Deprivation vs political control

View full image here

The Indices of Deprivation is a hugely useful collection of datasets in England. Commissioned by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and developed by OCSI, the indices allow us to understand relative deprivation of neighbourhoods across the country. The indices are used by many different organisation to support decision-making, from determination of funding for schools, to charitable grant-giving. Some even call it the billion pound dataset.

In the context of these indices, deprivation is a measure representing a range of factors, from quality housing, to air quality, educational attainment to crime. The indices tend to be published every 4 years or so, the last in England was 2015. Similar indices are also published for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

England is split into 32,844 geographical units, each of which has a population of around 1,500 people. These are called lower super output areas (LSOAs). Each of these LSOAs is scored according to a range of factors, and then each LSOA is ranked according to all the others (ie 1 is the most deprived, 32,844 is the least deprived).

At Open Data Manchester, we believe that it is important that everyone is aware that this dataset exists, and that they have the opportunity to understand it and use it. Because of this, we are embarking on a series of events which will look at the indices of deprivation in detail, to help people understand what the data says about the area that they live in, and how they might be able to use that data to challenge local decision-making, to support their own business development, help with applications for grant-funding, etc.

While there will be events, workshops and training to come, we wanted to make something that visualised the dataset, to help kickstart the conversations. So we came up with this poster, that we’re calling a lava lamp plot.

To interpret the charts, local authorities are arranged according to the rank of average ranks of LSOAs in that area. For this measure, Manchester is the most deprived local authority, and Hart in Hampshire is the least deprived.The shape of each chart is derived from the number of LSOAs in each area that fall into each vigintile (quantiles of 5% – a more granular version of a decile). This distribution curve is smoothed, mirrored, and filled in according to the political party in control of the local authority council. The shape of the curve shows the distribution of LSOAs by deprivation – the fatter the bottom, the more deprived LSOAs there are; the fatter the head, the fewer deprived areas there are.

We’ll do a couple more posts over the coming weeks that look at the technical details for how we made the poster. We got the deprivation data from OpenDataCommunities, and the political control data from the Local Government Information Unit. The tools that we used to manipulate the data were R, RStudio, ggplot, and Adobe Illustrator. Code is available at this GitHub repo.

We are producing an edition of A2 Fine Art prints printed on heavyweight paper suitable for framing for £30 inc VAT. If you would like one of these please get in touch at julian[a]opendatamanchester[.]org[.]uk with the subject line Fine Art Prints. The A2 image can also be downloaded 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.

Echo Chambers and ‘Post-fact’ Politics – developing ideas

Half day workshop to build tools for a ‘post-fact’ world

Apparently 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. We are worried that the role of evidence in politics is slipping- and we want to do something about it.

A preliminary workshop was held in November attracting a broad range of people from far and wide. Together a list of initiatives was created responding to these challenges. Click this link to read the list of initiatives and add your own thoughts.

Now we are running a follow-on event to allow people to develop these ideas. If you’re an activist, policy wonk, artist, or simply someone interested in this topic we’d love for you to join us. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t make the first event as we will get you up to speed with a chance to add new ideas on the day.

For more information regarding the Echo Chambers and ‘Post-fact’ Politics workshops go to www.postfactpolitics.com

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

Logos

What happened? Looking at the data behind the referendum

Tuesday 26th July, 18.30 – 20.30
CoopHQ, 1 Angel Meadows, Manchester M60 0AG

Partial truths, distorted facts and outright lies have helped create the febrile climate that exists post Brexit. The information war that took place prior to the referendum created an atmosphere in which rational judgements were hard to make and gut instinct rose to the fore. Within this context, advocates of Vote Leave rubbished experts and mishandled facts with glee. Anyone contesting these claims were branded as promoters of Project Fear and part of the expert-led conspiracy that sought to undermine the public’s right to self-determination.

Post referendum and the dust hasn’t yet settled. We are starting to see lots of data giving us insight into what happened – from polls to voting patterns, from demographics to economic forecasts. This is an opportunity to analyse and share thoughts on a most extraordinary event.

We are an open forum and anyone who has insight and analysis to share are encouraged to participate.

Tickets are free and available here

Democracy Projects – Open Election Special

It was appropriate that March’s Open Data Manchester meeting should focus on projects related to the forthcoming elections. Not only because the country goes to the polls next month but also that election data was the first area of interest when Open Data Manchester started five years ago. The release of election data by Trafford Council in 2010 started them off on their journey to become open data champions, and it is through forums such as Open Data Manchester and Social Media Cafe Manchester people became connected.

Election Station

In 2015 there are a number of fantastic initiatives that try and unpick the proposed policies of the political parties, and filter through the fluff and bluster of our incumbent and prospective parliamentary candidates.

Digital and networked technology as well as access to data that is either open, scraped, scanned, manually transcribed or crawled, creates the opportunity to understand and analyse what is proposed and how parliamentarians have delivered on the promises of the past. Not only do these technologies allow us to be more informed but might also offer a way of building the policies of the future through novel forms of engagement and participation. Advocates for direct democracy see that creating opportunities for people to have a say in policy decisions makes for a more engaged society. Estonia’s Charter 12 and Iceland’s Crowd Sourced Constitution Bill are examples of these approaches in action. Both coming directly out of crises, where faith had been lost in the democratic process.

