ColaBoraBora: Redefining the ‘WHATS’ transforming the ‘HOWS’

Rosa from ColaBoraBora has prepared the below blog for us in advance of her workshop session at our conference ‘Mutual Benefits: Building a Co-operation Between Wales and the Basque Country’. She talks about the interesting ethos of ColaBoraBora, interlinking the community and the private sector, and the projects they have worked on so far…

As this a Basque conference, this blog has been published in both English, Basque and Welsh.

ColaBoraBora is a cooperative of social initiative, dedicated to designing services and helping create environments and processes of collaborative innovation that focus on people. We help different types of clients to imagine possible and desirable future situations so as to produce new opportunities in times of changes. Additionally, we are also with them to help them put them into practice successfully. Our work is based on paying the same attention to the WHAT (pursued challenges) as to the HOW (how to approach them).

Proponemos nuevos sistemas y metodologías para abordar retos relacionados con la innovación estratégica, organizativa y social. Trabajamos principalmente en proyectos donde se interrelacionan lo público, lo comunitario y lo privado.

Nuestra propuesta de trabajo se sitúa a medio camino entre lo cultural, lo social, lo económico y lo político, abordándolo desde unas perspectivas CO- y TRANS-. Ofrecemos un mix de servicios a medida, basados en la combinación de diversas maneras de hacer, entre la investigación, la consultoría, el diseño, el acompañamiento y la formación. El objetivo es aplicar la creatividad desde la inteligencia colectiva, para pasar de lo abstracto a lo concreto, desarrollando las ideas en forma de productos, servicios y experiencias tangibles.

En ColaBoraBora somos una pequeña tribu de personas entusiastas y críticas, curiosas y comprometidas. Un grupo con formaciones y experiencias diversas (artes, diseño, economía, sostenibilidad, facilitación de procesos, marketing…). Un equipo de profesionales que trabajamos de manera transdisciplinar, remezclando prácticas y saberes.

Diseñando para el bien común

En ColaBoraBora entendemos el diseño como un conjunto de procedimientos para crear soluciones y abordar oportunidades, mediante una planificación y organización diferencial, significativa y eficiente de recursos, procesos, infraestructuras y/o personas. Perseguimos un diseño transformador, un diseño libre y abierto, un diseño para todas, que se sigue preguntando sobre cómo vivimos y cómo podríamos vivir. Un diseño orientado a la comunidad, entendida como un grupo social en un contexto situado, con ciertas características u objetivos compartidos, ya sea esta una empresa, un vecindario, un grupo de usuarias, un gobierno, etc.

Un diseño, en el que los QUÉs y los CÓMOs, atienden a la cada vez más pertinente idea de bien común, desde el procomún y de forma comunitaria.

  • Bien común, un antiguo concepto filosófico, político y económico, que se refiere a aquello que es compartido y beneficioso para el conjunto de los miembros de una comunidad. El bien común es expresión de la voluntad colectiva, se logra a través de una participación co-responsable y puede disfrutarse tanto individual como colectivamente.
  • Procomún (del término anglosajón commons), un modelo de gobernanza de los bienes comunes. La manera de producir y gestionar en comunidad bienes y recursos tangibles e intangibles, que nos pertenecen a todas, o mejor, que no pertenecen a nadie, como por ejemplo: las semillas, internet, el folclore, las lenguas, el agua potable, el genoma o el espacio público. Gracias a la ética hacker y las licencias libres, el procomún se hace extensible a cada vez más ámbitos vitales a través del diseño de productos y sistemas libres y abiertos.
  • Auzolan, una forma propia de trabajo vecinal en beneficio de la comunidad, basada en la co-responsabilidad, la participación y la colaboración comunitaria. Además de servir para el mantenimiento y desarrollo de recursos comunes, contribuye a fortalecer el sentimiento de pertenencia, la confianza y el reconocimiento entre los miembros de la comunidad.

We put forward new systems and methods for addressing challenges related to strategic, organisational and social innovation. We primarily work on projects where the public, the community and private sectors are interlinked.

Our work proposal is situated midway between the cultural, the social, the economic and the political, addressing it from a CO and TRANS perspective. We offer a mix of tailor-made services, based on a combination of various means, such as research, consulting, design, support and training. The objective is to apply creativity through collective intelligence, to move from the abstract to the concrete, developing ideas in the form of products, services and tangible experiences.

