Policy Compass and Cambridgeshire – open data taking the next step to smarter decision making

Policy Compass logo

Policy Compass has been designed as a project to simplify the way data is utilised, interacted with, mashed-up, visualised and interpreted.  The increasing amount of trusted local, national and international open data sources and well-being indicators available has meant that it is no longer the sole domain of data analysts and organisations to interrogate what is going on in the world. Tools like Policy Compass are helping the crowd discover and interpret these data sources.

The Cambridgeshire Policy Compass Team

So, with all this talk of international policy and data, what is Cambridgeshire’s involvement? The Cambridgeshire Adult Learning Fund (CALF) has been developing their data and information to enable users to interrogate their data and see what is happening locally. The CALF is designed to deliver projects that engage with targeted learner groups and facilitate progression to employment, volunteering and further learning to enhance personal development. The CALF data has been chosen as one of the partners to use their data to pilot and evaluate the Policy Compass project

So what is this project in plain English? It allows users to view or upload data that they are interested in, visualise this data and then create data models to help them understand and share the knowledge garnered from this process.  These users can vary from the engaged citizen who wants to understand what is happening locally to the policy data professional looking at strategic ways to develop and implement public services.


The Cambridgeshire Open Data

Cambridgeshire have been busy developing their data to feed into this open process. The CALF data has been uploaded to the local Cambridgeshire Insight Open Data portal and in parallel to the Policy Compass to ensure it is accessible. This establishes a local presence for the datasets and ensures that the Policy Compass datasets are linked to a local trusted data source, the Cambridgeshire Insight open data portal.

So what is available? Well, just from the CALF project alone there is a plethora of data on numbers of learners, types of learning, location of learning and demographics of learners. And the list of data is growing with other organisations and communities feeding in both local and national data and resources. Combining the CALF data with those other datasets is now possible on Policy compass, and there is a lot more on offer. Comparing datasets from different geographies, themes, organisations and even listing key historical events to the data.


Additional content on metrics, indicators and causal models are on offer on the platform and we will be covering these in more detail in a future post.



The process

This is only the first step though as the task now starts in earnest of articulating the data to a wide range of audience groups and prototyping the process to a panel of service providers and users.

This prototyping is being conducted through a series of field trials and they have begun to engage with trusted theme experts on the data, processes and tools available. This first stage of training using the Policy Compass tools is taking place, identifying the main benefits and processes that can be drawn upon by users. The feedback loop that this provides allows the real beneficiaries of Policy Compass to have their say and get the data and tools into shape the way they want them, useable, intuitive and accessible.

This is allowing the tools to go through a test of usability and user experience in the real world. Is the data too complicated? Does the process make sense to the real world application? Is this the data that the crowd needs available? If not by the way, users can request data through a 360o feedback loop on the site. The more this process continues the more crowd verification of trusted sources and data will improve.

The learning developed through this process will also feedback to the Policy Compass community so that the live project will evolve and grow.


Who benefits?

The benefits of an open data policy platform such as this are many. In simple terms it will bring lots of datasets together to help people, organisations and communities make better decisions. The fact that it allows users to know that the datasets even exist is a boon for transparency and accountability, with the aim to promote innovative solutions to some of our local issues around learning, engagement and the local economy.

So what’s next?

The evaluation of open data is driving accountability and transparency in our services across the board. Policy Compass is a great addition in the arsenal of tools on opening policy horizons and evaluating the impacts of these policies. It allows the crowd to not just have their say but to make the reasoned arguments required, using the best available open data, on public policy decision making. Check out these links if you want to find out more about the Policy Compass project and tools available.

And remember if the data is not there for you, request it!


Hendrik Grothuis

Research Manager, Cambridgeshire Research Group