The need to re-enfranchise people into democratic participation is critical. In Manchester Central constituency where Labour candidate Lucy Powell was elected in a 2012 by-election, there was an 18% voter turnout. Without democratic mandate the legitimacy of government is vastly reduced. Which in turn has impact on the way the country is run and how people engage and align with the decisions of government.

There are many examples of projects in the UK that are seeking to make the sometimes arcane processes of government and its representatives more understandable. Notable in this space are the many projects that have been supported and developed by mySociety, with the stated aim of inventing and popularising digital tools that enable citizens to exert power over institutions and decision makers. Democracy Club, Full Fact and Unlocking Democracy are active in this space, as well as a raft of people who volunteer their time and see the importance of making the election process more open.

  • YourNextMP – Built by Democracy Club is an open database and API of candidate data
  • Meet Your Next MP – Created by JMB Technology lists independent events and hustings in your constituency
  • The Big Monitoring Project – Being developed by Full Fact seeks to record what politicians and the media says and hold them to account.
  • ElectionLeaflets.org – By Election Leaflets, Unlocking Democracy and Democracy Club. Crowdsourcing a database of the leaflets that candidates shove through your door and what they say.

Many of these initiatives are looking for people to volunteer their time and expertise.

The subsequent discussions focussed on why people don’t engage and possible ways that technology can help. Many of the group had direct experience of trying to get social housing tenants to vote on matters that affected their tenancy due to a large housing stock transfer. Although the subject affects tenants in an immediate and tangible way there was difficulty engaging people who were not otherwise engaged. In the end staff from the housing association had to knock on doors and explain to people what they were voting for in order to get people to vote. This highlights the difficulty those working on engagement with the democratic process face. Ways of making the process easier were discussed but this led to a deeper exploration as to the nature of engagement. If we make voting easier does it change the nature and relationship between the voter and the subject being voted upon? Perhaps we are trying to look at the symptoms rather than the cause and a democracy based upon weak or passive interaction was not as strong as one where effort was needed to register an opinion. One of the group highlighted the difference between the situation in the UK compared to countries where engaged public discussion where part of life.

Making the democratic process more understandable is vitally important to engagement. Voters need to feel as though they have agency and that their decision has importance. A challenge faced when trying to decide who to vote for is cutting through the rhetoric masking policy. There is also difficulty in creating key comparators and metrics. How do we create an environment where we can compare what one person says over another and how can we understand the impact those position would make to our communities. It was suggested that if we could standardise certain aspects of a manifesto we would be able to compare across positions. This could then be overlaid on to data from local communities that has been modelled in a standardised way allowing direct comparison of potential impact. There are a number of challenges associated with this – such as the candidates local position might differ from that of the party.

There is a wealth of data that evidences the voting behaviour of incumbent MPs which could be used as a metric to judge the attractiveness of a candidate. This data is only available for incumbents and not those in opposition. Party politics can override the voting preferences of individual MPs and politicians often have to make difficult decisions that may be seen as undesirable. If an MP stated a position to which you voted for and then evidences a pattern of voting behaviour in office that doesn’t correlate, that information would be useful in helping you choose who to vote for.

Creating a service where you can map your own preferences with those of candidates and then follow the voting patterns of your parliamentary representative over time was deemed useful – allowing the user to understand the reasons why they voted for that candidate and whether, in light of those historic preferences, the candidate was a good representative.

Creating standardisation so that you can map candidates directly onto locality – assumes that the individual would act independently and not be whipped by the party.

Voting data also enables you to see how rebellious a candidate who doesn’t necessarily tow the party line is. A number of the group suggested that ‘Rebellion Ratings’ could be seen as a good indicator of principled behaviour, over the representatives desire to further their own political career.

Democracy Club is crowdsourcing the CVs of prospective candidates so that people get a better idea of who they are voting for. It was mentioned that this would be interesting to compare with the LinkedIn profiles of candidates. Comparing a professional business facing persona with one that has been created to garner public support.

There are a lot of excellent projects that are trying to make the process of government and the effectiveness of MPs more understandable. It would be interesting to see if some of these could be implemented at a local government election level. If people are more connected to their locality it would make sense to develop projects that help people to engage with local decision making. Perhaps this could be another front to fight disenfranchisement within the democratic process.

 

 

Open Election Special – March 31st

Tuesday 31st March 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Spaceport X
1st Floor
24-26 Lever Street
Manchester
M1 1DZ
More details and directions here

Sign up on Eventbrite here

The country will go to the polls on May the 7th and decide the government that will represent us over the next five years. In many boroughs local elections will also be taking place.

Five years ago Open Data Manchester advocated for making available data relevant to the elections. Chris Taggart who was at the time working on OpenlyLocal came and did a presentation about the Open Election Data initiative and explained why we need to have relevant open data about those that seek to represent us and the election process.

This month’s event looks at what has changed, whether access to these data has improved and what we can do to make the process and choosing of our representatives more understandable.

The event is a precursor to an election data hack event that will be taking place later in April.

More details will be released nearer the date.

As ever Open Data Manchester is a forum for anyone who is interested in open data and we encourage people to come along and share their interests and propose new sessions and events.

For more details contact Julian