Date:  14 June 2022
Time:  16:00-17:00
Venue:  Online (via Microsoft Teams)

Participants

Andy Baker – Head of Integrated Intelligence, Performance & Policy – Dudley MBC
Chris Price – WMODF Secretary
Darren Wright – Head of Strategy Q Community – The Health Foundation
Glyn Simpson – Head of Solutions Development West Midlands Combined Authority
Jeff Wood – Senior Lecturer – Psychology at Birmingham City University / Head of Open Data Science Group
Josh Swan – Head of Data Lab – WMREDI / City-REDI
Ravi Kumar – Digital Lead – Black Country LEP
Si Chun Lam – Insight Development Manager – Coventry City Council – WMODF contact person (as meeting Chair & notetaker)
Tim Healey – Senior Analyst – Coventry City Council

Agenda

Today’s meeting was a single-item agenda on the future of the West Midlands Open Data Forum.

Participants were also encouraged to contribute to the Jamboard and share what they have been working on (link under “relevant materials” below), as the Forum often provided that space for people to talk about what they’re working on…

Relevant materials

Future of the West Midlands Open Data Forum

Si Chun Lam shared the draft vision and priorities that has been developed for the West Midlands Open Data Forum over the past few months, as well as the feedback (or, the paucity of feedback) thus far, and sought feedback from participants about whether we were doing the right things or not – and if not, whether the Forum should continue.

This was then opened up into a discussion amongst participants as to the future of the Forum.

Discussions

Discussion included:

  1. The landscape across open data and insight in the West Midlands has shifted significantly over the past few years.  In particular, the West Midlands now has a West Midlands Digital Roadmap; so the need for the West Midlands Open Data Forum has shifted, and our focus must shift and understand what role we play in this new environment.

  2. Within public sector organisations there are still a lot of other groups around, for instance in health and care, there is the Midlands Analyst Network (MiNet), and emerging online groups like DREAM (Data, Research, Evaluation, Analysis and Monitoring).

  3. People ‘outside’ the West Midlands Open Data Forum may not be aware of the Group, and a lot of contact happens through bilateral meetings between universities and individual local authorities.  Perhaps there is no need for the WMODF as a ‘clearing place’ for data if people are already making direct contact – however, perhaps there is a role for discussions to reduce duplications and ensure people have a space to make contact.

  4. When the WMODF began, the Forum was a place to share best practice, learn from the Open Data Institute; but now there are a lot of teams within the WMCA dedicated to data all over the place.  HOWEVER, there is still a role for teams to understand the bigger picture – and the WMODF could be this place.

  5. A key role that the WMODF has placed in the past is that it was independent of organisations, and it would be a shame to lose that if it became included in an organisation.  It has often taken a more ‘activist’ stance, proving a useful challenge to public sector organisations to incorporate open data into their policies and strategies.  This is lost in the new draft Vision and Priorities which focus on a Community of Practice but does not really set out the more activist, challenging role in holding statutory organisations to account.

  6. There is a LOT of work taking place everywhere in terms of new analysis techniques, for instance, machine learning to recognise patterns; scraping data – there is huge potential for a bit of regional skill-sharing between different sectors not currently served by any other group.  Sometimes, organisations want these ‘models’ to be private intellectual property – but there is space and opportunity to build on other people’s work in a more open, collaborative way.

Decision

It was clear from participants that there was still a desire for a West Midlands Open Data Forum to continue in some way, and it would be a loss to all of us to see the Forum to end.

If Participants round the (virtual) room were to design the priorities for the Open Data Forum, it will take on the first point of being a community of practice to share best practice for open data; but the next two points will need to shift – it must remain an activist, external group seeking to challenge public bodies into releasing open data and also it could serve, additionally, as a place for sharing skills and models between different organisations.  This might be a more light-touch approach than proposed in the draft vision and priorities – possibly hybrid meetings (there were different views around the room) along with a mailing list to share information.

On this basis, participants decided to keep the WMODF survey open until 1 July 2022 as originally planned, to gather more views.

Any other business

Query was raised about the status about the long-proposed ‘open data’ hub for the West Midlands.  The current understanding is that this is in the role profile for a new Head of Research, Intelligence and Inclusive Growth in the Strategy, Integration and Net Zero directorate in the WMCA, for the development of a corporate data and analytics hub that can serve many of the research and intelligence needs across the WMCA and beyond.

Actions

  1. Si Chun will produce a revised set of vision and priorities following the closing of the WMODF survey on 1 July and share with ALL WMODF members.
  2. ALL to promote and encourage other relevant people to join the WMODF.
  3. ALL to think about, consider (and encourage) who might be able to take on the role as Chairperson of WMODF.  Current thinking is that this needs to be somebody external to public sector organisations able to take on a more activist role.
  4. Si Chun to send out (in late-summer) a new Doodle poll for a meeting in the September time frame, with options to include physical/hybrid or online meeting.

 

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