Follow the money – public spending and procurement in Greater Manchester

Follow the money – public spending and procurement in Greater Manchester

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2018, 6:00 PM

The Federation
Federation Street, Federation House M4 2AH , GB

22 Members Attending

The value of public sector procurement within the UK exceeded £301 billion in 2016 and in the City of Manchester £445.6 million was spent with its top 300 suppliers in 2016/17 alone. Greater Manchester is home to over 2.8 million people and with devolution, more control over how money is being spent rests locally. Come and discover where this money…

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Deprivation vs Political Representation dataset

Over the last couple of weeks we have been putting together data on local political representation and deprivation at a Local Super Output Area level. This data is put together using LSOA 2011 to Ward to Local Authority District 2016 with the English Indices of Deprivation 2015 Lookup in England from the Office of National Statistics and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government respectively, and local councillor affiliation data manually entered from the 326 council tax and business rates raising local authorities of England.

The open data can be found here and we will update it after the local elections in May – please read the README before using.

You can read more about how the dataset was constructed here

So you think you know your country – who owns the land?

Tuesday 27th March 18.30 – 20.30
Federation
Federation Street, Manchester M4 4BF

Register on Meetup here

In the second event of our “So you think you know your country” series we look at land and property ownership, public space and rights of way with Guy Shrubsole and Morag Rose.

Our towns and cities often have a complex patchwork of rights and ownership associated with them. Rights of way are often undefined, public space is contested and ownership of land hidden behind secretive shell companies and investment vehicles. The release of data from the Land Registry last year cast light on patterns of ownership across England. This data has been mapped and explored by Anna Powell-Smith and Guy Shrubsole – Who owns England? https://whoownsengland.org/2017/11/14/the-companies-corporate-bodies-who-own-a-third-of-england-wales/

Within this complex interplay of rights, ownership and access exists the experience of the city — for the people are the city¹ — and it is through the human stories and experience that the city comes to life. The LRM (Loiterers Resistance Movement) http://www.thelrm.org/index is a Manchester based collective of artists, activists and urban wanderers interested in psychogeography, public space and the hidden stories of the city. LRM founder Morag Rose recently completed her thesis on women’s experiences of walking in Manchester.

¹ Coriolanus Act III Scene I – William Shakespeare http://www.bartleby.com/70/3631.html#235

Open Data Manchester secures funding to develop its work

Open Data Manchester has secured investment from Omidyar Network to develop its programme of advocacy, training and events through 2018.

In November 2017, Open Data Manchester became a Community Interest Company, setting in stone its core mission to promote a fairer and more equitable society through the development of intelligent and responsible data practice in Greater Manchester, nationally and internationally. This has allowed it to develop a more coherent and ambitious programme, and the ability to secure funding for its work. At present it is developing a framework for the consent and sharing of sensor data through its Knowable Building Framework project funded through the Open Data Institute.

Linda Humphries, a member of the Open Data Manchester CIC board said: “Being part of the Open Data Manchester community for over 5 years, I’ve seen the opportunities it has opened up, connecting people who then work together towards a common aim. This funding from the Omidyar Network will ensure that we can go on making these connections, growing skills and sharing insight, so that people in the community can use data or build tools and services that encourage citizens to better understand and influence their villages, towns and cities.”

The investment from Omidyar Network will enable Open Data Manchester to employ staff and develop its programme from its base within The Federation, Manchester.

Omidyar Network has traditionally supported projects citizen engagement and governance projects in Central and Eastern Europe. As well as Open Data Manchester it is supplying grants to:
The Federation, a co-working space and community of digital innovators in Manchester, in collaboration with the Co-op Foundation.
Campaign Bootcamp, a nation-wide initiative to empower early-stage activists by providing them with the skills, confidence and resilience to run effective campaigns.
The Bristol Cable, a citywide media co-operative focused on investigative journalism.

Established in 2010 to promote and support the use of open data for the benefit of everyone, Open Data Manchester has promoted and run regular events and programmes. In 2010 Open Data Manchester became the first organisation to secure the release of public transit schedules as open data in the UK and then went on to develop a number of programmes over the years that looked critically at how data was being used. From sector specific events around transportation and health, to programmes looking at data and democracy.

Internet of Things and Open Data Publishing

Tuesday October 3rd 10.30 – 13.30

FACT
88 Wood Street
Liverpool
L1 4DQ

Register for free here

If you have an interest in internet of things and how the data produced can contribute to the broader data economy, this is your chance to have a say.

The internet of things offers unparalleled means to create data from sensors, devices and the platforms behind them. This explosion of connectedness is creating huge opportunity for building new products and services, and enhancing existing ones. With these opportunities come some gnarly challenges. These exist around standards in data and protocols, security, discoverability, openness, ethics and governance. None of these are trivial but all of them need to be understood.

This workshop is for people involved in open data, Smart Cities and the internet of things who are starting to come up against and answer some of these challenges.

