A site about how community groups and charities can make the most of data and open data to do something useful. Focused on Birmingham, relevant everywhere.

A open data surgery in Trafford


Last week the fab Jamie Whyte ran an open data surgery in Trafford…

These are the people he helped and how…

Trafford Centre for Independent Living (CIL)

Trafford CIL provide a support service to the 4,500 or so carers in Trafford. They are preparing to carry out a comprehensive survey of carers in Trafford, and wanted to know if we would want the responses. We spoke about the sorts of data that it would be useful to collect, such as postcode (for geocoding). We also spoke about what we might be able to do with the data, in terms of mapping, etc. The CIL did have concerns that we might take their data, and then sell it (something that we would not do). The outcome of this conversation was that the CIL will send us the questionnaire before they distribute it, to make sure nothing useful is missed, and we will take it from there.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Foundation (LGBTF)

We spoke about the fact that the LGBTF have LOTS of data, but it tends to be at a national level. We had a good long chat about how we might turn this national data into local data, probably by starting off using the same proportions that are reported nationally to get an idea of expected numbers. We then spoke about how we might carry out specific projects, in conjunction with the LGBTF, to identify local communities. Andrew from the LGBTF shared this (very good) document with me, GM Building Health Partnerships and we agreed that we should get together outside of the surgery, to discuss how we might work together.


Luxson are a company who have recently moved into The Fuse, in Partington. They wanted to get an understanding of the Partington area, so that they could better help the community. We spoke about the area profiles that we are developing, the very first part of which can be seen here. Lydia from Luxson agreed to be part of the test group as we develop the profiles.

First Asian Support Trust (FAST)

FAST offers support and advice to Asian communities, with a particular focus on the Old Trafford area. They had an idea for a project that would support Asian women to get jobs, and wanted to understand the ethnic make-up of Old Trafford. We spoke about the census and how there is a detailed breakdown of ethnicities and languages, and that that might be of use to the group. We also spoke about the potential of using the school census as a more up-to-date way of gauging ethnic composition of different areas. We said we’d send Linda from FAST the Census data, and take it from there.

Trafford Hard of Hearing group (THHG)

We spoke about the service that THHG provide – helping people who are hard of hearing to access lip-reading training, advice on using hearing aids, etc. They were interested in understanding where the groups potential clients would be – eg how they can tap into referral data from audiology departments of hospitals. We spoke about personally identifiable data, and how we wouldn’t be able to pass that on. We did mention that we might be able to aggregate location data to, for example Ward. We also explained the demographic data that we have available, and that we can tell the group where there are higher proportions of over 60s, an area of focus for THHG.

Community Allotment, Trafford Compass

We had an open chat about mental health and how the data that we can access and release can be used to help other services understand and target mental health support.

Art With a Heart

Great discussion with Karen about the place of Art in society. From a data point of view, we helped convert hours of volunteering into a cash equivalent, using minimum wage, plus 20%. We also spoke about which secondary schools offer arts subjects at GCSE and A-Level, and we agreed to look into this. We also said that we should be able to categorise and release Trafford’s voluntary sector grants and Trafford Housing Trust’s Community Panel funding, to show proportionate giving to art/culture projects.

Trafford Housing Trust / Friends of Coppice Library

One of the pieces of work that we had carried out was a profile of the area around Coppice Library, to support the new friends Group, and BlueSci. Dan from Trafford Housing Trust asked for this piece of work, which we’ll send. We also spoke very briefly about how the report was quite high level, and that we could tailor the data to his specific needs.

Collaborative Women

Collaborative Women are an organisation working with vulnerable women. They couldn’t stay, but they did give me this…

Note with open data requests on


Helping David Owen find the data he needs to make unattached playing fields in Birmingham more useful and more used.l


Earlier today Steph Clarke and I had a chat with David Owen of Friends of Spring Lane in Birmingham.

Sprin Lane playing fields in Erdington

Spring Lane is what is know as an “unattached playing field” (not attached to a specific school – although there for the sporting use of primary schools in Birmingham).  Spring lane once had numerous maintained pitches – including the two pitches you might be able to see on google earth.  It also had three changing rooms.  David and the other in the friends are hoping to revive the site for organised sport.    This is , briefly, what David said he is hoping to achieve…

He’d approached us because of the work we’ve being doin g to introduce data and open data skills to community groups through the social media surgeries.