ColaBoraBora are a small tribe of enthusiastic, critical, curious and engaged people. A group with diverse training and experience (arts, design, economics, sustainability, facilitating, marketing etc). A team of professionals who work in a transdisciplinary way, remixing practices and knowledge.

Designing for the common good

At ColaBoraBora, we think of design as a set of processes for creating solutions and addressing opportunities, through distinctive, significant and efficient planning and organisation of resources, processes, infrastructures and/or people. We strive for a transformative design, a free and open design, a design for all, which continually questions how we live and how we could live. A community-orientated design, understood as a social group in a situated context, with certain characteristics or shared objectives, whether it is a company, a neighbourhood, a user group, a government, etc.

A design in which the ‘WHATS’ and the ‘HOWS’ address the increasingly pertinent idea of the common good, through a pro-common and collective way.

  • The common good, an ancient philosophical, political and economic concept which refers to that which is shared and beneficial for all the members of a community. The common good is an expression of the collective will, it is achieved through co-responsible participation and can be enjoyed both individually and collectively.
  • Pro-common (from the Anglo-Saxon commons), a governance model of the commons. The way to produce and manage tangible and intangible goods and resources in a community, that belong to all of us, or rather, belong to no-one, for example: seeds, internet, folklore, languages, drinking water, the genome or the public space. Thanks to hacker ethics and free licences, the pro-common is extended to more and more vital areas through the design of free and open products and systems.
  • Auzolan, a form of ‘neighbourhood work’ for the benefit of the community, based on co-responsibility, participation and community collaboration. As well as providing the maintenance and development of common resources, it helps to strengthen the feeling of belonging, trust and recognition amongst the members of the community.

A little bit of what we have done so far:

A lo largo de nuestra trayectoria hemos diseñado y desarrollado infinidad de proyectos; desde la facilitación de pequeños procesos puntuales, al diseño y puesta en marcha de proyectos de larga duración con una gran complejidad e implicando a numerosos agentes. A continuación enumeramos una selección de proyectos, que sirva para ilustrar nuestro trabajo

  • Diseño de entornos para la innovación ciudadana y emprendimiento social como HARROBItik HARROBIra con BilbaoEkintza, El Far con BarcelonaActiva, What if…? con ZaragozaActiva o #1CeS1FINDE con el Ayuntamiento de Sant Boi.
  • Programa de formación sobre emprendimiento social colectivo para mujeres en situación de vulnerabilidad Juntas Emprendemos, con la Diputación de Bizkaia en el marco de RedKOOP.
  • Conceptualización, diseño y puesta en marcha del Centro de Innovación Social EUTOKIA con Bilbao Ekintza.
  • Diseño y puesta en marcha del programa Bherria, impulsado por el Gobierno Vasco y dirigido a fomentar nuevas formas de participación y relaciones entre la administración pública y las iniciativas ciudadanas.
  • Conceptualización y el diseño del programa cultural la Capital Cultural Europea DSS2016EU con el Ayuntamiento de Donostia.
  • Puesta en marcha de la red social de crowdfunding Goteo como parte de la Fundación Goteo, de su nodo local GoteoEuskadi con a Irekia del Gobierno Vasco, así como las convocatorias dirigidas específicamente a proyectos de salud CROWDSASUNA con a Innobasque.

Participamos impartiendo conferencias o talleres en numerosos foros como TED x Madrid, NESI Forum, Labmeeting, Open Design Conference, Librecon, Arquitecturas Colectivas, Think Commons, Zinc Shower, etc.

Formamos parte activa de numerosas redes y grupos de trabajo colectivo entre las que destacan: Wikitoki, laboratorio de practicas colaborativas; KARRASKAN, red vasca para la innovación en cultura y cultura de la innovación; Eiken+, cluster de las industrias creativas de Euskadi; REAS, red estatal de economía alternativa y solidaria; Goratuz, red de cooperativas pequeñas de Bizkaia; Innobasque, red vasca para la promoción de la innovación; o Espacio Plaza / Sarean, asociación para el desarrollo comunitario desde la acción cultural en el barrio de San Francisco (Bilbao).

