Our Data Cafe experience at Stronger Things

In early June, Open Data Manchester took the train to London to take in the Stronger Things 2024 conference, hosted by New Local at Guildhall. The conference brought together changemakers, community leaders and public sector innovators to explore ideas and strategies for empowering communities and transforming public services and to showcase innovative work being done across the UK to put communities at the heart of public service delivery and decision making.

Keynote speakers included Ruth Ibegbuna, founder of Rekindle School and the Roots Programme, as well as lightning talks from community organisations like Juno, which works with young carers to shape residential care.

As part of the conference, ODM spoke at a session called “The Data Cafe”, which consisted of a number of tables and speakers, each focused on a different theme related to how data can be used to empower and mobilise communities.

ODM spoke at four out of the five themes presented:

  • Collecting data for community action – giving residents tools to collect data important to them. Sam shared details on the Data Champions programme, part of Our Streets Chorlton, which enables residents to collect local traffic and air quality data.
  • Data for all – helping residents understand local data to strengthen engagement and collective action. Julian discussed their Data for Communities programme, aiming at making data available and accessible to all.
  • Strategies for ‘decolonising’ data and mapping experience – engaging local residents in data collection, mapping processes and centring their perspectives and narrative on safety in their area. Toyebat presented the work she did on the Right to the Streets project, mapping the experience of women and girls in Trafford and how this led to the development of a local place review.
  • Giving residents a say in public sector AI use – building trust in tech used for public sector decisions. Mat talked about our work developing the principles for collaborating with residents on the use of automated decision-making systems.

The Data Cafe was one of many engaging sessions and workshops at Stronger Things, which covered topics such as overcoming poverty and inequality, developing community capacity in priority neighborhoods, practicing collective imagination, and exploring radical leadership in an era of community power.

Through the Data Cafe, we aimed to highlight the critical role that data can play in this agenda, by empowering residents, strengthening local engagement, and ensuring responsible and inclusive use of data and technology.