It is being run by Open Data Manchester and ODI Leeds for the Open Data Institute to look at the future of open data publishing and IoT

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is always working towards improvements in open data – from making it easier to find and use right through to refining and implementing standards. They are very keen to work with people who use open data to see what they can be doing to help and improve open data for everyone.

The workshops are open to everyone who wants to join in, contribute, or work with us. The output from the workshops will be put forward to the ODI and the UK government with recommendations on how open data should be published.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

If you can’t make it but would still like to contribute, we have an ‘open document’ available here. We encourage people to add their questions, comments, suggestions, etc.

After the workshop there is the launch of LCR Activate a £5m project led by Liverpool John Moores University with the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) and the LCR Local Enterprise Partnership. A three-year European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) initiative using AI, Big Data/High Performance Computing, Merging Data and Cloud technologies for the benefit of SMEs in the Liverpool City Region. Register here.

OpenCorporates – Exploring the corporate world through data

Evening workshop looking at the data and tools for exploring the global corporate world.

18.30 – 21.00 Tuesday 27th June 2017
Federation House
Federation Street
Manchester
Register Here

If there is one thing that Panama Papers proved, it is that shell companies and opaque jurisdictions allow money and assets to be kept secret, making it difficult for investigators to detect corruption, money laundering and organized crime.

In 2010 OpenCorporates was founded as an effort to identify where companies were based and how they linked across the world. It is now the largest open database of companies and company data, with in excess of 100 million companies in a similarly large number of jurisdictions. Their primary goal is to make information on companies more usable and more widely available for the public benefit, particularly to tackle the use of companies for criminal or anti-social purposes, for example corruption, money laundering and organised crime.

This is a workshop that will enable people and organisations to harness the power of this huge pool of data. Whether you are an activist, organisation or just plain interested, this workshop will help give you the tools to explore the complex, connected world of corporate organisations.

Exploring Grant Awards in the UK – Open Data Manchester March 17

GrantNav brings together information about grants awarded by a variety of funders in the UK. Because the data is published with a common standard, it’s easy to create analyses and visualisations that a) work for any of the funders’ data and b) can compare grant portfolios across funders.

You can download the whole dataset as a csv file. It’s also available to browse in GrantNav, a 360Giving application released under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike License (CC-BY-SA). Please see GrantNav’s copyright and attribution list for details on the original data sources.

The grants.csv table has a row per award with columns describing a variety of attributes such as date of award, amount awarded, recipient, funder and beneficiary.

We created some exploratory visualisations of this data at last months’ Open Data Manchester workshop – “Getting to Grips with Data”. The idea with exploratory analysis is that you start with some data and you simply want to know what is there – to uncover the shape and scope. You can get to grips with a dataset by understanding what dimensions or variables it includes and what values those variables take. You would typically use summaries like frequency tables, cross tabulations, and distributional analysis. These statistical descriptions provide views into the data which quickly provoke questions about the patterns within.

One aspect we chose to explore was the size of grants awarded (in the Amount Awarded column). Two things soon became apparent: first, that each funder has a very different award portfolio, and second, that the amounts tended to cluster around certain values. This seemed intuitive – since funding is often offered with specific thresholds, we might expect applicants to design their projects with these in mind, asking for more or less money than they might otherwise have done.

We settled on an analysis called a “cumulative frequency distribution” as a way of visualising these aspects. We’ll explain this in detail below, but, since a picture speaks a thousand words, we invite you to take a look at the chart first. Feel free skip the technical description and jump to read about the conclusions we can draw from this data graphic.

Distribution of Grants by Value


What is a cumulative frequency distribution?

A frequency distribution tells us how common certain values are across a range. Whereas an average provides a summary of a set of values by telling us about the middle, a frequency distribution tells us about the middle, ends and all the values in between. The same average value can arise from many different distributions (e.g. a few very small values and many large ones or many small values and a few very large ones). The distribution is calculated by taking a range (e.g. £0 – £1,000,000), then dividing it into bins (e.g. £0-99, £100-999, £1,000-4,999 …), then counting the number of values that fall into each bin – aka the frequency (e.g. £0-99: 100 grants, £100-999: 363 grants, £1,000-4,999: 789 grants etc). These can be a bit tricky to interpret however, as the frequency depends upon the bin size.

A cumulative frequency distribution take a cumulative tally of frequencies. Whereas a frequency distribution might say “there were x awards between 10,000-15,000” a cumulative distribution would say “there were x awards up to 15,000”. This makes the interpretation slightly easier as we can say “x awards were less than £y”. In order to compare funders – who each make different numbers of awards – we’ve transformed the frequencies into a proportion by dividing by the total number of awards made by each – i.e. “x% of awards at were less than £y”.

How should I interpret the chart?

We can then plot the cumulative frequency distribution – here we’ve mapped the amount awarded on to the horizontal x-axis and the cumulative proportion of award by number on to the vertical y-axis.

