These are the notes of the steering group meeting held on Wednesday 23rd of January 2019 at Innovation Birmingham

ATTENDED BY:         Pauline Roche – Chair              (RnR Organisation)

Heike Schuster‑James              (BCU)

Ted Ryan                               (RnR Organisation)

Chris Price – Secretary             (digiconsultancy)

Charles McCay                        (Ramsey Systems)

Tim Healey                             (Coventry CC, Public Health)

Darren Wright                         (Inside Outcomes)

Tony Bhajam                          (Doink)

APOLOGIES:             Gareth Davies                         (Data Brew)

Teresa Jolley                          (DEFT153)

Bethan Bishop                         (Aliciyo)

Charlotte Johns                       (Wolverhampton CC)

D Piparia

Glyn Simpson                          (TfWM)

Heather Clarke                        (Wolverhampton CC)

Marcia Sandel‑Massey              (Sandwell MBC)

Si Chun Lam                           (Coventry CC)

Jennifer Brake                         (Wolverhampton CC)

Nathan Coyle                          (New Union)

Peter Bishop                           (Birmingham CC)

Raj Mack                                (Birmingham CC)

  1. The Notes of the last meeting of 28thNovember 2018 were agreed.

Introductions: Charlie McCay (Ramsey Systems) works on health data, modelling and data simulations.  One aim was to produce model hospital data to enable internal comparisons.  Although not available openly at present, this could be beneficial, eg to suppliers.  Tim Healey is a Public Health data analyst with Coventry City Council.  Heike Schuster‑James works with BCU linking academia and the real world with regard to intelligent systems/AI.  She mentioned that the university had flipped the curriculum such that in the first year students worked on practical projects and receive the theory later.  Each year they had an Innovation Fest featuring the work of 3rd‑year students with industry.  Pauline Roche (RnR) mentioned the data journalism course led by Paul Bradshaw which she was undertaking in BCU.  RnR had been a partner in the recent national Data4Good conference. Ted Ryan leads on asset-based community development for RnR. Tony Bhajam (Doink) humanises data through research and evaluation.

PR reported that she had met Kath Fuller of Innovation Birmingham who had taken over liaison with WMODF from Hugo Russell.  She had offered continuing support for WMODF and mentioned that Innovation Birmingham was willing to front grant applications for any group/project where the funding was 100%.

TH reported that Coventry had been unable to recruit an analyst with Power BI skills so had appointed a consultant who will start on Friday.  Coventry are trying to create an open source intelligence hub into which all information would be stored through Power BI in order to support direct access from localities/neighbourhoods.  They are using the ESD toolkit, into which data is loaded and then API’d out.

The focus changed to ‘useful data sets’.  TB talked about how to make data more understandable and was working to make data on Brum Youth Trends available, accessible and understandable.  He is working with Bromsgrove on Arts and Culture issues and mentioned the challenges of locating data in smaller authorities.  TH wished NHS would open up more of their data.  CMc referred to aggregated data which was available.  HS‑J mentioned that the Department of Work and Pensions have created APIs to release data as follows:

BCU did release some student data openly.  There was reference to the data assets that existed in local authorities which were collected for government returns.  Generally these were not open but could be accessed after collection by central government.  CMc believed that if the data definitions used by public authorities were more easily available, it would be easier to identify which data sets were useful for other purposes.

TR reflected on the difficulty of interpreting data – higher levels of giving in Sparkbrook than in Sutton on 360Giving’s Grantnav did not imply Sutton needed higher public funding.  PR mentioned FoIs which are open and referenced the helpful site –  TH mentioned the NHS RightCare site while DW highlighted that accountability data was collected and available but functional data, eg where parking exists and its costs was more difficult to access.


Data Discovery Centre:  TJ was unable to attend but had circulated the following update:  The West Midlands Data Discovery Centre (DDC) opened on 7th January 2019, as planned.  The venue, until 31st March 2019, is Serendip at Innovation Birmingham.  DDC is running a series of projects for clients to showcase at Traffex on 2nd‑4th April 2019.  One is with James Gleave to help scope out his Mobility Policy Lab to transform transport planning with user‑centred design and social good/value built in.  Unfortunately no funding was received through the InnovateUK Women in Innovation Awards, but one of the assessors, Peter Head, wants to help commercialise the Data Discovery Centre.

