Measuring “no one left behind”; how Barking & Dagenham democratised data to improve outcomes


The council of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is committed to ensuring no residents are "left behind". The population of the borough experiences the highest level of deprivation in the London and has historically struggled with many social and environmental indicators of success. Coupled with central government mandated austerity, the local authority required a strategic decision-making tool to illustrate at a community level where the most investment is needed to improve outcomes.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

1) How the course of action was determined:

In late 2015 an independent review of the borough was commissioned by the council. The product of this review was known as the "Growth Commission" and it ascertained that despite being the most deprived borough of London, the borough had the largest growth potential. However, economic growth lead by infrastructure development alone would not be sufficient, the council needed to think about social and environmental outcomes for its residents to ensure "no-one left behind". However this independent review did not go as far as detail how "no-one left behind" could or should be measured. This innovation was therefore borne out of an acknowledgement of the review but a challenge to the borough about what this new mantra truly means.

2) What the innovation is, objectives and goals:

The 'Measuring "no-one left behind" project was launched by the internal insight team in early 2017. The innovation is the collation of 84 social and environmental indicators across two years which can be mapped at a borough, ward and lower super output area geographic levels. Approximately half of the datasets are internal and the remaining half are publicly available already albeit fragmented. Using the Social Progress Imperative's methodology, these datasets were mapped to the SPI framework. Each dataset added required extensive collaboration and consultation with subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and validity. The second part of the innovation is the visualisation of the index in a web platform. This product was launched as the "Borough Data Explorer" and is now publicly available.

The objectives of the project were to;

a) Build a recognisable framework to re-define and measure the borough's social and environmental growth year on year
b) Use the tool to activate multiple stakeholders including the police and health services to join forces and deal with the most difficult social issues the borough faces
c) Build a tool to provide evidence of the impact of certain interventions (policy and projects) on the community
d) Use data to hold decision-makers to account and make this data entirely transparent and easily accessible by everyone

The goals of this project are to:

a) Replicate the project with the other 31 London boroughs and form greater collaborations across other local authorities
b) Use the SPI to influence and shape LBBD's approach to the Social Value Act, a national legislation that only a few councils in the UK have managed to adopt. This project has the potential to transform the way the council commissions future services.

3) What our sponsor and collaborator have said about this project:

Councillor Saima Ashraf, the Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement has this to say about the innovation: "the Insight team have taken our ambition of "no-one left behind" and have made it into a very real and useful tool. "No-one left behind" means different things to different stakeholders and what the team have done is captured the very real social issues that we face as a borough and given us a tool to track our progress every year. For me the ease of use is key; data can be a very difficult subject area to understand but what the team has done is create a tool that provides insight in an instant at our own fingertips. As a ward councillor, the ward indexes, yearly comparisons and coloured progress ratings clearly illustrates where our attention and efforts should be for our residents."

Michael Green, the CEO of the Social Progress Imperative, had this to say about how innovative this project is: “Barking and Dagenham is the first local authority in the world to have built a Social Progress Index at the level of granularity of the ward. This is an outstanding innovation in the use of the Index that we plan to scale in the UK and globally. This innovation was an initiative of Barking and Dagenham, who approached the Social Progress Imperative having learned about the Index to see if it could be harnessed to support the Borough's Plans. Our experience globally is that such projects require committed local partners who will commit their own resources and want to drive the project. Barking and Dagenham clearly met this requirement. The Barking and Dagenham Index has pioneered the use of administrative data with other data to bring the comparative measure of social progress to a local level. Barking and Dagenham has also innovated in data visualisation and is already developing new ways of using the data to support policy and programme design, and for dialogue between the council, residents and stakeholders. We are optimistic that we will see a clear case study of how the Social Progress Index can impact spending and policy decisions to have a real, positive impact on people’s lives. We are already exploring how to scale this model across local authorities in England and will be sharing this experience globally.”

Innovation Description

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