Throughout our history, we have designed and developed a wide variety of projects; from the facilitation of small specific processes, to the design and implementation of long-term projects with great complexity and involving numerous parties. A selection of projects, which serve to illustrate our work are mentioned below:

  • Design of environments for citizen innovation and social entrepreneurship such as HARROBItik HARROBIra with BilbaoEkintza, El Far with BarcelonaActiva, What if…? with ZaragozaActiva or #1CeS1FINDE with the city council of Sant Boi.
  • The training programme on collective social entrepreneurship for vulnerable women Juntas Emprendemos, with the provincial council of Bizkaia as part of RedKOOP.
  • Conceptualisation, design and implementation of the Social Innovation Centre EUTOKIA with Bilbao Ekintza.
  • Design and implementation of the programme Bherria, launched by the Basque government and aimed at fostering new forms of participation and relations between public administration and citizen initiatives.
  • Conceptualisation and design of the cultural programme, European Cultural Capital DSS2016EU with the city council of Donostia.
  • The setting up of the crowdfunding social network site, Goteo as part of the Goteo Foundation, of its local host, GoteoEuskadi, with the Basque government, Irekia, as well as the calls directed specifically to health projects CROWDSASUNA with Innobasque.

We take part in lectures or workshops in numerous forums such as TED x Madrid, NESI Forum, Labmeeting, Open Design Conference, Librecon, Collective Architectures, Think Commons, Zinc Shower, etc.

We are an active part of numerous networks and collective work groups, amongst which are: Wikitoki, a laboratory of collaborative practices; KARRASKAN, the Basque network for innovation in culture and culture of innovation; Eiken +, a group of creative industries within the Basque Country; REAS, a state network for alternative and solidarity-based economy; Goratuz, a network of small cooperatives in Bizkaia; Innobasque, a Basque network for the promotion of innovation; or Espacio Plaza/Sarean, an association for community development based on cultural action in the San Francisco neighbourhood (Bilbao).

Are Co-operatives the Future? with Rebecca Evans AM

Ahead of our Basque Country events we caught up with Rebecca Evans AM, the Welsh Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration. She had plenty of positivity about co-operative organisations and the Basque Country’s innovation. She mentioned how the leasehold sector could benefit from co-operative approaches, and that co-operative organisations are able to think more imaginatively about the problems that organisations are facing in modern society. She thought there was plenty of good practice over at the Basque Country, that we could learn from here in Wales, and also that we might be able to offer some insider knowledge to the Basque Country, too. Her message of co-operation and mutual benefits is exactly what Chris Bolton took from his trip to the Basque Country to learn more about their co-operatives.

Join us at our Basque Country events this December to learn more. Follow this link: https://tinyurl.com/waobasque18

The Mondragon cooperative experience

In advance of our upcoming #WAOBasque conference in partnership with the Wales Co-operative Centre, Fred Freundlich from Mondragon University has written a blog explaining the background of the University and its role in the Mondragon group…

mondragon-logoHello from Mondragon University in the Basque Country. Two of us from the University, Leire Uriarte and Fred Freundlich, will be holding workshops at the upcoming Mutual Benefits Conference and we wanted to talk a bit here about the University and its role in the Mondragon group, since our time at the Conference will be limited.

For those unfamiliar with the word “Mondragon”, it is the name of an industrial town in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, where a large network of successful worker cooperatives began in the 1950s and has continued to prosper up to the present day. The group took on the name of the town, Mondragon, and it now involves about 100 worker-cooperative companies in advanced manufacturing, retail, banking, technology R&D and other services.

What does the University have to do with all this?

In short, it gave birth to the co-op group. The whole Mondragon cooperative experience grew out of initiatives in education, including the University. A Catholic priest named Arizmendiarreta arrived in Mondragon in 1941 and immediately decided that a large part of his mission should focus on education, sadly lacking just after the Spanish Civil War. He created a small technical school in 1943, but also started all kinds of other educational projects, formal and informal, with children and adults, in classrooms and in the community. It was often just as much community organizing as it was education, but, in any case, all this activity was crucial to Mondragon’s later success.

The technical-vocational college he created was recreated in later years in nearby towns for clerical and  bookkeeping studies and then also for teachers and, out of these colleges, three centers of higher education emerged in the 1960s and 70s in engineering, business and education. For a couple of decades these three centers collaborated more or less loosely, but then in 1998 they joined forces to create Mondragon University and a fourth center was formed later.

Today, Mondragon University has four faculties (Engineering, Business, Gastronomic Scences and Humanities & Education) where about 4800 students are completing vocational-college, university or postgraduate degrees. They can choose to study from among various specialties of engineering, business, entrepreneurship, gastronomy/culinary arts, audiovisual communication or three subfields in education. Each faculty has its “story” and relevance to Mondragon, of course, but the Faculty of Humanities & Education might also be interesting to Wales for a particular reason: the Basque language, “Euskara”. The teachers college was formed in the mid-1970s to help train primary and secondary teachers to work in Basque, as one of many efforts in the Basque region undertaken to revitalize the language.