DW fed back that the bid to the MHCLG Local digital fund had failed – key reasons were lack of clarity of the role of partners and the size of the funding requests.  The bid and feedback are available on the website (  There may be an opportunity to rebid as the issue of the realities and benefits of user engagement were clearly of interest as they had requested that the EoI be expanded into a full bid.  HS‑J emphasised the value of making contact with the officers responsible for such funds.

Local Authorities:  Wolverhampton had emailed information about a potential research project with BCU and TfWM, focusing on the use of data from CCTV, drones, dash cams, and data streams.  Data Brew had circulated a note re their involvement with Wolverhampton.  On 18th January, Wolverhampton CC had hosted Data Brew’s ‘Open Data for Everybody’ session – an overview of open data to social activists and third sector, covering what open data is, why it is important and what can be done with it.  The session also covered information and examples of where it is being used effectively, where best to find it across the UK and the type of people and organisations that use it.  Post‑session feedback showed a large majority expressed interest in demographic statistics, predominantly health, crime, unemployment, housing, and financial, and over 50% made specific indication of using data within their own organisations as evidence for writing bids and funding applications with a view to improving neighbourhood services and helping innovate new ideas.  Almost 90% of attendees regard it as important or very important to improve awareness of open data to third sector in Wolverhampton.

HS‑J mentioned a BCU bid to the Engineering and Physical Science Data Council to develop new machine learning approached through game theory.

PR mentioned an invitation to an event hosted by the Community Safety Partnership on the topic of violence.  Harry Stanton had written, identifying a lack of involvement of those with data analyst skills.  As the meeting was to be held on the next day (24th Jan) no nominee to attend was identified but PR agreed to respond, emphasising WMODF interest and asking whether the partnership would like to join WMODF.

Action:    PR to respond to Community Safety Partnership.

It was noted that Simon Whitehouse was working for the Open Data Services Co‑operative on issues of Open Data contracting.

An update on the ODI node would be made at the next meeting.

Action:    PR/TJ to update at the next meeting.


It had been agreed at the previous meeting that our annual Open Data Day event would take place on Fri Mar 1st. Katharine Fuller has agreed to host it at Innovation Birmingham. TR, TJ and NC are leading on this.

UPDATE: The booking page for the event is here

  1. PLAN FOR 2019

Following a brief review of the successes of 2018, PR led a brief session to identify targets for 2019.

The action plan will be available on the WMODF website

DW believed it would be an important step to identify a single area of information across the region (eg swimming pool opening times) and demonstrate how this dataset could be collected and the potential usage.  CMc agreed the value of such an activity but wanted to be clear about who wanted to use the data to be collected.  HS‑J remarked that often the main beneficiaries were the service owners rather than the users; maybe the question should be: what really bugs you and how could open data help?  TH noted that service professionals could be experts in their specialism but often were ignorant of data analysis – Public Health was one of the exceptions.  From the discussion, it was agreed that a demonstration project would be useful and this would be discussed at a future meeting.

Action:    CP to put demonstration project on future agenda.


HS‑J mentioned that an event was planned with DWP, Wolverhampton CC, Microsoft and Newcastle University looking at skills and employability.  She is the project co‑ordinator and invited analysts and skills providers to engage and help develop the event, eg widening the focus to Mental Health and unemployment.  Microsoft will hold data securely from different sources and enable analysis of combinations of data.

TH mentioned that, linked to the City of Culture, Coventry wishes to identify data to be gathered to demonstrate impact.  His group are pressing for all this data to be open.

TJ is sub‑contractor to ODI HQ providing expert advice and guidance on data sharing in transport.  First tangible link with ODI Birmingham node, thanks to Mike Rose (ODI Biz Dev).

TB had a longer‑term aim to publish West Midlands Youth trends – what data/what platform?

PR suggested Youth data should be a future agenda item.

CMc reported that NHS digital and BSI were planning a workshop on the standards needed for health services.  He invited interested people to contact him.

PR said CAST was running a Design Hop event in February at Impact Hub Birmingham about digital skills in small charities (>£10k pa), supported by RnR Organisation

PR and TJ are meeting with Rebecca Riley, new Head of the West Midlands Office of Data Analytics, on 1st February.


There was no other business.

Future meetings to be held on 27/3, 22/5, 24/7, 25/9, and 27/11.  Suggested venues are March in Coventry, May in Birmingham, and July in Wolverhampton.

Action:    TH to confirm whether Coventry can host the meeting on 27/3.  Agenda to include the Coventry Information Portal. UPDATE: Coventry confirmed as venue for next meeting on Mar 27th

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