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Open Data Communities — Engagement Review

Open Data Communities is the linked, open data platform for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Over the next few weeks, we at Swirrl will be working with DCLG and AHA Digital to see who’s using open data on the Open Data Communities site; how they’re using it, and how we can encourage even more use of the site as it evolves. We’ll also look at ways we can work together to make more datasets available that might be of use to people.

DCLG is a ministerial department, whose job is to create great places to live and work, and to give more power to local people to shape what happens in their area. This is largely achieved through their policies of; Community Integration, Homebuying, House Building, Planning Reform and Support for Families. The release of linked open data is an important part of supporting the policies, and in April 2011 DCLG launched Open Data Communities, a linked data platform provided by Swirrl. Open Data Communities currently hosts 203 datasets, covering many aspects of the business — from homelessness and housing, to construction and planning. It’s also home to the Indices of Deprivation; data used by public sector, charities and businesses to target how funding is spent on communities.

The team at Open Data Communities is particularly interested in the role their data plays in informing policy. With that in mind, we’ll be looking at how their data is being, or can be, used by people to help ask and answer questions about some of the main policy areas covered by DCLG. These include: planning and monitoring housing delivery in response to local needs; transforming and reconfiguring local services around new local priorities and governance (such as Combined Authorities); and how the Indices of Deprivation have been used to target social spending in the UK. Acknowledging the value of their own data beyond DCLG’s own policies, we will be looking at how it supports the national data infrastructure, and how it fuels the wider digital economy.

The first step for us is to find out what people already do with DCLG’s data. If you’ve used DCLG data from Open Data Communities; GOV.UK or local data observatories then we’d love to hear your experiences in our online survey. If you’re unsure whether you’ve used DCLG’s data please take a look at the list of topics at the foot of this post and follow the links to the datasets and indicators currently published on Open Data Communities. And if you’re reading this, but have never used DCLG data, we’d still like to hear from you to find out why not.


We will also be carrying out some face-to-face interviews (in person or virtually), for people who are willing to participate. These will allow us to explore in greater detail the way that people use Open Data Communities and DCLG data. If you would be willing to take part in one of these interviews, please contact Jamie Whyte or Mark Braggins.

If you don’t want to fill in a survey, or be interviewed, but still have something to say — please feel free to email us with your comments.

Once we’ve carried out our interviews and compiled the survey responses and other feedback, we’ll start to think about what we’ve learned. We’ll use the results, and our own experience, to make some clear recommendations to the Open Data Communities team on specific actions to increase use of their data. And at that point we’ll help them carry out these recommendations and incorporate them into the Open Data Communities ongoing engagement plan.

List of datasets on ODC

The full list of 203 datasets (and even more indicators) is accessible through Open Data Communities. The datasets are organised into themes — clicking a bullet point will take you straight to that theme’s page on Open Data Communities, where you can find out more about it.