Empowering local communities to make better decisions
Rochdale Borough Councils’ Research & Intelligence Team is part of the Policy & Research Team in the council’s Performance & Development Service. Its main function is to provide research and intelligence to the council, LSP partners, the voluntary sector and members of the public.
The team provides data, analysis, mapping and outcome information across a range of partner organisations. This intelligence provides evidence of need, neighbourhood analysis and information provision on disadvantaged groups. This ensures that the LSP continues to use a sound and coherent evidence base for policy.
Rochdale Borough Council developed its own Local Information System in 2004. This was a custom-built system. However, after several years the council realised it needed one with better functionality and increased value for money because the existing system could no longer meet the needs of the LSP partners. Partner organisations needed a reliable and accurate information service allowing them to plan services, research neighbourhoods, and develop area profiles. The partners were seeing an ever expanding demand for robust evidence to help them plan and inform service provision. A quick and easy way to access a wide range of information was needed which was available to anyone, not just the experts. The option was to either upgrade the existing system, or buy in an off-the-shelf package. The council looked at cost of current system and compared its functionality with software from other providers. The cost-benefit analysis revealed that InstantAtlas in particular offered better functionality and improved value for money. In addition, the council recognised it would be buying into an evolving system – which would avoid the cost incurred every time it wanted to develop its bespoke system. The deciding factor was the level of support that was on offer from InstantAtlas.
Meeting the need
The third sector had been the catalyst for the decision to create Stats and Maps (http://www.statsandmaps.org.uk/) and it was realised that it needed to provide training workshops in the community, to help the organisations that needed help the most. The council partnered with the local CVS PC training scheme which was set up to help those without computers, gain access and understand computing basics. The workshops have proved very popular. Matt France, Customer Insight Analyst, Research and Intelligence Rochdale MBC, thinks Stats and Maps is empowering local communities to make their own decisions.“We’ve had a positive reaction from community groups and Stats and Maps is definitely seen as a good resource for local people,” he says. The Research & Intelligence Team also run events to showcase the site, helping local people understand how to use the site - from simple mapping to complex statistics. The team is also planning to take the site into local schools for use in geography and maths classes, to help children to understand local neighbourhoods better.
Making the project work
The council set up a project team to implement a website solution which consisted of experts in the fields of Information Technology, Geographical Information Systems and Research & Intelligence. The Rochdale Interagency Information Group (RIIG) was set up to act as a steering group and wider project team. A wide range of partners from the voluntary and community sector also helped steer the project from the outset and made sure the needs of local community groups were going to be met. Throughout the development, the team has worked constantly with local community and voluntary organisations, to help them and their members to get the best out of Stats and Maps. Stats and Maps can also be used to show the public how the council is performing on the national indicator set and local indicators for performance. Matt France believes that giving people local information to challenge what the council is doing is an important function of the website.
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Other InstantAtlas local authority stories and reports that will interest you
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Cumbria Intelligence Observatory - Bringing consistency to statutory assessment through online data visualisation
Coventry City Council - ‘Developing a centralised information hub that gives LSP partners the intelligence they need’
Wolverhampton in Profile - How Wolverhampton’s Local Information System is driving consistency of data use and helping deliver evidence-based strategic planning
Staffordshire Data Observatory - Giving local strategic partners the data they need to make commissioning decisions in a customisable format
Liverpool PCT - How Liverpool PCT is using data presentation to improve access to its Joint Strategic Needs Assessment
Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership - How data presentation is helping Connexions get a better understanding of hotspots for youth unemployment and training needs