The university’s role is, in certain ways, different from that of conventional universities, given its very close relationship to Mondragon’s cooperative businesses. The first Mondragon cooperative was formed by five graduates of the initial technical school and many later cooperatives were created and staffed by Mondragon University graduates. The University is tightly integrated into the Mondragon group and central to its mission are:

  • knowledge transfer, that is, helping organizations innovate in product and process technologies; in work, management and ownership, and in teach and learning methods; as well as…
  • preparing students with the practical knowledge and social competencies to become effective worker members of the companies in the group or teachers in regional schools.

MU graduates are certainly free to go to work for conventional companies or schools and its professors work with conventional as well as cooperative organizations in knowledge transfer projects. Still, MU is an integral member of the Mondragon network and its central focus is to contribute to cooperative community and economic development in the region by collaborating with companies and schools on applied projects, providing them with skilled graduates and promoting entrepreneurship in business and education.

The University pursues this mission in different ways. FIRST, it is itself a cooperative organization. The faculties are legally structured as nonprofit educational cooperatives and together they form the second degree co-op that is the University. Each faculty has three constituencies (staff, students and “collaborating members” — local companies, town authorities, etc.) and each constituency has one third of the votes in cooperative governance bodies (General Assembly and Governing Council).

A SECOND strategy to fulfill this mission focuses on teaching and learning methods that are very applied and often group-based: students do extensive problem-based, project-based learning in groups, grappling with how to address practical issues in collaborative teams.

THIRD, students must complete multiple placement experiences over the four years, working and frequently doing couse work in local co-operatives. The idea is to for the university to be as close to the companies as possible.

FINALLY, the university tries to encourage cooperative values. This is maybe our hardest task, both in terms of doing it well and in terms of knowing how well it is working. One cannot “teach” values in a traditional classroom format and one cannot evaluate them with an examination. Despite the diverse obstacles, a variety of activities are organized, inside and outside the classroom, so that students and professors can … not teach… but question, debate, discuss etc. … and that way help each other learn the values that should underlie a successful enterprise whose ownership is widely shared and whose decisions should be made in participatory ways. This “values education” has been a perennial challenge for Mondragon University, in fact, for all the Mondragon co-ops, and is sure to remain one of our most important and trying undertakings.

MONDRAGON Corporation – 2018 – English – Inglés – Anglais – Englisch – Ingelesa – Inglese – Inglês from MONDRAGON Corporation on Vimeo.

That’s all for now. We look forward to talking with you all about it at the upcoming conference on Tuesday 4 December.

We would also like to invite you to listen in to the webinar on the afternoon of 3 December – Can the social economy save us? What can Wales learn from the Basque experience?

Are Co-Operatives The Future? With Derek Walker

We caught up with Derek Walker to chat about the Basque Country and co-operatives ahead of our conference this December. We’re really excited to be able to bring over some fantastic representatives from some of the region’s most successful, innovative and future-thinking organisations. In this very special event, public services are invited to learn all about their innovative and new approaches to challenges we have in common, and how the Basque Country puts future generations at the heart of their economy.

Derek Walker is the CEO of Wales Co-operative Centre. They’re partnering with us to bring you #WAOBasque, a conference dedicated to all things Basque Country. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/basquetick

Co-operatives: Are They The Future? With Leanne Wood AM

We caught up with Leanne Wood AM and had a chat about co-operatives and the Basque Country economy, ahead of our #WAOBasque event. She says that co-operatives offer communities stability in times of economic hardship, and allow people to have a stake in their work, incentivising productivity at work. If you’re interested in learning more about co-operative organisations, join us for our webinar on Monday 3rd December via the link: https://tinyurl.com/webasq

We’d also like to invite you to attend our conference on Tuesday 4th December, in partnership with Wales Co-Operative Centre. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/basquetick

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Community Impact Initiative C.I.C.

The Community Impact Initiative C.I.C. (The Cii) @TheCiiUK is a forward-thinking social enterprise based in South Wales that strives to develop and deliver innovative solutions to persistent problems and areas of need in our local communities that lead to a range of personal, social and economic benefits.

