Community Action MK |A data collection and intelligence platform for the VCSE sector in Milton Keynes



Why the work is being done

This challenge seeks to build a solution to support data collection and gain insight from this data across the VCSE sector in MK in order to better understand the needs of MK residents,  the sector’s ability in meeting those needs and ability to build a case for services/support with budget holders and founders.

Our proposed solution has several elements:
  • create an efficient system that allows VCSE groups to easily record issues/ideas from their beneficiaries and feed this into a pool of community data.
  • develop an efficient system that allows this data to be easily analysed and turned in to community intelligence.
  • use this intelligence to understand needs/gaps and explore solutions collectively as a sector, and by directing volunteer support.
  • use this intelligence to create robust evidence to influence decision makers/service providers so plans and services meet real need.
  • use these systems to proactively gather data on emerging (Covid) issues, with a focus on providing a direct route for people from disproportionately affected communities to have their voices heard by decision makers.

To achieve this, we need to focus on developing our tech/data system, which will include:
  • work with technology partner to refine data collection / analysis methods.
  • work with VCSE groups to co-design collection methods to ensure the system allows vital intelligence they need to collect to be captured.
  • aim to create an open source model that can be used by other VCSE groups across the country that want to capture and communicate lived experience / grassroots need.

This project is part of the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response funding initiative; a partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and CAST, supported by the Catalyst network.

Problem to solve

VCSE groups in Milton Keynes (MK) support a range of communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but the vital intelligence they have around lived experience isn’t recorded/communicated in a coordinated way. 

This means an accurate picture from those at the forefront of supporting communities through Covid is not reaching decision makers so can’t be used to identify needs/gaps, and shape Covid responses effectively. Groups tell us the needs of their beneficiaries are often not being met and they find getting this situation recognised difficult. 

A more effective way of collating/ expressing VCSE intelligence is desperately needed.

Who are the users and what do they need to do

The main users we will directly work with, and whose needs we want to address are MK VCSE groups, ranging from small, informal groups supporting neighbourhoods through the crisis, to large, established charities. This will allow us to meet the pressing needs of MK citizens, particularly those from communities disproportionately affected by Covid. 
Key user needs are:
  • As a person working or volunteering for a VCSE group when I learn about issues being experienced by my beneficiaries due to Covid I want to have an efficient way of: 
    Passing that information to those that design services so that they meet my beneficiaries’ needs,
    combining that information with wider community intelligence so that my organisation can identify joint working opportunities to address common issues collectively and cost effectively, including by finding volunteers,
    adding that information to a broad pool of data so that the big issues across the city are identified and the need is better evidenced to influence decision makers / funders.
  • As Community Action: MK, when representing the needs of the VCSE sector, we need access to up-to-date information from VCSE groups around grassroots issues to represent the sector and convey the lived experiences of their beneficiaries during Covid to decision makers/service providers. This is so urgent needs of vulnerable communities are met. We also want to use this data to share/ explore solutions within the sector, including by matching volunteers 
Key Outcomes/Outputs/Deliverables:

  • User stories of key users
  • An open source data collection and insight model and  approach.
  • A shared data collection tool with different access levels for the different key stakeholders (VCSE’s, data analysts, funders)

Key project resources