Developing the use of administrative data on Scotland's civil society

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science

Abstract

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have always gathered and used information in some shape or form. However, on-going developments in modern digital computing, telecommunications, and mobile technologies mean that the early 21st century is bringing new opportunities and challenges for organisations seeking to extract value from the data they hold.

This Civil Society Data Partnership project is a collaboration between the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and the Universities of Stirling and St Andrew's. The project is centred at Stirling, combining social statistics expertise in the management and analysis of administrative data with a track record of collaborative applied social science research with CSOs. St Andrews brings expertise in CSO management and strategy, while SCVO provides a network of CSOs and expertise in engagement. Significant institutional investment in this project from all three partners shows their commitment to developments in this field.

It forms part of Phase III of the ESRC's investment in the Big Data Network. It aims to develop the availability of administrative data on CSOs, while also helping civil society organisations to improve their ability to work with data. Scottish data, civil society and research organisations make a sensible focus for the project, since activities are substantially organised with Scotland whilst dealing with issues and resources that are of relevance to, and have the potential to contribute, across the UK.

This proposal focusses on Scotland for a number of reasons. The standardised collection of CSO data at the local level promises a much more comprehensive list of civil society activity than relying on charity register data alone would provide. Capacity building with the established network of Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) (similar to Councils of Voluntary Service in England & Wales) collecting this data has the potential not only to increase data use amongst CSOs, but also to improve the quality of data collection as the accurate recording of information becomes more valuable to those collecting it. The relatively advanced state of administrative data linkage in Scotland (e.g. indexed health records) opens up great potential for the further linking of CSO data to other sources, increasing both the research and policy impact. Lastly, the greater inequality of both income and health between communities in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK (Morelli & Seaman, 2012; Bell & Eiser, 2013) creates a compelling case for better understanding how both civil society participation and service provision is distributed across communities.

The work will facilitate the provision of better data on the characteristics of Scottish civil society activity (including organisations, service provision, employment and volunteering) to researchers and policy practitioners in government, academia, and civil society itself. This data will be drawn from the Milo database of civil society organisations collected by local civil society infrastructure bodies across Scotland. Use of this data will increase understanding of how both civil society participation and service delivery is distributed across communities, and its relationship with inequality and deprivation. We will also develop the capacity of civil society organisations to make use of both the data they generate and the other data sources becoming more widely available, thereby supporting performance enhancements in service provision and organisational practice. Finally, the project will help to support collaborations between academics, public sector organisations and CSOs in Scotland to propose substantive research projects making use of this data that will impact policy and/or practice.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?

This project has a number of beneficiaries. It will directly benefit civil society organisations (CSOs) and partnerships in Scotland, while further downstream also benefitting CSOs in rest of the UK and more widely. By enabling better understanding of CSOs at sector level and of performance at partnership and organisational levels it will also impact on service users and potential users. It will also benefit public policy-makers and public and other bodies working in partnership with CSOs by generating 'big data' and organisational data that will inform social and economic policy decisions and democratic policy advocacy.

The key beneficiary groups are:

Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) who will benefit from having access to better data in local CSO activity; from being able to link this data to other sources; and from increased capacity to analyse the data they hold. This will improve support for CSOs, allow their resources to be targeted more efficiently locally; and contribute to understanding the state and health of the sector at a local level. Better data on locals CSOs linked with local area statistics (such as employment, deprivation, health, etc.) will help TSIs in engaging through Community Planning Partnerships with other stakeholders in public service delivery by providing robust evidence of the scale and nature of CSO activity.

CSOs holding data will benefit from improving their ability to work with the data they hold, either themselves or in collaboration with researchers. The links made to existing ESRC investments will help them to access these resources. Better use of data will allow CSOs to operate more efficiently, streamline service design, and effectively make the case for the impact of the services they provide.

Local authorities (LAs) will benefit from a better understanding of CSO activity within their area. Linking this data to data on LA service provision will increase understanding of the coverage of services across sectors, facilitating the better targeting of public service delivery resources to where they are most needed.

