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Untapped potential: The future of Civic data in the LCR

Sara Chattun, Project Manager

Every day in Liverpool City Region vast amounts of data is being generated that could be transformative in tackling the region’s health and public service challenges. 

But much of this data remains under-utilised. It’s difficult and time consuming to make civic data sets work together in a way that’s useful to local authorities, universities, NHS and the wider public services to make a difference to the things that matter most in people’s lives.

It’s something we’ve heard many times before. Civic Data Co-operative (CDC) and Capacity’s recent data workshop in Liverpool was an opportunity to convene some of the region’s biggest organisations to get under the skin of what data capability exists in the region and what is preventing us from making progress.

Creating connections

Since 2021 CDC and Capacity have been bringing together public sector leaders, SMEs and local residents to understand what is and isn’t working in the data and public sector world.

We’ve approached it in a number of ways. Through the creation of seed funding to enable young SMEs to collaborate with local councils and NHS and by the recruitment and training of community researchers to lead local engagement and really understand what matters to local people. More can be found here and here.

Through this work, there has been continual interest and will from partners to work together to unlock data for the benefit of improved health and social care outcomes. The day was about connecting this energy with the shared goal of agreeing how we tip this into action.

Local and national insights

Here are some reflections from the day. It was fast-moving, so don’t expect this blog to capture everything!

Taking both a national and local perspective, the day started with a presentation from Ellie Fielding, Programme & Operations Manager at CDC, who set the scene for a fantastic workshop and learning experience. 

  • Joe Massey, Senior Researcher from Open Data Institute, talked about the importance of broader access to data. Data is trapped and hoarded. It means societal benefits are not being realised.
  • Valentina Pavel, Senior Researcher at the Ada Lovelace Institute, focussed on the unprecedented consolidation of power with major companies and the urgency to reclaim control over public data to create more societal benefit. The opportunity to use commercial data for public good was a game-changing opportunity.
  • Jim Hughes, Strategic Advisor, Merseycare, reflected on the city region’s experience during COVID. LCR became a pioneer for testing and the Events Research Programme, the pilot programme to open large-scale events for the first time since the pandemic. Data was at the centre of the success of both projects. How do we use these lessons to implement new ways of working in the future?
  • Denise Bowman and Charlotte Wright, Cheshire Fire Service, revealed how health challenges can contribute to fire risks and having the right data can help to save lives. Despite the overarching agreement of collaboration around this data, getting into the depths of data sharing was really difficult but they’ve pushed through to get a pilot off the ground.
  • Emma Dickinson and Sawyer Phinney, LCR Combined Authority, outlined some of the challenges with data accuracy and consistency in the early years and childcare sector. LCRCA is proactively working with local authorities, providers and other stakeholders to make sure children get the best possible start to their education. But once they lifted the lid on the data, they realised basics data requirements were missing, making almost impossible to plan for future need. We expect to see a similar picture in other service areas.
Key takeaways

Energised by these real case studies, it was straight into break out sessions to discuss the opportunities for the city region. Themes common to all groups began to emerge.

  • Data has to be prioritised at a corporate level, part of our collective priorities which can only happen if we have a culture of trust and engagement across an organisational and community level.
  • There was need for long term commitment and funding, capacity, resource, expertise.
  • It’s vital we don’t lose momentum. The projects showcased were a great starting point to build on, but how do we make. these ‘business as usual’?
  • Making civic data part of LCR’s Office of Public Service Innovation and a mandate to make it happen.
  • Language (and jargon!) is a barrier to people understanding and supporting better data usage.
  • Converting data into compelling insights and stories was a unique skill.
  • Trust is vital. We need to create space and culture to build long-term relationships. It’s about culture more than process.
  • Keeping data consistent, accurate and up to date is a challenge felt across civic organisations.
  • Skills development across our people is a game-changer.
  • Other regions have started this journey and LCR can be part of a pioneering group of destinations leveraging data for public good.
Final thoughts

This was the first in a series of workshops arranged by Capacity and CDC building on existing relationships and our approach to the governance and application of civic data. 

My three big takeaways.

  • There was a real desire to collaborate on unlocking the huge potential of civic data and positively impact on public services and people’s lives in the region. Success in this space needs commitment, trust and collaboration between partners. People and culture really drive this forward because it’s complex work and without relationships, it can fall down.
  • LCR has some seriously talented data professionals and the opportunity to create a hub of knowledge and expertise in civic data is one we can’t let slip. We also know that training and skills building is necessary to maximise the intelligence and potential impact of a more open data ecosystem.
  • We have to work together to open up data on a bigger scale, safely and securely, to deliver high quality public services with intelligence-led decision making at its heart. This is a journey which we’re in for the long haul, making sure communities and businesses are with us for every step.

It really felt like the workshop offered a glimpse into the future. Everyone came away feeling inspired and ready to build on the brilliant work already happening.

If you’d like to find out more about the CDC & Capacity’s work on civic data, please email me at