Established by Trystan Jones, The Cii is a not-for-profit organisation, where income generated is for the sole purpose of its activities, with profits re-invested to enhance and continue its community initiatives, allowing it to strive towards its vision and mission:

  • Vision: A future where our communities flourish and prosper.
  • Mission: To improve our communities through innovative solutions, providing opportunities for marginalised individuals to make a meaningful contribution to society.

The Community Legacy Project is a recent Big Lottery Wales and Screwfix Foundation funded project that supports unemployed, marginalised and disadvantaged individuals to develop construction and employability skills through the purchase, renovation and sale of properties that are empty or in disrepair across Wales. In a nutshell, properties are purchased by the Community Impact Initiative, generally through auction, renovated through the project activities and sold back into the housing market.

We employ a project team who support our participants to learn and develop construction skills whilst carrying out the renovation of the property. Through these activities, the participants develop a wide range of skills, improve their levels of confidence, achieve qualifications, experience voluntary work placements and move closer towards accessing employment. In turn, these properties that were once empty or in disrepair are brought back into the housing market, reducing the effects of anti-social behaviour, crime and vandalism, and the detrimental impact this can have on our communities.

Each property renovation is a unique partnership between the Community Impact Initiative and a support organisation local to the property, such as a charity, housing association, school, EOTAS provision, HMP or probation services. Following purchase, we engage with potential organisations to identify who would be interested working with us.

These support organisations refer individuals to the project who they feel would benefit from the support provided, ranging from those with an interest in construction, to those lacking in self-confidence.

Project examples could include:

  • Partnering with a local charity who support individuals that have an interest in accessing the construction industry, however have barriers to doing so, such as a lack of experience or not holding the relevant mandatory qualifications. In this case, the project will allow the participants to experience the construction industry in a supportive, empathetic environment, develop a range of skills across several trades, and achieve the CSCS card which is mandatory for site work. Therefore, in this case the project will provide the perfect stepping stone for a career in construction.
  • Partnering with a local domestic abuse support organisation who supports women lacking in confidence and self-esteem due to their backgrounds. In this instance, we support participants who do not necessarily have ambitions to access employment in the construction industry but want to develop skills that they can use in their own homes. The outcomes of this project are focused on improving levels of self-esteem, confidence and motivation rather than employment.
  • Partnering with a local school who want to provide their pupils with an insight into the construction industry and how school subjects and studies can relate to employment in this industry. In this case we’ll support pupils to experience the construction environment and get a taster of the various trades and skills prior to them having to decide on a future career path. Experiencing the work environment allows pupils to understand what qualifications are required during their statutory education journey, providing an insight that will support them in engaging with their studies.

As these examples illustrate, each property will be its own unique project within the Community Legacy Project sphere where the outcomes are tailored to the needs of the individuals being supported.

In August 2018 our first project property was bought in Merthyr Tydfil. During the purchase process we engaged with Merthyr Valley Homes, a housing association who support thousands of people in the local area.

In early September 2018 10 participants started the project. A mix of gender and ages, each came from a different background, with varying degrees of construction and employment experience. However, they all had a common goal of learning the skills and gaining the qualifications required to access employment in the construction industry. Through this particular renovation they will experience a range of construction areas including plastering, carpentry, painting & decorating, kitchen/bathroom fitting, tiling, flooring and gardening.

Following referral to the project each participant completed a Health & Safety induction and a training plan outlining their SMART targets. Our project staff monitor progress on a daily basis and carry out formals reviews fortnightly to ensure progress against targets.

At the time of writing all participants have engaged well with the project and have shown a fantastic ability to learn and improve upon the various trade skills being taught. Over the next few weeks we will be inviting local construction companies to open days for them to witness the participants demonstrating their skills with a view to them offering placements, apprenticeships and employment.

The impact of the Community Legacy Project is far-reaching and not limited to the outcomes achieved by the participants. It is our intention that the project continues to grow and develop and deliver outcomes on a personal, community and economic level:

  • Personal – supporting individuals to develop a range of skills, achieve qualifications and support their progression into employment.
  • Community – These personal outcomes will support our local communities through increasing income due to increased employment rates, allowing these communities to flourish.
  • Economic – the economic impact is potentially far-reaching, in such ways as reducing anti-social behaviour, reducing pressure on specialist support organisations and developing a workforce that’s aligned to future property and construction developments.

A model that’s currently in its infancy, it is our intention that by utilising the Big Wales Lottery and Screwfix Foundation funding the model can become self-sustaining in the long-term.