National policy makers will benefit from increased intelligence on the state of civil society, and being better able to measure CSO activity. Current attempts focus on using registered charity data, which omits around half of the total CSOs which are not constituted as charities. This will help the Scottish Government to better target their support of civil society infrastructure (e.g. TSIs); and to examine the impact of polices designed to encourage civil society activity.

These impacts will outlive the immediate project in a number of ways. SCVO will continue to make the CSO data available as part of the open data initiative following the policies and procedures established through this project. The training and guidance resources will continue to be available to CSOs after the project. Three CSOs will continue to develop their data research skills through the funded MSc places at the University of Stirling. The Network and community of CSOs and researchers will continue to run beyond the life of the project. The collaborations set in motion by this project between academics, policymakers and CSOs will lead to research proposals and funding bids which will support their continued development.

The involvement of SCVO in the design and delivery of this project will ensure that the impact on CSOs is foremost throughout the project.
 
Description The Scottish Civil Society Data Partnership has focused on developing third sector data in Scotland, working in four areas:

1) Improving the data available on wider civil society organisations
We have cleaned and documented the Milo database, containing details of local third sector organisations collected by Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs). This dataset has been submitted to ReShare at the UK Data Archive.

2) Data use by civil society organisations
Following events with the leaders of Scottish civil society organisations (CSOs) we have produced a series of case studies and toolkit to help organisations better utilise the data that they hold both within their organisations (e.g. about their volunteers, services) or that they access and share through their networks and collaborative partnerships (e.g. social media, service delivery partners). The case studies and toolkit are available on our website at www.thinkdata.org.uk

3) Building Data Analysis Capacity amongst Scottish CSOs
We delivered a range of workshops and webinars to develop the skills amongst CSO staff in working with and analysing data. The resources and activities are available to any civil society organisations who wish to develop their capacity on our website at www.thinkdata.org.uk

4) Developing collaborations to make better use of data on civil society activity
We ran a series of topical roadshows and strategic roundtables to bring third sector organisations, researchers and data holders together. These highlighted key research questions in health, social care, housing and social policy that third sector data could be used to address. The network built through the project continues through the website at www.thinkdata.org.uk and through the Knowledge Hub at https://khub.net/group/scottish-data-partnership
Exploitation Route The data resources generated will now be used by SCVO and TSIs to better understand the local distribution of civil society organisations. Third sector organisations can use our case studies, toolkit and training resources to build their capacity to make better use of data. Collaborative research proposals are being developed as a consequence of our roundtable and roadshow events. Both third sector organisations and researchers can use our ThinkData network to share good practice and develop new collaborations.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

URL http://www.thinkdata.org.uk
 
Description The CSDP project involved developing third sector data resources by curating administrative data from the MILO database; developing case studies of third sector data use; providing capacity building opportunities for third sector opportunities; and supporting research collaboration between academics and third sector organsiations. Providing better data on the characteristics of Scottish civil society activity The dataset produced in this project has been used by the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations to better understand the distribution of the organisations they represent and support. The data cleaning work has improved the quality of the data used by Third Sector Interfaces across Scotland, supporting their engagement with local third sector organisations Developing the capacity of CSOs to make use of data The data skills resources, available through the project website and YouTube channel have continued to be accessed and used by third sector organisations. Close collaboration with third sector organisations such as SCVO, OSCR and Citizens Advice Scotland have helped their staff to develop their use of both internal and external data. Staff from third sector organisation are in the final stages of their MSc study in applied social research and social statistics, undertaking projects using data relevant to their organisations. Supporting collaborations between academics and CSOs in Scotland Proposals for collaborative research projects are currently in development.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description CDSP WP4 National roundtable 1st meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The first strategic meeting of the CSDP project brought together invited attendees from a carefully selected range of backgrounds and sectors. The session introduced the aims of the CSDP project, why collaboration between sectors matters, along with an overview of the types and sources of third sector data and its 'offer'. The lively and thought-provoking discussions revealed a wide range of interests in the room from academics, public sector and third sector participants, but also many shared priorities, concerns and desired outcomes.

There was a useful discussions around possible themes for the programme to focus on in over the coming months. There was clearly a lot of interest in many of the suggested themes, particularly:
• Health and Social Care integration
• Stronger communities
• Empowerment
• Poverty
• Evaluation, and Innovation, came through as additional themes.

