5 December 2022
Our Launch Event
On Tuesday 22nd November 2022, we proudly launched our Birmingham City Observatory. With thanks to Arcadis our local sponsor, the event took place in Birmingham’s tallest office building, 103 Colmore Row, which provided a backdrop to the stunning views of the city and beyond.
The event was opened by Deputy Leader and Councillor Brigid Jones, and Richard Brooks, Director of Strategy, Equalities and Partnerships. Deputy Leader Brigid Jones highlighted the importance of the investment in the City Observatory, by commenting:
"This piece of work has been in the pipeline for some time and one which we are excited to be officially launching. Our approach and commitment here is in recognition of the key role that we must play as regional leaders in providing transparency. Through the City Observatory, we want to make inequalities visible, and by making the true pattern of outcomes and performance clear, we will help drive decisions and services in the direction of achieving greater equality."
Richard Brooks who leads the new directorate, outlined the vision for the City Observatory, and expressed:
‘’Our aims are simple. On the one hand, we want to publish a ‘single source of the truth’ about Birmingham which provides a better understanding of our people, our city, the key challenges it faces and the opportunities it presents. On the other hand, we want to start a collaborative journey with partners across the city, where we use data together to create value for our diverse communities.’’
In outlining the importance of this being a collaborative journey, numerous stakeholders from across the private, public, and voluntary sector were invited to attend the event and were presented with a live demonstration to the online platform, and the initial set of interactive dashboards which have been developed to demonstrate key data and insights across key thematic areas, such as:
- City Outcomes Indicators which link to our City Partnership priorities and Birmingham City Council’s strategic objectives;
- Financial resilience of Birmingham’s 69 wards against five dimensions: Mosaic demographic segmentation, Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), Fuel Poverty, Benefits and Unemployment, and Children in Financially Vulnerable Households;
- Ward Profiles which bring together data from a wide range of sources to enable a richer understanding of local areas; and
- Homes for Ukraine which provides an insight into the aid delivered to Ukrainian Refugees settling across the city of Birmingham
With of course this being a start and with many more sets of data and insights to be published on the platform in line with strategic priority areas, the City Observatory team took the opportunity to ask partners in attendance to share: 1) what they want, 2) what data or insights they could contribute, and 3) how they could benefit from using the City Observatory. Responses brought up some insightful and meaningful responses for the City Observatory team to consider, demonstrated through a word cloud below:
In acknowledging the importance of providing access to data and information that is needed to hold city leaders to account, key partner and Associate Professor and Director Rebecca Riley from the City-REDI department at The University of Birmingham, outlined the Data Charter that will underpin the City Observatory platform, to ensure that the data that is published is ethical, and that everyone, regardless whether internal, external or a member of the public, has access to the same information.
The event concluded by inviting a panel of speakers to outline how they plan to collaborate and engage with the City Observatory, and outline what their wants and needs are, as captured below:
Afzal Hussein – Chief Officer, Witton Lodge Community Association:
- The data here provides the foundation to the ‘so what’ questions we need to consider to tackle inequalities in the city
- It is important to drill down into LSOA (Lower Layer Super Output Area) data to understand the issues different areas face
- We need to also look at issues to do with social mobility
- It is important to have the voice of the communities and hear from the voices that are not heard
David Melbourne - Chief Executive, Birmingham & Solihull Integrated Care Board:
- We need to work together to support broader aims and ambitions linked to social and economic development
- We need to tackle inequalities, improve access to services and enhance our productivity
- I see what is being done here as helping me to do my ‘day job’
- There is lots of bureaucracy - we don’t tend to talk to each other and work together - we need to look at the health data for the city and that should sit with the city council
Kalvinder Kohli – Assistant Director - Early Intervention & Prevention, Birmingham City Council:
- What we are talking about tackling here is ‘infinitely inflexible services’ - this is the key feedback we get from our citizens
- We need to make sure we are structured internally for this challenge
- Citizens do not fit into ‘neat boxes’ – we need to design and target our resources appropriately
- We have best practice all around the city – let's learn from it
- There is often a very single view provided about a citizen, we need to work with citizens to deliver outcomes which are multi-faceted
Rebecca Riley - Associate Professor & Business Development Director, University of Birmingham City-REDI:
- The public sector struggles to get private sector data e.g. business rates. It would be good to tackle this e.g. not just the private sector ‘supplying’ us with data but information on how they ‘use’ it
- There are differences in how people and institutions understand certain terms. For example, there is a difference between ‘inactivity’ and ‘unemployment,’ and we need to be clear in explaining the differences such as this, so people do not misinterpret the data
- We need to educate users and provide meta data alongside hard statistics
To access the PowerPoint slides which were presented on the day of the Launch event, please view them here.
Following the launch event, the City Observatory team is committed to continuing to bring the public and partners meaningful and accessible data. If you would like to contact a member of the team to find out more, tell us about your interests in this area, or find out more about our vision, please feel free to contact us on email@example.com. We look forward to working and collaborating with you.
Written by Richard Brooks, Director of Strategy, Equality & Partnerships