We’re extremely proud to be delivering an innovative approach that is unlike any other in Wales and we look forward to supporting our communities to prosper through these activities.

 

 

Building Resilient Communities: Mind the Gap

Charlotte Waite @charlotwaite from the ACE Support Hub @acehubwales has blogged for us ahead of our Building Resilient Communities Event.  She is challenging herself, and all of us, to be someone who contributes to resilient communities, which is very different from DOING resilient communities.

At a lovely lefty festival I had the privilege to be at this hot summer, my daughter came out of the impressively clean portaloo commenting on how she was going to take the toilet’s advice and ‘smile at someone today, because (she) might make all the difference’. What struck me was that she’d read the faded sticker and it had meant something to her. I too had read it (as I strategically hovered) and the words had passed through my eyes as if I was reading ‘mind the gap’ or ‘please drive carefully’. Yadayadayada. My brain must be sending a signal to my awareness saying “nothing to see here, we know all this already” and so I come out of the loo without a reflective moment. After all I’ve been doing ‘help’ in a ‘helping’ field for many years. I’ve been on the courses and given the lectures.  Smiling is the basic basics, everyone knows that.

Truth is, though, that between me and my 9 year old daughter, the person who needed a reminder about connecting and kindness is me. Because even in a festival of joy I was busy ‘doing’ festival, consuming and soaking up what I can, squeezing every ounce of hedonism out of MY weekend so I could feel that I’ve got what I came for. Ironically, part of what I came for, is a shared experience of happiness. It’s easy to spread love in a festival because the personal risk is much lower. Smiling, hugging, feasting, dancing, chatting… connecting and feeling alive are all part of what I paid for. I went home filled with love and paid-for shared happiness. Home to my street where I say hello to my immediate neighbours, chat with a couple of them about kids, parking, extensions and bin collections but generally we go about our lives independently.

So not much smiling, hugging, feasting, dancing…..connecting and feeling alive in my own manor. Hmm. Here the risk to me is much greater. Well, what if they don’t want to connect? What if they don’t like me? What if they find out what I’m really like? And anyway I’m too busy. I’m too busy rushing off to my community group all about kindness to ask my neighbour how she is, when I know her husband has left her and her children. Yes really. This was a real reflective moment on a rainy Wednesday evening when I saw her broken heart on her face as she went in her house as I was getting in the car. ‘Mind the Gap’ between my rhetoric and my behaviour loud and clear this time.

I took the risk and knocked the door, we talked about our lives, our children and began a connection. It was scary and I’m still not sure she likes me but I feel like I have communicated that she is not on her own and that feels very important.  It will take time.

So, am I saying we should model resilient communities on festivals? At a festival there’s no hierarchy, no supporters and supported, just people. Sharing joyful and fun activities together connects us: breaking bread, dancing, playing; losing inhibitions inherent in our real life roles as ‘helpers’ or even as neighbours. I’m not suggesting we go home and set up twee street parties but I am suggesting we take risks in relationships, without vulnerability we can’t create authentic relationships and yet we know it is authenticity in relationships that creates resilience. Knock the door, offer to break the bread.

How can we lose some of our personal inhibitions and find ways to connect joyfully, eye to eye (not screen to screen) without having to pay for the experience? Or professionally without ‘doing’ the best practice model when we get to work and demonstrating the outcomes to those that pay us. We know the importance of sports and community groups to build resilience in children (Link to resilience research here) but do we all get in our cars and drop our kids off at these while we catch up on screen time? I’m noticing the ‘please drive carefully’ as I navigate this one for myself. I could definitely bring more to this street party. I am challenging myself to BE someone who contributes to resilient communities, which is very different from DOING resilient communities. I’m reminding myself to stop for a minute and be curious. To see ‘mind the gap’ and notice where it applies to me but I can only see it if I’m going slowly enough to notice it and then notice how it makes me feel and be brave enough to bring myself to the party.

“We don’t have to, but we want to!” RCE Cymru Sharing Their Knowledge with Public Services

Universities in Wales don’t fall under the remit of the Well-being of Future Generations (WFG) Act, so why are they forming a network to research and share their knowledge, helping public services work towards the WFG goals?

The simple answer is that they’ve found working within the WFG framework to be beneficial to their research and are embracing the potential impact of sharing their knowledge.

