Wed Nov 06 2019

How data sharing helps us create and measure social change

Municipalities are faced with a myriad of issues. Housing, education, safety, and the environment are all integral to the well being of citizens. But, cities aren’t the only stakeholders and such complex social issues extend well beyond the boundaries of any single organisation.

Therefore, constructive solutions can only truly be reached when all of the community stakeholders come together. This includes social partners such as housing associations, healthcare institutions, schools, libraries, police, hospitals, and also local businesses.

“Compare this with a puzzle, where every organisation has a piece of the puzzle in its hands in the form of domain knowledge and data,” explains Lisanne, a data scientist with Xomnia. “By sharing these pieces with each other, it is possible to fit them together and view the complete picture.”

Lisanne has been working with municipalities and stakeholders in order to achieve such a holistic view of social challenges. She uses a method called Datalab, which she first became involved with while working as a data scientist with Gemeente Zaanstad.

“I was impressed by the value of a Datalab. I knew I wanted to continue to use this method, and advocate for it, even after my project with Gemeente Zaanstad ended.”

The Datalab method

In a Datalab, municipalities and social partners come up with better solutions for complex social issues based on data. Several social issues are addressed over time, each issue on itself forming an edition of the Datalab. Only those organisations which have an important role in solving the social issue can join that Datalab edition.

Every edition of the Datalab follows the same method which consists of the following 5 steps:

  1. Prioritising the social task

- Determine the core of the question; what is going on?
- Define goals; what do we want to achieve?
- Overarching goal; what do we want to achieve together?
- Objectives per organisation; what does each organisation want to achieve for   itself?
- Determining insights; what do we want to know?

2. Taking a factual picture; what is already known about this theme?
3. Approach secure data sharing; how can we securely share data?
4. In-depth data analysis; linking and analysing data
5. Integral solutions from each organisation’s own role and position

Data cooperation for more valuable solutions

Tom Pots, information manager at the municipality of Zaanstad, says the advantages of this method are apparent in every Datalab.  “The solution of a complex social issue is always in the cooperation of multiple organizations - based on data. Together you know much more and solutions have more value.”

Tom and Lisanne facilitated the Datalab, ‘extramuralisatie en overlast’ to address the challenges stemming from mental health patients who live amongst the general population in Gemeente Zaanstad.

Some of the common insights discovered during the Datalab were:

  • A limited use of WMO (social support act) facilities by people with mental health problems
  • Only 10% of the population are responsible for the majority of nuisance reports
  • Reports are centralised, but care is spread out over a large area
  • Limited control over the reports and many reports are about litter and filth

“The analyses on combined data resulted in insights that we could not have known apart from each other,” explains Tom. “And, on the basis of these insights, possible solutions have been developed.”

In her work for Xomnia, Lisanne recently assisted a municipality in tackling the issue of local poverty. The Ronde Venen is a municipality between Amsterdam and Utrecht with 44,000 inhabitants. They concluded that knowledge about local poverty was fragmented, which resulted in inadequate measures for prevention and aid. The Datalab brought parties together in order to be able to map out the full picture.

“We were able to examine a social issue together with other organisations in a data-driven way. In addition to new insights, that also boosted cooperation with partner organisations,” says Frans de Jong, a strategic advisor at the municipality of Ronde Venen. “The use of data enables us to measure the impact of the solutions that have been implemented.”

Datalab de Ronde Venen has been completed, but Lisanne's ambition goes further.

"The ideal situation is that every organisation in society is part of the Datalab. I want to use my knowledge and experience to empower as many municipalities and organisations as possible to set up and implement a Datalab and help solve complex social issues together.”

Do you believe in the power of cooperation in solving social issues? Do you also want to obtain a holistic view of community challenges by contributing your piece to the puzzle? Then the Datalab is something for you! For more information, contact Lisanne.