Call me an old romantic if you will, but I like nothing more than trawling through a good old data set on Valentine’s day. There’s a simple reason for this and that is that good service delivery needs to be evidence based; nothing says “I love you” quite like developing services that actually address the well evidenced needs and desires of local people and capitalise fully on local resources. Evidence and data in this sense are interchangeable. A record of the fact that we have an empty community hall on Friday mornings is data, as is knowledge of a nascent voluntary group looking for a venue (hopefully you can see where this is going). A more traditional conception of data is perhaps represented in this table derived from the 2011 census data which gives reported general health by ethnic group in Lewisham. All three could be put to good use in developing a new service with a health-focus for the local community.
As a Community Development Worker, access to data and its effective interpretation and implementation are of paramount importance to me as a I go about my work. But I want to stress that this doesn’t mean sitting down in front of spreadsheets all day long – it also means going out and visiting groups and venues, putting faces to email addresses and gaining a thorough and human understanding of who is working to deliver services, what their motivations and visions are, and how they go about it.
Between these two extremes there is a wealth of information available for free and presented in intuitive and accessible formats that can help people who are thinking about services and service delivery to work effectively. This ward atlas by http://data.london.gov.uk/ is a great example. A few clicks and you can generate a map of Lewisham indicating the population density of the over-65 age group:
(Note how the density increases gradually from the north to the south of the borough).
You can imagine for yourself how this kind of information could be put to use by a local authority or by local people working to support each other. Powerful, wouldn’t you say?
We also live in the era of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) produced by Local Authorities in conjunction with local NHS bodies and by which many priorities in terms of funding and commissioning of services are set. Anyone thinking about a new service or developing an existing one would be foolish to ignore their local JSNA and the local priorities identified therein. Having said that the priorities identified in the JSNA in Lewisham are wide ranging and could be interpreted to include almost any illnesses (“reduce the number of emergency admissions for people with chronic long term conditions” and “improve mental health and wellbeing” are just 2 of the 9 priorities in Lewisham) – so organisations looking for funding can and should be considering how their projected outcomes fit in with these priorities.
And yes, here at Community Connections we are generating our own data sets. Most interesting will be the work our facilitators have been doing to uncover the most significant unmet needs in the borough (see my previous post: Could you be a befriender? – and there will be more to come) but also on the development side of the project we are working towards developing maps like this that give a broad overview of services in one corner of the borough.
So what sources of data do you use that I could access? Is there anything else available in Lewisham? I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Post by Henry