These are the notes of the steering group meeting held on Wednesday 28th November 2018 at Lightwoods House in Sandwell MBC

ATTENDED BY:         Pauline Roche – Chair              (RnR Organisation)

Glyn Simpson                          (TfWM)

Chris Price – Secretary             (digiconsultancy)

Darren Wright                         (Inside Outcomes)

Ted Ryan                               (RnR Organisation)

Teresa Jolley                          (DEFT153)

Nic Cary                                 (Waysphere)

Marcia Sandel‑Massey              (Sandwell MBC)

Tim Healey                             (Coventry CC, Public Health)

Xavier Schmoor                       (BCU, Big Data Corridor)

Nick Garrett                            (Sandwell MBC)

Ebony Hemmings                    (Sandwell Digital Champion)

Nathan Coyle                          (New Union)

APOLOGIES:             Si Chun Lam                           (Coventry CC)

Charlotte Johns                       (Wolverhampton CC)

Ravi Kumar                            (Black Country Consortium)

Charles McCay                        (Ramesys Systems)

Jennifer Brake                         (Wolverhampton CC)

D Piparia

Simon Whitehouse                   (Data Unlocked)

  1. The Notes of the last meeting of 26thSeptember 2018 were agreed.

There was no news about the appointment of a WMCA CIO/CDO.  PR would raise in future correspondence with Andy Street.

A revised action plan for 2019 will be formed at the next meeting.

A further future item is the use of published data sets and what is needed for the future.

It was understood that Peter Bishop’s review of open data for Birmingham CC had been completed.  A copy for the website would be requested.  (Subsequently, Peter confirmed that there was a document but it was not yet approved for public release.)


The response to the consultation about the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation was expected.  (This has been located.  WMODF was cited as a respondee in Appendix 3.)

Action:    CP to publish report on WMODF website.

ODI Node:  HR was leaving Innovation Birmingham at the end of November; the new contact would be Katharine Fuller.  TJ reported that ODI HQ was helping with the sharing of transport data – an example of co‑operative working between a node and HQ.  PR reported that she was still lobbying for a name change for the node to reflect a wider regional perspective.

Action:    PR to contact Katharine Fuller re future Innovation Birmingham involvement and support to WMODF.

Re Open Data Day 2019 on Saturday, 2nd March, PR proposed that WMODF continued to organise a linked event on the day before, Friday, 1st March.  As she would be unable to lead it this year, TR, with NCa, NCo and TJ, agreed to organise it.  Innovation Birmingham, the Big Data Corridor in BCU, or Dudley were potential hosts.

Action:    Open Data Day event on Friday, 1st March to be organised by TR, NCa, NCo and TJ.

TJ reported that the Data Discovery Centre was making good progress and they were building its membership.  She mentioned that she had been shortlisted for the Women in Innovation awards and would be interviewed 11th/12th December.

The Data4Good conference on 14th November was attended by 240 people.  PR circulated the programme, which involved 6 key speakers, 10 breakout sessions, 5 lightning talks.  Half of the participants fed back their views, predominantly positive.  DW and TR confirmed the value of such an event bringing together people from across the country.

TH (for SCL) reported that Coventry was recruiting a Power BI analyst to help put data into a format that can be used by people in the community – moving closed data sources to open, for example, through the use of Open Street Map.

A discussion ensued about whether there were community activists/data analysts waiting to use the local data.  The skilled data community wanted wider, scalable applications.  The naivety of David Cameron’s Big Society initiative was mentioned.  It ignored the role of the Voluntary Sector in which large charities employed analysts and smaller groups often had only enthusiasm.  Small organisations had information (but not organised in data form) and no processes to bring it into the public realm – there was no funding available.

TH proposed that public contracts needed to include a requirement to collect and publish data.  Perhaps the requirement to collect information for performance reporting could provide a basis.  PR pointed out that there was a skill gap.  Data from the voluntary sector could identify preventive care avoiding/delaying residential care for adults and for children.

Where was the demand for data?  TJ mentioned the need of journalists for local data linked to national stories such as with Bureau Local.  DW questioned why the publication of data was perceived to be costly.


Nathan Coyle made a Powerpoint presentation about iSandwell.  Although there was a Sandwell digital strategy, this did not include a strategy for Open Data.  iSandwell emerged from collaboration between the Council, community organisations and residents and covers three areas:

  • Training – Sandwell Academy
  • Funding – v i festival and data tools –
  • Consultation – undertaken across the 6 towns re digital skills e.g. iSandwell Camp

They are holding iSandwell Labs, asking people/organisations about their interest in data – outcomes are summarised in the PowerPoint.

Sandwell Council also publishes Sandwell Trends (, which shares information about the district.  Short‑term goals include completing community consultation and encouraging community engagement through the Digital Champions; creating an open data steering group in the Council; improving the iSandwell digital platform.

Action:    Look at Sandwell Trends analytics to see usage trends – NG/MSM

At present they are just opening the conversation.  Given the lack of funding, the challenge is to create an eco‑system for sustainable data access and use across the region.

This led to a conversation about developments elsewhere in the region, eg Dudley and Walsall.  What opportunity is there for a regional approach encouraged by WMCA?  How can the use of data and the development of appropriate skills be promoted and justified?  How do we build from a current position of informal sharing through social media and one‑off concerns raised with Councils?  Do people want to do it themselves or just leave the issues to their Council?  What can WMODF do to share expertise and experience?  How can the fears of officers about sharing data be addressed, eg open data = FoI?  DW reminded members of the free access to the video he had created (on website); PR wondered how open data activities could be benchmarked across the Authorities, in a gentle way. TR said councils should welcome democratic dialogue.


PR outlined the changes made by the ‘drop‑in’ sprint.  We wanted to make the website as useful as possible – did the listing of data sources add value?

DW believed shared examples through blog posts were effective.  A Slack channel had been created for WMODF and members were encouraged to join to share brief conversations.

Actions:  DW to write to offer membership of Slack.  NCo offered to write blog post re iSandwell.


Following the presentation by Peter Bishop in Birmingham at the previous WMODF meeting, a bid was made to the MHCLG Local Digital Fund to research the demand for, and benefits of, local data.  The Expression of Interest passed the first phase and a substantive bid had been made involving Birmingham (as lead), Leicester, Wolverhampton, WMODF, RnR, and the ODI node.  A response was expected in the following week for a project to be completed by the end of March (£64k requested).  If successful other WMODF members could become involved. NG said Sandwell would be happy to support the bid.

Action:    Bid & feedback to be published on website.


NCo:  Data Brew workshop is being held in Wolverhampton on 14th December.

GS:  APIs are being expanded by TfWM to move transport data directly to Google.

XS:  Is seeking contacts in creative agencies that are using open data in/for the creative sector.  Help, please, by sending him contacts. Suggestions were BOM, Beatfreeks (Doink), Chris Unitt

EH:  Requested any open data case studies.  PR agreed to circulate an email.

TR:  Is exploring a constituency community hack in Hall Green.

NG:  Is working with Wolverhampton on Adult Social Care information.


There was no AOB.

Dates for next year proposed to be Wednesdays: 23/1, 27/3, 22/5, 24/7, 25/9, 27/11.

Councils/agencies invited to propose hosting a meeting.  The January meeting is likely to be in Birmingham.

Potential future agenda items – Open Data Day 2019, use of transport data released by TfWM, Big Data Corridor outcomes.

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