The role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in delivering public services has changed dramatically in recent years, amid a rapidly evolving and often challenging environment. The services being delivered by community organisations and voluntary groups are crucial in ensuring that a diverse set of local needs are met. By being directly involved with service users, these organisations offer a unique perspective on trends, challenges and ideas for how to improve services, often on a very personal level.
However, securing funding to deliver these local services is also increasingly competitive. More and more, community organisations need to not just deliver services, but be able to tell a convincing story about the impact of their work. And crucially, these stories need to be based on data. It is no longer enough to simply “know” your areas from the ground up – you need the numbers, the trends, and the evidence to present an informed and persuasive case.
This is where our tool Local Insight helps organisations to demonstrate the value and reach of the services they provide. This is especially important to consider in order to complete successful tenders for delivering local services, report impact to commissioners, and design services effectively to meet local needs.
As an example, we have recently worked with Islington Play Association (IPA) to support them in building the right data into their proposal to run local children’s services in Islington. We have blogged previously on where to start when searching for data. Here we want to share an example of putting that into practice.
Islington Play Association
IPA is a play charity, working under the ethos that “all children and young people need to play.” They run six of the borough’s 12 adventure playgrounds, which are free to attend for all children. The playgrounds are available after school and during holidays, and so provide a vital source of childcare for many families in Islington.
(To read more about IPA’s services, take a look at our previous blog on IPA and their use of the Index of Multiple Deprivation.)
The need for evidence
In order to continue and extend the services they provide in Islington, IPA needed to submit a competitive bid to Islington Council. To stand a chance of success, the bid needed to demonstrate how their work helps to tackle local health priorities, including mental health, childhood obesity, pupil attainment and other healthy lifestyle behaviours.
IPA wanted to use data and analysis to show that their attendees were more likely to face these particular challenges and that there is research to suggest that free play contributes to improving these outcomes.
OCSI and Local Insight’s role
At OCSI, we have plenty of experience working with community organisations to use better data for better decisions, including our work with DataBridge and providing analysis and support for Pen Green Children’s centre.
In addition, our tool Local Insight can be a valuable resource for community organisations. It is simple to use and offers a wealth of robust data, matched to the specific communities you work with. Users have over 700 up-to-date datasets at their fingertips available in reports and a variety of data visualisations.
Local Insight was a core resource for the support we provided to Islington Play Association. Using Local Insight we were able to focus on some key activities, including:
- Creating maps to show the distribution of attendees of IPA’s services
- Generating a breakdown of attendees by wards
- Demonstrating the levels of deprivation experienced by IPA’s service users
- Generating LSOA and ward level data to benchmark against data that IPA holds about their own users
To inform our analysis, we also carried out research into the socio-economic context of Islington as a whole, and looked at the health and educational benefits of play. This combination of the areas and data most relevant to IPA, alongside the immediate and wider environment they work in, helped us to establish key themes and differences to highlight in the bid.
Outcomes and results
By using data available in Local Insight, IPA were able to back up the story they were telling with robust data, by demonstrating the challenges that their service users are facing, and how their services are working to bring educational and health benefits to all the children involved.
We were thrilled that IPA were successful in winning the tender, and that they have secured funding for running all the children’s centres in Islington. We can’t wait to see how IPA’s work progresses and, of course, how they are gathering and evaluating data to target their resources and measure impact.
Anita Grant, CEO of Islington Play Association comments:
“ We found OCSI really easy to work with and they understood both our work and the data that demonstrated our outcomes, really fast. The Local Insight tool was efficient, but also really interesting in the way it allows you to think about impact. We won the tender and are delivering core services for the local authority. We will keep using Local Insight to help us measure impact as well as evidence our work.”
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