Under new ownership…

The Observatory has now transferred to Marketing Birmingham

Office: Marketing Birmingham, Floor 4, Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7XG.

Enquiries

Telephone 0121 202 5115
Email research@marketingbirmingham.com

Register with Marketing Birmingham

Update on our future

Following announcement of its abolition, Advantage West Midlands is seeking new ownership for the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Advantage West Midlands is currently negotiating with their preferred bidder, Marketing Birmingham, on the Observatory’s behalf. The Agency’s Board will make a final decision on the outcome of those negotiations later in the year and no later than 1st September 2011.

In the interim, the Observatory will pause its operations and all staff have been redeployed into closure and transition activities at Advantage West Midlands. As such, you may not receive a reply to emails and phone calls. The website and blog will also not be updated during this period.

What does preferred bidder mean?

That Marketing Birmingham have exclusive rights to negotiate with Advantage West Midlands regarding the assets of the Observatory. There is no commitment on either side to a sale or transfer in advance of those negotiations.

What happens to the Observatory at the moment?

As the Agency is now focused on its closure, the Observatory’s operations have been temporarily paused. As such, we are not able to respond to enquiries and the website will not be updated.

Who do I talk to about this?

From Advantage West Midlands
Pat Jackson, tel 0121 503 3205, email patjackson [at] advantagewm.co.uk

From Marketing Birmingham
Tim Manson, tel 0121 202 5031, email Tim.Manson [at] marketingbirmingham.com

Request for help from hyperlocals

I’m on secondment with Big Lottery Fund’s West Midlands team at the moment, helping them with their BIG Local work. If you know of any hyperlocal blogs or social media surgeries serving the following areas, please could you leave me a comment below, tweet to @thewmro or email me oliver.nicholls [at] wmro.org

  • Bromford & Firs Estate (Birmingham)
  • East Coseley (Dudley)
  • Horsefair, Broadwaters, Greenhill (Kidderminster)
  • Tividale  – Grace Mary to Lion Farm (Sandwell)
  • Gobowen, St. Martins, Chell Heath (Shropshire)
  • Chell Heath & Fegg Hays (Stoke on Trent)

Thank you

The future of the Observatory

Following the announcement of its abolition, Advantage West Midlands is seeking new ownership for the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Advantage West Midlands received two expressions of interest to an open bidding process, which closed on 19th November. Marketing Birmingham has been selected as the preferred bidder and Advantage West Midlands is currently negotiating with them. The Agency’s Board is expected to make a final decision on the outcome of those negotiations at its January meeting.

Being the preferred bidder means that Marketing Birmingham have exclusive rights to negotiate with Advantage West Midlands re the assets of the Observatory. There is no commitment on either side to a sale or transfer in advance of those negotiations.

As the Agency is now focused on its closure, the Observatory will continue to operate, but at a greatly reduced capacity. As such, responses to enquiries may take longer than normal and our website (www.wmro.org) will be updated less frequently.

For more info, contact:
From Advantage West Midlands – Iain Neville tel: 0121 380 3563, email: iainnev [at] gmail.com
From Marketing Birmingham – Tim Manson tel: 0121 202 5031, email: Tim.Manson [at] marketingbirmingham.com

Endorsement of our Economic Inclusion research

Here’s a short video featuring Trudi Elliott, Chair of the West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel, endorsing our economic inclusion research:

Watch on viddler

International Open Data Hackathon – Birmingham

A combined Birmingham Open Data Hack Day and RHOK (Random Hacks of Kindness) will be held on December 4th 2010, hosted at Faraday Wharf, Aston Science Park, Central Birmingham.

For info, visit the open data day website.

Questions/comments to bodaceacat at yahoo.co.uk

State of the West Midlands 2010 report published

State of the West Midlands 2010

The State of the West Midlands 2010 report is now available, accessible through this interactive website or as a pdf download (1.74 Mb).

The report sets out the evidence about some of the key challenges facing the West Midlands and its localities. Since the general election earlier in the year, much has changed in the way that the West Midlands is governed, but the big issues that it faces remain. Issues such as the growing economic output gap, high levels of worklessness, skills levels, the ageing population, the consequences of climate change and the poor image of the West Midlands.

This year, for the first time, we have published the report in an interactive web version (as well as a pdf -1.74Mb). This will allow you to provide comments on the report, as well as providing easy access to the issues that are of most interest to you.

Local Enterprise Partnerships approved

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, announced the approval of twenty four local enterprise partnership proposals earlier today. Those approved included the following from the West Midlands:

  • Birmingham & Solihull with E. Staffordshire, Lichfield &Tamworth
  • Coventry & Warwickshire
  • Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire
  • The Marches

Those not approved at this stage included:

  • The Black Country
  • Worcestershire
  • The West Midlands overarching proposal

Read more on the Birmingham Post website

A map of approved local enterprise partnerships is available from geocommons.com

We’re moving…

From 22nd October, our offices will be based at:

3 Priestley Wharf,
Holt Street,
Birmingham,
B7 4BN.

Our new telephone number will be 0121 503 3333.

