D: Best use of public data
The ‘Quality of Life in Warwickshire’ report provides an accessible and comprehensive annual snapshot of how quality of life in the county compares with elsewhere. It highlights the trends over time in factors that really contribute to the lives of Warwickshire’s residents, and has been produced every year since 2000.
The report uses publicly available data throughout and looks at a wide range of demographic, social, economic and environmental themes. Some of the issues explored can be influenced by the council, whilst others not.
It is not a performance report for the County Council. Its core purpose is to provide decision makers with the up-to-date and sound analysis, evidence, and intelligence needed to make informed choices and decisions, and to give both the council and partner agencies (including the Police, NHS, and other local public services) a better understanding of the local communities that the public sector in Warwickshire serve.
Within the County Council, the Quality of Life Report has grown immensely to become one of the cornerstones of our business planning and commissioning processes, and it forms a vital tool in ensuring that policy decisions made locally are based on the most up to date data, evidence and intelligence.
Warwickshire’s Quality of Life 2012/13 report meets the criteria of category D, ‘Best Use of Public Data’ because its primary purpose is to provide decisions makers with better intelligence about Warwickshire, its local areas, and its communities, through the consideration of a range of indicators from publically available, mostly secondary, data.
The report includes data from a vast array of sources including the census, public health, education, economic and labour market information, publicised consultation results, complemented with local data from council services and partner agencies where available.
For well over a decade now the key objective of the ‘Quality of Life in Warwickshire’ report has been to provide a vital part of the evidence base on which decisions about the future direction for the county have been made. It is highly regarded, respected, and quoted by local decision makers in the public, private, and voluntary sectors who require an evidence base to underpin improving the quality of life for all of Warwickshire’s residents.
Within the County Council, the ‘Quality of Life in Warwickshire’ report is one of the essential tools in our planning and commissioning processes and it forms a vital aid in ensuring that the policy decisions we make are based on the most up to date data, evidence and intelligence. Local partners make similar use of the report.
A secondary objective has been to make the analysis and intelligence available in a way which is easily digestable and understandable to a variety of audiences, some of which are not necessarily familiar or comfortable working with data or statistics, and in some cases are even afraid of doing so.
In terms of impact, our most recent report was subject of a thorough discussion by our top management team, prompted an hour long debate of the issues in our December Full Council, underpins our new corporate business planning process, has been disseminated to all staff, has been presented at locality meetings with the public, discussed locally in partnership meetings in each of our districts/boroughs, and attracted considerable media attention.
Some of the key messages from the most recent report have prompted the commissioning of further more in-depth research to better understand how these issues, such as growing inequalities in some local communities, are playing out in Warwickshire and how they should be influencing priorities at both a county and more local level.
Both innovation and partnership working has enabled the report to make use of local data in both the data visualisations and in our Local Information System. Readers now also have access to a wide range of data that they have not had previously, including publically available information but also local information on crime, anti-social behaviour, education and health. Much of this is now contributed by partners.
We have also used new techniques to visualise the data, such as our Horizon Charts of unemployment by locality (using Claimant Count data) and our Warwickshire Tube Map of deprivation (using IMD 2010 data).This is a report we’ve produced for a number of years and each year the team considers ways in which we could improve it for our customers, based on engagement with them.
This year’s report included eye-catching data visualisations and interactive mapping that enables readers to explore further with both the data and the messages emerging from the report in a visual and user-friendly way. For readers that want to explore issues in more depth, we now give the ability to access and interrogate all of the raw data behind the report so they are able to carry out their own analysis and interpretation.
Lessons for LARIA members:
– Understand the needs of your decision makers but also their capacity, ability, and expertise in using data, to ensure your work has value, impact, and importantly, is used.
– Engage with your audience around how they use your work, so that you can build on and improve the end product.
– Try new things in presenting and visualising public data. Have some fun.
– Its public data – identify what it is you are going to do that is different to how ONS, Government Departments and other agencies may present the same data.
Two highly acclaimed recent innovations:
Each section of the report starts with an eye-catching visualisation to make the report more engaging and stimulate interest in the subsequent key messages.
An ‘Interactive Map’ tool allows the reader to explore all of the local data for each theme.