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.

How using better data and being better informed can get you more of what you need


It matters when what you do changes something – this was a tweet from last month…

Yes that’s not a guarantee of change, but it’s evidence of a big step towards it.

Lisa Trickett is Marcus Belben’s local councillor.

Earlier this month Steph Clarke spend some time with Marcus  at the social media surgery we hold for Moseley and Kings Heath.  This is what Marcus said they covered:

Using data from doorda, crashmap, police.uk and road-collisions dft to find out and represent info on road safety and crime for a community group. Steph very helpful and explained clearly the sources available and how we could use in future.

Among other things he’s interested in, Marcus puts a lot of energy into make local streets safer, partly by trying to slow down traffic and also by encouraging more people to use the streets. Marcus is already pretty savvy with social media and has himself helped others at the surgeries and uses it to campaign for improvement:


He blogged about what they looked at together:

We have been documenting probems ourself (see our journeys to school, 1 (Arthur’s), 2 (Me, Jago and Freya), & 3(from 2013)) but data freely available online has really made the difference to prove the need for change.  Thanks to Podnosh and their Kings Heath and Moseley social media surgery, we’ve been able to access all the information we need for this, and pretty much anything else.

Marcus plans to use the information to also be better informed when talking to local police and council officers.  So one open data social media surgery has provided one group with enough extra info to hopefully influence their local council to slow down traffic on a road they consider dangerous.

Is that enough?  Of course it is, for now.

The whole point of the open data work we’re doing with the community groups who come to the social media surgeries is to help them achieve more. Those achievements can be big, but in reality they tend to be small, incremental progress.  That’s a good thing, because small improvements not only make the places we live in better, they are often easier to accomplish, so they can lead to lots of small ways we can build better relationships with public servants, politicians and other active citizens.

Consistency and Collaboration for Data Collection around Niche areas of Commuunity



I wrote previously about standardisation of data collection – being consistent on how data is collected, but now I’ve come across an interesting issue, not HOW  but WHAT data is collected.

Working with Birmingham LGBT we were trying to find data that could help them to target their support, they were particularly looking for older members of the LGBT community as these are the people that are often most in need of support.

We started looking around to see if we could find any information that gave any hint as to where to start looking – and we quickly ran into a problem that they had experienced time and time again. While age based data is widely available, data on sexual orientation, or sexual identity is much harder to find.


Because it is not uncommon for LGBT groups to encounter this problem they have started collaborating to bring useful data together on their Evidence Exchange

Any research that groups have done, or that they have found that they think is useful for others  is uploaded and the stats assigned to different topics and subtopics making it easier to search.

Groups collaborating in this way are making it easier for the LGBT community to find the facts and figures they need to evidence funding bids and to support their work. But while collaboration is a good thing if there was a consistent way data was collected then there would be no need for them to duplicate work that has already been done as the answers they need would be available with everything else.


Data for Journey Planning



I have a 17 mile commute to work that passes through a minimum of 4 local authority areas. Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Birmingham. In the last few months junction 9 of the M6 has been closed so I have been travelling to work along alternative routes and it’s really come to my attention just how many road works are taking place. How disruptive it is. And how hard it is to find out where these works are taking place without digging through the depths of each individual boroughs websites.

So when another road by closed that affected my commute and was still closed well after the advertised reopening date I started asking around on twitter if anyone knew when the road was likely to be accessible.

One of the people who replied happens to be a travel correspondent for  a local radio station and he pointed me the direction of roadworks.org.


Road Works Mapped

Roadworks.org is a website that aggregates and maps ongoing road works. They collect data from the street works systems of local authorities that have signed up to the service, and provide live updates for anyone looking to use it.

The map is customisable to show different  types of incidents, restrictions and road works…

Roadworks.org customise


It is searchable down to street level, and individual incidents can be expanded to show more details:



But even better (for me at least) when combined with Googles Traffic Data which is one of the custom options you can see in real time how traffic is flowing around those works and plan your journey to suit.

Road works and Traffic data



And finally it’s all in one place, no more having to trawl through multiple sources to try and find a route to work!