New open data tool helping housing providers target effective community investment

Community Insight is a new online community mapping and reporting tool enabling housing providers to harness the power of Open Data.

Launched today by HACT and OCSI (Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion), Community Insight enables housing providers to instantly access always up to date information and data on the communities and neighbourhoods they work within.

“The Open Government White Paper is transforming the ways in which people are able to access and use data to inform their businesses.  A number of housing providers are already actively using online mapping, and have invested significantly in GIS technology and trained mapping staff.  Our ambition was to develop cost-effective ways in which more associations and more staff can access the huge amount of social and economic indicators now available about the communities they work within.” said Matt Leach, CEO of HACT.

“With our partners at OCSI, who are leading players in working with open data, we have built an online capacity which enables housing providers to map needs in their communities, identify hot spots of deprivation, and generate in depth, always up to date neighbourhood profiles.  It will provide a vital resource for housing providers looking to prioritise community investment, target and measure impact, inform business development, and engage with local partners.

“The release of Census data early in the new year will define discussions around resourcing and delivery of local public services during 2013.  Community Insight users will have instant access to that information, broken down to neighbourhood level, enabling them to take part in and lead those debates.

“Importantly, Community Insight requires no special training in GIS mapping or data analysis; anyone in the organisation can use the information to inform their work and generate reports on demand.”

Community Insight provides vital information on the communities housing providers work in, and includes access to a wide range of data sets and indicators, including indices of deprivation, economic deprivation and child wellbeing, up to the minute data on unemployment and benefits, educational attainment, health and crime by neighbourhood.

“There is huge potential for open data to help housing providers effectively target and evaluate investment and resources. Community Insight provides intelligence and insight that is accessible to users across an organisation, based on mapping information on stock and tenants against the ever increasing amount of raw data available from local and national government, the police, health services,” says Tom Smith, CEO of OCSI.

“All data is reviewed on a weekly basis to ensure it is fully up to date, with new and updated indicators loaded-in within 24 hours of release. Moreover, Community Insight doesn’t just produce maps, it also generates, at the press of a button, detailed community profile reports drawing on a much wider range of indicators, and including trend and historic data.

“Much of the housing sector could benefit from better access to data on the communities they operate in – the real value in open data lies in helping inform appropriate solutions to local-specific problems. Community Insight will help all staff within housing providers decide which actions and activities to prioritise locally – it helps identify pressures on housing and services and helps them think about potential additional services that may be needed. “

HACT is organising a set of events on the topic (“Using data to inform community investment”), and offers free demos. To find out more, please contact or visit


Community Insight Beta launched

We have just updated the status of the Community Insight tool to “Beta”. This basically means that the majority of core functionality is live (with a funky new logo), but with some features to add and issues to iron out before launch. The development and design team are now hard at work sprinting to the launch date of November 27th, check this blog for updates.

So what has been added over the last few weeks? Quite a bit…

  • The biggest changes have been under the bonnet, and Community Insight now behaves itself in Internet Explorer 8 (with successful tests in organisations still using IE7), as well as modern browsers including IE9, Firefox, Chrome, plus smartphone and tablet browsers. We have more speed improvements lined up to go live before launch, so users should see good performance using all these browsers.
  • “Hotspots” functionality to show you the areas and neighbourhoods in which you have stock, which have the highest/ lowest values on particular indicators – with links to view these areas on the map.
  • Stock properties are now identified using Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs), so you can easily reference our data against your property management system. We are also exploring with system vendors how to integrate with their property management systems, so we can receive property data directly (meaning the property data in Community Insight is always up-to-date) as well as showing Community Insight results in their dashboards.
  • As well as by drawing on the map, neighbourhoods (known as ‘stock groups’ ) can now be defined using Excel uploads (or simply copy & pasting). Based on feedback from the pilots, users can also define neighbourhoods that do not contain stock, for example allowing you to explore areas for possible developments or stock swaps.
  • Plus lots of minor additions and design tidies, such as adding in the twitter feed and this news blog.

We will update this blog when new features go live over the next 2 weeks, including:

  • Datasets and reports for each of your defined neighbourhoods – and available within 1 hour of defining a new neighbourhood
  • First Census 2011 data results will be published by the Office for National Statistics on Nov 23rd, and we will load into Community Insight the next working day
  • Help tutorials and videos available on each page
  • Downloads for the raw data on your areas and defined neighbourhoods, for more detailed analysis using Excel or other packages. Eg, we know that some users want to integrate the Community Insight data into their organisation GIS software – we’re working on it!
  • Defining neighbourhoods from any standard areas (such as wards, Super Output Areas) – for those like me who can find it tricky to draw areas accurately on the map!
  • Speed improvements for IE8 and other browsers.


Events: Using Data to Drive Community Investment

In three seminars, HACT and OCSI will demonstrate how to realise practical benefits from open data in the housing sector. Events in Manchester, London and Birmingham at the end of November will show how providers are using Geographical Information Systems to focus in on the communities they serve, and give you a chance to try out Community Insight.

Speakers include:

Dr. Robert Barr
Chairman of Manchester Geomatics and member of the Cabinet Office’s Open Data User Group.
Rob is a leading practitioner in Social Information Systems and data policy, and is currently advising the Cabinet Office on how open data can achieve the greatest social and economic impact as part of the Open Data User Group.

Matt Leach
With a career in leadership and policy spanning the state and not-for-profit sectors, Matt focusses on local interventions to build the strength of communities.

Dr. Tom Smith
CEO at Oxford Consultants for Inclusion
Tom is co-founder and Director of OCSI, and specialises in helping public sector organisations to use information effectively for policy and decision-making. With a background in University research, he is also a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

About Community Insight
Community Insight brings comprehensive local information closer to decision-making, allowing investment to be directed to where it is most needed. It allows housing stock to be visualised against all major social and economic indicators, providing mapping and reporting tools for providers without the need for new systems. Stock data is uploaded into a Geographic Information System, meaning that neighbourhood and community profiles are available in minutes.

Please book through using the links below. We look forward to showing you what Community Insight can do.

Tuesday 27 November 2012, 3.00 – 4.30pm
The Cube, 113 – 115 Portland Street.
Click here to book on to the Manchester event

Thursday 29 November 2012, 3.00 – 4.30pm
HUB Westminster, 80 Haymarket.
Click here to book on to the London event

Thursday 6 December 2012, 3.00 – 4.30pm
Clarke Willmott, 138 Edmund Street.
Click here to book onto the Birmingham event