day in Birmingham

Posted on 20th February 2014 by

 

I often talk to people about BCCDIY.

In 2009 a group of local developers and bloggers got together and built an alternative to Birmingham City Council’s website. They called it BCCDIY.

They wanted to demonstrate that information could be better organised and more easily accessed.  They did it in a day (with some preparation) (you can see a version here) .  The council’s new website had taken one of the countries largest consultancy firms four years and they had charged £2.8 million pounds.

A group of people working on BCC DIY

BCC DIY taking shape in 2009 – image Dan Davies

When I tell public servants and residents about the cost of the council website they gasp. They’re not surprised, but they are angry.  When I tell them about BCCDIY they also gasp – with a sort of mischievous happiness. They are delighted to see people taking things into their own hands and showing where bad decisions lead to wasted money and effort. A councillor involved in spending the £2.8 million pounds response to BCCDIY – when I explained it to them – was “we didn’t have the knowledge.”

Now you do, or you can (come and talk to any local developer – they’ll help you learn).

And now is not the time to repeat the mistake of just doing what the big consultancies tell local government is right.

The lesson of BCCDIY was not learnt when the Library of Birmingham website was built (by the same contractor) for £1.2 million pounds.  I don’t know how much it should have cost – but I’m confident I know local agencies who would have been delighted to deliver it at a sixth of the price and to maintain it for much less than the current annual cost.

So let’s not make a similar mistake a third time, when the council eventually creates a place to put and share Open Data .

On Saturday Simon Whitehouse and some others will be building an Open Data platform for the West Midlands – in a day. You can join in, if you like.   In effect he’ll be doing the equivalent of BCCDIY before a silly sum of money is spent by the public sector…

This is what Simon says about the plan for Saturday:

In Birmingham we are holding an event at Birmingham City University where we are going to set up a West Midlands “Open DataStore In A Day”. The idea is quite simple. Over the day we will set up a website that can hold open datasets and publish what we can find to it. You don’t have to be a technical whizz to take part. Enthusiasm and curiosity are enough to make it worth your while coming along.

We’ll spend the day finding and collecting the data that people are interested in and we’ll put it all together in one place online, in the West Midlands Open Datastore. Once we’ve done that, it makes it all a lot easier to do something useful with.

If somebody can’t find the data that they are interested in then we will help them to write a Freedom Of Information request to ask for it. When those are answered we will add them to the Open Datastore.

I’m really pleased that Data Unlocked, the co-operative venture that I’ve recently helped to co-found, are providing the website for people to work on during the day, and that we will continue supporting it afterwards. We’ve helped to organise the day along with Open Mercia and RnROrganisation.

In Emer Coleman’s recent post about the City as a Platform she says that she has seen quotes of up to £200,000 for Data Platforms. We think that we can do a lot with some free open source software and the goodwill of people volunteering their time and skills.

Emer Coleman goes on to add that any datastore should be deliverable well within a developer budget of £20k.  It seems that  Saturday might  get local authorities in the West mids off to a flying start.