Some suggested mirroring the Single Outcome Agreement themes. However, participants proposed framing the priorities differently, using a more question-based approach which would help sharpen the themes and make it easier to bring together mixed audiences with operational or policy interests:

• What are the key questions we want to answer?
• How could better data-sharing and a more imaginative cross-sector approach help us answer those questions?
• Can we set some public policy challenges?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description CSDP Advisory Panel Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting of the project advisory group, including impacts from third sector organisations, policy professionals, industry professionals and academics. Discussion focussed on what the project planned to achieve and how it could best maximise its impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description CSDP Advisory Panel Meeting May2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting of the project advisory group, including impacts from third sector organisations, policy professionals, industry professionals and academics. Discussion focussed on how the project was progressing after the first round of events and how to ensure key audiences were engaged.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description CSDP Strategic Roundtable 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The second strategic meeting of the CSDP project brought together invited attendees from a carefully selected range of backgrounds and sectors. Discussion in the session focussed on reflecting on the work of the SCSDP over the previous 6 months; taking forward discussions around data and open data; identifying further potential areas for joint working around data between public, private, universities and third sectors; discussing the role of the third sector as a provider or contributor to big data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Capacity-building Workshop 1: Using secondary survey data to explore civil society 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A workshop providing training and capacity building opportunities for those interested in undertaking research on Scotland's Civil Society. Materials cover the data resources and methods of analysis involved in research in this area, with a particular interest in the relationship between academic researchers and those working at Third Sector Organisations. Participants learnt about the use of secondary survey data, how to access data, and the resources available.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/training/WorkshopOne/
 
Description Exhibition Stand at The Gathering Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact We hosted an exhibition stand at The Gathering conference, an annual conference on the third sector organised by SCVO. The event was attended by over 3,000 people and we had productive conversations with a wide range of people from the third sector, and both public and private sectors. We distributed copies of our publications, added around 50 people to our ThinkData network, and highlighted the free resources available on our website.

We also offered a 'data drop-in' at the stand where we were able to give third sector organisations some advice about making better use of data in their organisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://thegathering.eventgrid.com/Page/22158/civil-society-data-partnership
 
Description Focus group - Public Sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The focus group looked at how public bodies conceptualise, gather, process, and use 'data' both internally and within collaborative relationships with third sector organisations. It also reflected on the barriers inhibiting effective data engagement on the part of public sector organisations and at the conditions which facilitate effective practice, with a particular focus on collaborative relationships with third sector organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Focus group - Third Sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The focus group looked at how third sector practitioners conceptualise, gather, process, and use, strategic and operational 'data' both internally and within collaborative relationships with other organisations. It also reflected on the barriers inhibiting effective data engagement on the part of third sector organisations and at the conditions which facilitate effective practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Gathering Event Think data! Developments in the third sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact We hosted a break-out event at The Gathering as the final event of our engagement programme. Following a brief overview of what the CSDP has achieved, the session focused on a series of Cafe Conversations where participants could learn more about specific activities and engage in discussion. This helped to encourage people to join the network, and to raise awareness of the resources available as a result of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://thegathering.eventgrid.com/Page/19763/schedule
 
Description Roadshow 3: Health and wellbeing in the North East 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The aims of this roadshow were:
Network! Strengthen links between third sector organisations, public sector and academic sector
Identify key issues ad research gaps
Make better use of existing assets, resources and data, including open source and 'big data'
Better connections with academics leading to more collaboration
Better links with public sector, local intelligence and public sector data sets as well as better understanding of shared priorities
Support for third sector organisations in Aberdeen who collect and hold data, but lack capacity/time to analyse or skills to present and visualise data
Joint research projects and funding bids around local needs and priorities

Connections were made between academics and third sector organisations that had not been in contact before.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/roadshows/roadshow-three/
 
Description Roadshow 4: Housing Research: Understanding Tenant Need 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The aim of the housing research roadshow was to bring together housing associations, public and third sector bodies with a housing remit, and academics researching tenant and housing-related issues. It explored how making better use of data and developing more cross-sectoral collaborations could improve intelligence, and help services meet the needs of different tenant groups.

