We chose InstantAtlas as a solution to delivering data to our Children’s Centres who, dispersed around Hertfordshire, are constantly being inspected by Ofsted and require performance data with little or no notice. The sheer volume of Children’s Centres (currently 82) and their data requirements meant that InstantAtlas was the ideal alternative to delivering them on-the-fly, with no concern about them being out of date, which PDF’s could not offer. The PDF’s also required huge manual effort.
Now, we use InstantAtlas Profiles as our core data delivery tool. In the beginning, aside from Children’s Centres, our primary audience were our elected Members who had a varying level of web experience. Some would prefer not to use any form of IT and others could give you a lesson on how to use social media (and have with me)! Our project for the Members was to ‘convert’ the paper Patch Profiles which told them what their constituency was statistically like upon their induction into their new role.
Upon gathering their initial needs for the Patch Profiles project, the story, (which is now almost legend as we have told it so many times!) from our team Manager when he met three senior cabinet figures. One person wanted “Figures, hard data”, another said that they wanted “Pictures, I need to see it all in a graph to see what it actually means” and another wanted to be told in writing what the data said. We resolved from that point on that we would show the same data in three different ways (a graph or chart, some explanatory text and the data table) using InstantAtlas’ Profiles. Using this method, it also made it possible to dynamically author the explanatory text.
Three years on, we have expanded our repertoire of data from Patch Profiles to Community Profiles which covers 9 headline topics and one Summary Profile (http://www.hertslis.org/keyresources/profiles/), some have ‘sub profiles’ where we have too much information to put into one profile to make it digestible. We found that it wasn’t only Members that needed this information, but more so, our Officers, District and Boroughs and the community. We have even had the odd enquiry from nearby colleges wanting to use our data to help with their course planning strategy.
The data has helped our users to win funding bids, inform strategy and policy and to find out where Hertfordshire’s ‘problems’ are, and therefore where investment needs to be made and targeted, therefore saving scarce resources in the process.
Around 80% of enquiries can be satisfied with encouraging our users to self-serve. We would normally point them to our index page (http://www.hertslis.org/keyresources/profiles/), or an appropriate Community Profile and don’t often hear back from them. When we do, it is usually with a surprised thank you. People can’t believe that such a vast array of data is so easily available!
Our next instalments will touch upon the team behind it all – how we are set up, what it takes to keep the 600+ datasets in shape, the projects we are working on, how we promote it to our audience, and more…
Jo Whitlam is a Community Information Intelligence Analyst in the Community Information and Intelligence Unit (CIIU) at Hertfordshire County Council.
Read more about Hertfordshire’s Local Information System – “Using data reporting to turn a data rich resource into useful intelligence for council employees, partner organisations and citizens”.