Given that distribution is highly skewed (there are many small grants, and few large ones) we’ve transformed the x-axis using a logarithmic scale (with base 10). That means that each step along the scale represents a 10 fold increase in the £ amount (a typical linear scale would map an constant £ amount for each step). Practically speaking, this helps to spread the curves out across the graphic so that they’re easier to distinguish and not bunched-up on the left, making better use of the space available.

The curves show the proportion of each funder’s awards that were made up to a given size of award. Flatter vertical segments indicate many awards being made with that amount, flatter horizontal segments indicate fewer awards being made over a range of amounts. Where one curve is above another, that indicates that they focus more of their awards at that level (i.e. making more awards by number, relative to the total number in their portfolio).

What does this analysis tell us about grant funding in the UK?

Let’s return to the chart again. What can you see?

There are clear vertical segments around funding thresholds. This is most obvious in the case of the Big Lottery Fund, around the £5,000 and £10,000 mark.

We can also see some funders focus on a narrow range – the Lloyds Bank Foundation, for example, makes around 90% of it’s awards between £10,000 and £50,000 – whereas the Dulverton Trust and the Northern Rock Foundation have a much broader spread.

The BBC’s Children in Need fund does have an obvious threshold at £10,000, like the Big Lottery Fund, but actually makes most of its awards at a higher level (up to around £100,000).

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundations – the right-most curve across most of the range, focusses on larger awards with around a third over £100,000.

How do I make one of these?

You will no doubt be able to make other comparisons, and draw other conclusions from the graphic. Indeed it probably provokes more questions. What would this look like in terms of proportion of funding by value (instead of by number of awards)? How does this compare in absolute terms (i.e. overall number of awards, not proportion)? What about the smaller funders we removed to make the chart easier to read?!

If you’d like to find answers to those questions, or explore other parts of the dataset, then you can find the R code used to generate the analysis and graphics on github. We introduce the data.table library used to make summary tables and the ggplot2 library used to design and create the visualisations. You can also follow-along with the exploration process and find links to learning resources in the comments placed throughout the source-code.

Follow Robin Gower on Twitter @robsteranium

Provisional programme for 2017

IMG_0066From last night’s planning meeting we now have a provisional programme for 2017 and it is quite an ambitious one. What is great from our perspective is that there is a continuation of a number of themes that we have been looking at over the last year and a resurfacing of perennial ones. Highlights include the ‘making and doing’ workshops that have been developed as part of the Echo Chambers and ‘Post-Fact’ Politics programme and the Visualising Data workshops. There are a number of sector and technically specific events but one to watch out for is alternative ways of looking at the world which will be a day of walks, talks and explorations. As always there is a large dose of how data and technology impact on society and much more.

This is a provisional programme and we are looking for as much input as possible (Dates and sessions are subject to change). Please click on the Google Doc and add comments. We are looking for people who can contribute, sponsors, venues and partners.

Link to Google Doc

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Echo5

A one-day workshop to develop new ways of tackling a ‘post-fact’ world

12th November 2016, 10.00 – 16.00. The Shed, Chester Street, Manchester
The event is free, register here

We live in interesting times. Trust in, and respect for experts seems to be declining-  Michael Gove recently said that we’ve ‘had enough of experts’. Increasingly online platforms quietly tailor what we encounter to fit our existing views- creating echo chambers out of our prejudices. At the same time political issues are becoming more and more complex as science and technology advances and society becomes more complicated.

These and other changes seem like a perfect storm for breeding a dystopian world in which the importance of evidence slowly slips out of view. But at the same time technology also offers hope for more enlightened debate- with the internet creating many new opportunities to engage, learn, and create. So we want to do something about these issues.

We want to draw together people with a wide range of experience and interest to try and unpick these issues and think what we can start developing ways of tackling these. Whether you’re an artist, an activist, a policy wonk, or simply someone interested in this area we want to hear your ideas.

We will be using an ‘unconference’ style, which means that people who come to the event will shape what we talk about. The aim will be to identify where the challenges lie and think of potential solutions, leading to a future event where we will develop these ideas further and- hopefully- start to get them built.

To start the discussion we will be creating a website and encourage people to submit short blogs related to the theme.

Register here

This event is organised by Open Data Manchester and The Democratic Society with the kind support of Manchester Metropolitan University and Digital Innovation at MMU

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Making data useful and other stories – How GM authorities are using data to help their citizens

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Tuesday 27th September 2016
Greenheys Business Centre
Manchester Science Park
Pencroft Way
Manchester M15 6JJ

Map here

Sign up on Eventbrite here

This month’s Open Data Manchester looks at how two local authorities are using data to deliver service.

Alison Mckenzie Folan and Alison Hughes from Wigan Council will show how they are using data and open data to help them engage the community, target resources and enhance services. Wigan Deal has been seen as an exemplar of engagement between the public sector, local businesses and community.

Jamie Whyte leads Trafford Innovation Lab which has been developing new and innovative ways to make open data understandable. The insight created has enabled community groups to use data to help them apply for funding, created resources for councillors and shown a spotlight onto the complex world of school admissions

Open Data Manchester events are spaces for learning, discussion and collaboration. The events are open and free