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The Data Collective Weeknote #8 — Youth Sector Research Workshop

Written by Joe Kallarackal, Interim Director at the Centre for Youth Impact. This blog is cross-posted from the Data Collective website, a community for people using data in the social sector.

During its pilot, the Data Collective aims to learn about data needs for the social sector, potential opportunities for greater collaboration, and how the Collective can best support them. We’ve been undertaking user research through 1–2–1 interviews and workshops, as you may have seen in previous blog posts.

While the Data Collective is intended to be a ‘network of networks’ — cutting across geography, size of organisation, data maturity, and mission focus we were interested to see what we could learn from a group of organisations working on the same issue area. Led by the Centre for Youth Impact, we held a user research workshop to explore data use for the youth sector.

A broad range of individuals from different parts of the youth sector attended the workshop — from national infrastructure bodies and local and national funders, to grass-roots youth organisations. Thanks to the 25 attendees who took the time to share their thoughts — the Mentimeter results show the diversity of those in “the zoom room”.

Image shows a word cloud of different UK locations
Where are you dialling in from?
Image shows a bar chart of different types of youth service, based on a poll of the event attendees
Which of these terms best describe your organisation?

What came out of the discussions?

During the workshop we heard some really interesting things…

Some participants expressed that their main needs related to collecting and better analysing data about their service provision. They wanted to move beyond collecting data to prove the value of youth work, to using data to really improve the impact of their work for young people. However, knowing where to start this journey can be quite difficult, especially for smaller, grassroots organisations.

The desire for greater collaboration between organisations in order to share data seemed pretty consistent across funders, infrastructure bodies, and service delivery organisations. There are some examples where this has been possible — Sports Coalition Impact Portal and the Youth Investment Fund Learning Project — although it was noted how difficult these were to mobilise. A common need was for more consistent typology, coding, and frameworks that allow organisations working with young people to share data, primarily on the impact of service provision, in a more meaningful way.

When discussing what was preventing organisations from using and sharing data more effectively, alongside technical barriers, a large number of cultural barriers were identified, including:

  • Capacity of staff at all levels to understand and use data
  • Competition between organisations that was preventing data sharing
  • Concerns around ethics and surveillance, eg could sharing data harm or disempower young people?
  • Buy in and understanding at leadership levels

When thinking about what the Data Collective could do to support organisations, participants offered a host of different ideas. Some are already underway, such as our Slack channel, places to share practical resources, and set times to connect and discuss data challenges with peers. There were also some new ideas we found really exciting, such as mentoring and working groups.

Photograph of a woman at a table using a laptop to take part in a video call, with a notebook in the foreground
Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay

All of the above has left me with the following thoughts:

Having spaces within the wider Data Collective community for organisations focused on the same issue would help participants feel the Collective is for them and support work on shared challenges. However, having dedicated space for organisations in the same areas was also raised. How do we create a cohesive and useful community that provides space for these different conversations without becoming too fragmented and siloed?

Pitting the desire for more data sharing against some of the cultural blockers identified, is the Data Collective community enough? Building a community and inclusive space to connect and share resources seems necessary, but is it sufficient? It made me think of recent(ish) articles in SSIR on field building and whether a ‘field catalyst’ — a player that helps broker collaborations and draw resources to them — is needed to galvanise action.

What happens next?

We’ll be incorporating findings from this workshop into the wider user research to help frame and shape the development of the Data Collective — more details on this in April.

Community round up

  • Survey: The Data Collective survey is an opportunity for you to tell us your views on what the Collective should and could be so that it meets your needs. We know your time is precious: the survey takes 10–15 minutes and we really hope you can squeeze it in! Please give us your input by Friday 12 March.
  • Social Sector Data Initiatives: We’re gathering examples of projects to improve data quality, access, or use in the UK social sector in this Google doc. If you’re involved in one or know of any that we’ve missed, please stick the link in the doc! And please share with your networks.
  • Community Call: Last week we had our second Community Call to look at resources for data work, with a focus on data literacy. We compiled this resource list — please add your favourite data literacy resources! It is missing resources about asking questions with data and cleaning data, so please help us fill the gap. You can join us at the next Community Call on Friday 19 March.
  • Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth are currently evaluating their online data resources: How climate friendly is your area?; a Woodland opportunity map; greenspace access map; and their 50 point climate action plan. As well as gathering general feedback, they will be holding a workshop with people who have expertise in this area or experience working on similar projects. If you’d like to get involved get in touch with Alan on alan.gibworth@foe.co.uk
  • Data Stewardship: Ada Lovelace Institute has published Exploring legal mechanisms for data stewardship with the AI Council, which explores three legal mechanisms that could help facilitate responsible data stewardship.
  • Behind the Covid dashboard: An interview with the tiny Public Health England team who prepare the daily dashboard for what has become the UK’s most-viewed government website ever.
  • Raising standards: James Bowles shared Tim Davies’ article about the data standard used for grantmaking as he looks at the progress made in the past seven years on its development. It’s exciting to think what the Data Collective could be in seven years’ time!
  • Webinar: On 17 March, NPC is hosting a webinar, Using need and demand data to inform decision making, with Turn2Us, Buttle UK, and the British Gas Energy Trust to explain their approach to setting up the Local Needs Databank. They’ll share their experience and what they have learned from this data sharing project, and present new features of the databank.
  • Workshop: The Government’s Data Standards Authority are running a session on Increasing the Importance of Data in Service Assessments. Service Assessments are essential to the way the government plans, budgets and delivers projects.

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Doing data for good in the UK. Find out more at datakind.org.uk

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