New open data tool helps housing providers target effective community investment

Community Insight is a new online community mapping and reporting tool enabling housing providers to harness the power of Open Data.

Launched today by HACT and OCSI (Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion), Community Insight enables housing providers to instantly access always up to date information and data on the communities and neighbourhoods they work within.

“The Open Government White Paper is transforming the ways in which people are able to access and use data to inform their businesses.  A number of housing providers are already actively using online mapping, and have invested significantly in GIS technology and trained mapping staff.  Our ambition was to develop cost-effective ways in which more associations and more staff can access the huge amount of social and economic indicators now available about the communities they work within.” said Matt Leach, CEO of HACT.

“With our partners at OCSI, who are leading players in working with open data, we have built an online capacity which enables housing providers to map needs in their communities, identify hot spots of deprivation, and generate in depth, always up to date neighbourhood profiles.  It will provide a vital resource for housing providers looking to prioritise community investment, target and measure impact, inform business development, and engage with local partners.

“The release of Census data early in the new year will define discussions around resourcing and delivery of local public services during 2013.  Community Insight users will have instant access to that information, broken down to neighbourhood level, enabling them to take part in and lead those debates.

“Importantly, Community Insight requires no special training in GIS mapping or data analysis; anyone in the organisation can use the information to inform their work and generate reports on demand.”

Community Insight provides vital information on the communities housing providers work in, and includes access to a wide range of data sets and indicators, including indices of deprivation, economic deprivation and child wellbeing, up to the minute data on unemployment and benefits, educational attainment, health and crime by neighbourhood.

“There is huge potential for open data to help housing providers effectively target and evaluate investment and resources. Community Insight provides intelligence and insight that is accessible to users across an organisation, based on mapping information on stock and tenants against the ever increasing amount of raw data available from local and national government, the police, health services,” says Tom Smith, CEO of OCSI.

“All data is reviewed on a weekly basis to ensure it is fully up to date, with new and updated indicators loaded-in within 24 hours of release. Moreover, Community Insight doesn’t just produce maps, it also generates, at the press of a button, detailed community profile reports drawing on a much wider range of indicators, and including trend and historic data.

“Much of the housing sector could benefit from better access to data on the communities they operate in – the real value in open data lies in helping inform appropriate solutions to local-specific problems. Community Insight will help all staff within housing providers decide which actions and activities to prioritise locally – it helps identify pressures on housing and services and helps them think about potential additional services that may be needed. “

HACT is organising a set of events on the topic (“Using data to inform community investment”), and offers free demos. To find out more, please contact info@hact.org.uk or visit http://www.hact.org.uk/events.


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