icon22 November 2022

Welcome to the Birmingham City Observatory

Hi, I’m Richard Brooks, Director of Strategy, Equality & Partnerships at Birmingham City Council. I am excited to be launching the Birmingham City Observatory – a place where the public and our partners can access meaningful and accurate data and insights to drive forward positive change for our city and for our citizens.


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.


We don’t just want the Observatory to be somewhere the City Council publishes data. We want it to be an inclusive and shared space, which grows to reflect the needs and interests of our partners across the public, voluntary and private sectors.


We anticipate the Observatory being used in different ways by many different customers. Within the City Council, it will provide an evidence base for our own decision making and performance improvement. We hope that other organisations across the city will also use it to inform their own policy development, projects and programmes of work. We hope that public and private enterprises can create valuable applications for the data and will use it to inform their own strategies and actions.


Over the last few months, we have focussed on building a strong team to support the Observatory and to produce some initial datasets and insights. You can browse through some of the rich and varied material that has already been made available on the platform. For example:


  1. * We’ve created a set of City Outcome Indicators that link to our City Partnership priorities and Birmingham City Council’s strategic objectives;

  2. * We’ve published new ward and constituency profiles to inform local democratic priorities and decision making; and

  3. * The financial resilience analysis that underpins the city council’s response to the cost of living crisis is published here.


There’s much more content available already. But I want to emphasise that this is just a beginning. We’re not unveiling a painting and expecting it to be admired by an audience - we’re opening a garden that we invite you to help grow and harvest. This means feedback is crucial. We want to know what you value about the Observatory, how you could create value from it, and what you would want to see in terms of content and collaborative activity that we can facilitate.


We’re very much aware that there is an incredible range of data and insight capability across the city, including world-leading universities and research centres; highly capable public sector organisations; a diverse range of voluntary and community sector organisations; and businesses large and small. We won’t know everyone though, or all the existing collaborations or projects underway. We want to be humble and support the data community across the city.


I should also say we’re sure to make mistakes. Where possible we are trying to publish dashboards and data that is linked to source, but we still have some old-fashioned pdfs on this ‘version 1.0’ of the site (alongside the underlying data sets) and there are bound to be some technical and functionality issues. Accessibility is a serious challenge when making large volumes of data available, and we know there’s much work to do here. Inevitably, we won’t meet everyone’s needs and interests; certainly not at the first attempt. But we are committed to listening to feedback and seeking improvement.


We are also a genuinely curious bunch. I am looking forward to the surprises, when we discover new things about our city, or new ways to achieve more for our citizens. We would love to come and discuss the Birmingham City Observatory with you, to connect to new partners, to hear new ideas, and to draw on new sources of creative energy.


The Birmingham City Observatory is launched on Tuesday 22nd November 2022 at 17.00. To get in touch, to tell us about your interests in this area, or find out more about our open data ambitions please feel free to contact us on cityobservatory@birmingham.gov.uk .


Written by Richard Brooks, Director of Strategy, Equality & Partnerships