RCE Cymru is a network of all the universities in Wales who are working together in specific groups called ‘Circles of Interest’ to help improve public services, by researching and sharing their knowledge with each other. The impact of sharing their knowledge could help public services make great strides towards the WFG framework. The Good Practice Exchange are working in partnership with RCE Cymru to bring you an event exploring these ‘Circles of Interest’ on 7th November, at an event called “It’s Good To Share”. You can register for the event by clicking here. Find out more about RCE Cymru by following @CymruRCE on Twitter.

 

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Data – it’s not just boring tables

Louisa Nolan from @DataSciCampus has blogged for us ahead of our data webinar with examples of the exciting possibilities out there coming from new types of data and new analytical tools.  Join us on the 16th to find out more about Why using data effectively enables better decision making.

Data is exciting, and these days, we can extract interesting information not just from tables of survey results or management information (although these are still of course important) but also from large volumes of documents, or from images, or sensor readings. Data science gives us the tools to rapidly analyse these types of data, in ways that would not have been possible even just a few years ago. It is this combination of opportunities: new types of data + new tools to analyse them that is so exciting, because it opens a whole new world of insight!

As a lead data scientist at the Data Science Campus of the Office for National Statistics I get to think about data every day (this is a Good Thing!). We develop and deliver data science projects addressing difficult questions for our public sector customers, we offer advice and training on data science, and we run deep dives, hackathons and workshops with multi-disciplined teams to find solutions to data challenges.

In this blog, I’d like to share a few examples of how we have been using new types of data and applying data science techniques to tackle challenges that aren’t met by more traditional approaches. This is just a selection, so please visit our website, follow us on Twitter, or get in touch if you would like to discuss how we could support you to adopt or adapt these projects, or if you would like to discuss your own data science challenges.

wales on twitter

What are people talking about when they talk about Wales on Twitter? We were posed this question by the National Assembly for Wales, who wanted to understand what people were interested in when they talk about Wales. Our data scientists built a tool for topic analysis of the text of tweets containing #Wales. Topic analysis is a technique which groups text –  in this case Tweets – into related subjects.  For the period we analysed, we found topics on tourism, sport – including rugby, of course, a business exposition in Cardiff, and, somewhat unexpectedly, a topic on Indian street children! This topic was related to the book ‘A Hundred Hands’, published that week by Diane Noble, a Welsh author. The tool can be easily adapted to analyse other hashtags of interest.

urban forest

Mapping the urban forest at street level Using images sampled from Google StreetView, the team has developed an experimental method to map the density of trees and vegetation at 10 metre intervals in English and Welsh towns and cities – this is hyper-local mapping! The team have built a pipeline for processing and analysing the images, which could potentially be used for other types of analysis of StreetView images.

emerging technologies

Analysing the text of patent applications to understand emerging technologies. In this project, large volumes US patent applications have been analysed, to explore whether emerging technology (aka ‘the Next Big Thing!) can be identified from the text. This is a great demonstration of how the power of data science can unlock data. Even 5 years ago, text documents like these patent applications would likely have had to be analysed laboriously by hand. Now, we can rapidly analyse large quantities of text to extract useful information to inform decision-making.

hierarchical groups

Turning free text lists into hierarchical groups. Sometimes, we have short, free text descriptions or lists – perhaps a list of products purchased or transported. To make use of these, we need to somehow group them into similar products, account for spelling mistakes, typos and different abbreviations. This is theoretically possible by hand, but usually prohibitively labour-intensive. This project automates the hierarchical classification. Because the approach is both syntactic (how the word is spelled) and semantic (what the word means), we can group, for example, whisky and vodka together, and correctly assign steel products, steel prod, and steel produtc to the same category. This tool could be adapted for various datasets of free text responses.

I hope that has given you a taster of some of the things we are working on in the Campus, and maybe some ideas or what you might be able to do with your own data. And I hope I have also convinced you that data doesn’t have to be boring!

 

GSWAG: Keeping Data Live

Does your organisation have the right kind of data to future-proof decisions?

Hear how Gwent Strategic Well-being Assessment Group’s (GSWAG) are looking past traditional data sets to make their decisions about well-being. GSWAG want to know more about local conditions for well-being from the lived experiences of their residents, and are looking at likely future trends that may face the Gwent area over the next 25 years, to help better prepare and plan for the future. They’re using a very different type of data than they’re used to, getting out of their comfort zone to shape their decisions with future generations in mind. Watch our vlog to find out more