New direct lines for staff are listed on our website.

The website, this blog and email addresses will remain unchanged.

Policy Assessment Model (PAM)

There has always been a need for policy to be grounded in evidence, but at a time when money is becoming tighter across the public sector, that need becomes even greater. Resources must be targeted where they can make the most difference. Gaining understanding of the future impact of policy decisions is therefore invaluable.

Past experience and local knowledge can provide some of that understanding, but it can’t tell us everything about the future. That is where tools like the Observatory’s Policy Assessment Model (PAM) come in.

This short slidecast explains why the Policy Assessment Model (PAM) was developed, how it works and how it can be used.

View on viddler | Get slides (ppt,  651kb)

The Policy Assessment Model goes beyond standard forecasting tools (although it will produce forecasts). It allows the direct and indirect impacts of a wide range of policy options and scenarios to be modelled over the long-term, allowing more informed decisions. It is capable of modelling impacts on the economy, the population and the local authorities within the West Midlands.

The multiple risk factors of worklessness

By isolating the ‘risk factors’ and certain combinations of ‘risk factors’ associated with a person’s chance of being out of work, new analysis from the West Midlands Observatory can help decision makers get to grips with the complex interplay of issues behind the current high rate of worklessness across the West Midlands.

The research is already informing the Department for Work and Pensions in its review of welfare policy, as it provides insights into the major factors influencing a person’s chances of being in or out of work. It shows that these chances can vary greatly according to the individual’s background and personal characteristics. The research demonstrates how combinations of factors such as having no formal qualifications or a long-term health problem or disability, or being a lone parent, affect a person’s chance of being out of work.

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Observatory is regarded more highly than ever by customers

Customer satisfaction with the West Midlands Observatory is at its highest ever level according to a recent customer survey. Satisfaction with the Observatory has been rising year on year since 2006, and this year reached its highest ever score (3.19 on a scale of 1=low to 4=high).

Rosie Paskins, Chief Executive of the Observatory, said:

With current turbulence in local and regional governance, it is easy to lose sight of the role of evidence in overcoming the deep-seated problems and challenges faced by the West Midlands.

We are encouraged by this endorsement of our work by our customers, and I urge partners to realise the increased importance of evidence based decision-making in a time of increased budgetary pressure.

The Observatory will continue to provide authoritative and high quality research to help decision makers target limited resources and do more with less.

Other highlights of the survey included the highest ever ratings for the awareness and reputation of the Observatory. And over 93% of users said they regard the Observatory’s research to be independent and objective.

The high customer rating follows on from the Observatory being recognised as an “Excellent” organisation by independent assessors Investors in Excellence earlier in the year.

Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:

We are in desperate need of hard facts and a cool assessment of what the facts tell us. It is too tempting to manage by anecdote and the Observatory helps stop this. In a world of Local Enterprise Partnerships, we still need the Observatory output.

Read a summary of the Observatory’s work over 2009-10 (pdf, 750kb)

The new optimists

Written by leading scientists from the West Midlands, The new optimists is a book detailing the reponses of over 80 scientists to the question”What are you optimistic about?”

The scientists who feature in the book are leading medics, life scientists, engineers, chemists, computer and digital media scientists, environmental and energy experts, all of whom work in the West Midlands.

The official book launch is on 14th September at a celebration dinner in Birmingham, on the evening of the first day of the 2010 British Science Festival which is being held in the city.

Open data: challenges and opportunities

Photo by Andy Mabbett - @pigsonthewing

A star sudded cast of “Open data heroes” graced our event, Open data: Challenges & opportunities, yesterday. Following clear intentions expressed recently by David Cameron and Eric Pickles on opening up public data, it was clear that this was a well timed (and hopefully useful) event. Thanks to everyone who spoke and attended the event – a really great day. Special thanks to Andrew Mackenzie (@djsoup) and Richard Wilson (@rcw1969) for all the help pulling it together.

I was struck by a number of people passionate about using data to make a difference to their community or local area. From Will Perrin’s use of public data on his Kings Cross Environment site to fix street lights, combat drug dealing and remove abandoned cars through to local council officers such as Stuart Harrison at Lichfield District Council using innovative techniques, such as “My Area“, to help people access data from a number of sources.

For now, our Pageflakes page pulls together a lot of the content from the day. Some of the speakers have already shared their presentations (via Slideshare) and they are accessible through pageflakes. We’ll sift through and pull out useful links and information over the next week and will post an update here.

For those that were at the event, or following on twitter via #wmod10, can I encourage comments below on practical steps we might take to move ideas from yesterday forward. In particular, ways that the more able authorities and organisations might be able to help the less able, through sharing tools and techniques with the wider public sector. We discussed writing a crowd-sourced report directed at high level policy makers sharing ideas and practical ways forward.  Do you think this is the best approach? What else did you pick up on? Let’s keep the discussion going.

Job opportunity: SCPnet

The Environment Agency are looking to second a suitable individual for a period of 3-6 months to help strengthen the SCPnet (Sustainable consumption and production network) and secure its long term future.

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