Key topics for presentations and workshops included:
Understanding tenant needs
Understanding the role housing plays in health and wellbeing
Understanding the needs of specific tenant groups: older people, supported housing tenants, disabled tenants, low-income tenants, poverty and welfare, refugees, homelessness, rural issues etc.
Resources, data sources and funding to support research and intelligence gathering activities

Several housing associations expressed interest in future collaborative research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/roadshows/roadshow-four/
 
Description Roadshow 5: Citizen's Advice Bureaux 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This event brought together Citizens Advice Bureaux staff and policy research volunteers with academics researching policy-related issues. It showcased examples of projects by voluntary-sector organisations which have used routinely-collected data in new ways to help understand social problems, inform policy or develop public services.

The discussion focused on using CASTLE and other routinely-collected data to produce policy-relevant research. It covered the priorities for this research might be, its potential contribution to social policy or other knowledge, and explore any concerns about access to and use of data. The conversations contributed to developing a collaborative research proposal to take the work forward.

The event will offer a combination both external speakers and University of Stirling researchers, with presentations of relevant research as well as conversations between CAB colleagues to generate ideas and explore concerns.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Roadshow 6: Sharing Grant-making Bodies Open Data 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This meeting focused on sharing the potential of open data for grant making trusts. The main speaker was 360 Giving who have developed an Open data standard. Key Scottish grant-making trusts attended, and shared how they currently use data. Fruitful discussion was had about future involvement in data sharing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Round Table 3: Health Data and the Third Sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This joint event hosted by the Scottish Civil Society Data Partnership (CSDP) and the Administrative Data Research Centre for Scotland (ADRC).
Key discussion areas:
Health, wellbeing and the third sector's role
Health & Social Care integration, Health and Community Planning, Christie Commission and public service reform
Innovation, prevention, collaboration, co-production, person-centred and asset-based approaches
Health intelligence - general, plus specific health or demographic issues
Funding sources for research

The discussion focused on ensuring that the third sector was involved in making the best use of administrative health and social care data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.scvo.org.uk/events/csdp-adrc-cross-sector-roundtable-on-health-how-can-data-help-the-thir...
 
Description Think Data YouTube channel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Establishment of a YouTube channel to host the event recordings and webinars produced during the programme. The channel has only just been established, but is receiving regular views from both live webinar participants and organisations watching the recordings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCulkJhv5XCKq9H2d5G4mzfw
 
Description Think data! Roadshow 1: Charity and third sector data 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This was the first of six Roadshow events organised by the Scottish Civil Society Data Partnerships. This event explored national and local data sets held by both the public sector and third sector intermediary and umbrella organisations. There were opportunities to hear from organisations which have used data to improve planning and services. The roadshow also provided a space for organisations to discuss practical data sharing projects which could help understand and demonstrate impact, improve organisational knowledge and data, and which in turn can improve services and outcomes for the organisations and people we serve.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/roadshows/roadshow-one/
 
Description Think data! Roadshow 2 Better data, healthier lives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The second roadshow event provided a space where health and social care organisations in the third sector could join public sector partners including the NHS, and academic experts, to discuss and explore issues around using and sharing health and social care data. As well as getting new conversations started, this session lead to new ideas and requests for further participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/roadshows/roadshow-two/
 
Description Training Workshop 2: Using secondary administrative data to explore civil society 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Workshop 2 on "Using secondary administrative data to explore Civil Society" included talks and networking activities. The workshop brought together experts in 'administrative data', and researchers and staff engaged in third sector organisations. It sought to explain the significant value of administrative data and discuss how it is possible to use administrative data as a research resource.

Professionals from third sector organisations learned practical skills in working with administrative data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/training/WorkshopTwo/
 
Description Training Workshop 3: Using your own databases as research resources 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Workshop 3 on "Using your own databases as research resources" included talks, guided training in a computer lab session, and networking activities. The workshop brought together experts in using databases for research, and staff engaged in third sector organisations. It sought to highlight important opportunities and challenges in using datasets, and provide practical help in working with data.

Staff from third sector organisations learned practical skills for working with their own organisation's data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thinkdata.org.uk/events/training/WorkshopThree/