So what was he after?  Information on

Health outcomes in an around this and other playing fields in Erdington. Perry Barr and Hodge Hill.

Crime statistics

Unemployment statistics

Training and skills information.

We pointed him in the direction of work we’ve already done with other groups helping them find what they need, or a starting point for what they need.  Here are some links we shared with him

This explains what Local super output areas are and how you might use them:

and this on using LG inform plus and its natural neighbourhoods to get broad brush data on neighbourhoods you can define yourself – including population and some health information.
which you can create your own here:
And look at other LSOA data around the Indices of Deprivation, making it easier for him to compare neighbourhoods and communities
Police data (maps):
Birmingham Data Factory:
Doorda – multiple maps – inc food places:
Freedom of information requests in public!
We also pointed him at the current Birmignham City Council open data consultation, in case there was something specific he’s looking for.
He was very enthused with the help that was available and the data there – and has some decent spreadsheet skills of his own.  So we were pleased to see that the approaches taken with other groups and blogged about here make sense for him.


How can community groups use open data for Big Local and Our Place


This is a practical run through of  something we picked up through a  question Becky Picklin asked us.  She works as the small groups officers for Dudley CVS and wondered if open data might help their support for Big Local in East Coseley

We first had a look at possibilities in the surgery at Stourbridge on 23rd February where Becky said we helped her

to find sources of data: doodad, LG inform. We had a hands on go at forming a natural neighbourhood (within the parameters of super output areas!) and hopefully that will provide useful data for that neigbourhood and community groups which work with people in that neighbourhood. The more you drill down, the more you get asked about what kinds of data you’ve got, so it;s important to stay focused and keep it simple.

We met again a few week later to do more than tinker. We set up a ‘natural neighbourhood to cover East Coseley.  A  natural neighbourhood is one tool where you can define your own neighbourhood on a map using super output area” and then colelct government data about that neighbourhood.

This is a quick video- scroll down this blog post for how we created the natural neighbourhood.  You can do the same for yours.


Natural neighbourhoods is part of a suite of open data tools being pulled together by the Local Government Association called LGInform plus.  It is quite focussed on local government but useful to all sorts of people.

Becky created this map – the dark green area is the neighbourhood she’s interested in and the data relates to just those areas) which presented her with these statistical report(s) for the neighbourhood she’s working in.  Basic facts about East Coseley (DRAFT) Big Local (DRAFT) and  Mapping health and healthcare provision in Dudley, with a focus on East Coseley (DRAFT) Big Local (DRAFT)  with data from



East Coseley Big Local in natural Neighbourhoods

East Coseley Big Local in natural Neighbourhoods

If these are useful for you here’s how to do it for where you live/work

First create got to  http://neighbourhoods.esd.org.uk/  and account on LgInformplus – you probably don’t want to become a subscriber (that cost money and has extra advantages, is aimed at local authorities)  but you do need to create a login. It only take a few minutes.



You’ll find a page with a drop down menu on the left – choose the local authority area you live – or rather want to make the map of (we found that you can’t work across local authority boundaries with this tool –  tell us in the comments please if we’re wrong, because it would be fab to be able to do that).  If you don’t know what local authority area you’re in use this postcode tool

Becky chose Dudley


and created a type of map – in this case she chose to call it Big Local.  ( we weren’t clear why you need to create a type of map – but you do (it can help group things)


You get a friendly congratulations….


Next you need to create you neighbourhood –

this is why you’re using the tool.  You click on “super output areas”  (these are the smallest area of your  community that the government keeps a range of statistics for, usually just a few streets) to create a neighbourhood that’s as close to the one you care about as possible.

Here Becky is trying to match the the map that exists on the Local trust website.

It only take a few minutes… building up the map but rember to save as you go along.


and you’ll have to compromise ….


Once you’ve established the neighbourhood and saved it you need to Publish It…  On the right hand side near the bottom is the publish this button.Natural_neighbourhoods_13

So where’s my data !

It won’t appear immediately – come back in24 hours and you should get reports that show


What will I get – here are the reports from East Coseley….

click here to download this one.

Have a go and let us know if it works for you.

Open Government License. Basic facts about Dudley