Updated resource guide for Local Economic Assessments

Understanding local factors in a local area’s economic development, how these have developed, how they’re predicted to develop, and which factors are (or have potential to be) particularly significant — will be essential in informing developing Local Enterpise Partnerships (LEPs) and economic strategies. Equally, the functional relationships between local areas is likely to become more important in policy-making.

With regions no longer the focus of evidence-gathering and policy-making, and an increased emphasis on local decision-making, Local Economic Assessments are an opportunity to focus the collection of evidence to understand the impact of new national policies and to develop local economic ‘stories of place.’

The intelligence in a Local Economic Assessment can also highlight where resources can most productively be targeted to improve local economic development.

To help Local Authorities prepare their Assessments, we’ve created a new web-based resource guide, building on an earlier version circulated in May. This addition to the Observatory’s resource catalogue signposts resources relevant to Local Economic Assessments produced by a range of organisations, as well as the Observatory’s own research.

The resources are grouped into six areas, based on the themes set out in LEA guidance published in March 2010. While that guidance is no longer statutory, it’s still a useful framework to draw on.

The themes you can search by are:

Within each theme, you can search for:

  • Data sources: datasets and primary research
  • Analysis: interpretation of data and other evidence in the West Midlands and local authorities
  • Guidance documents: examples and methodologies for you to follow if you wish
  • Other resources: examples of research from outside the West Midlands, and useful links to other websites and research networks

We hope you find this resource guide useful. You can be notified when new resources are added via this RSS feed or email alert. If you have resources you think others would find useful, please submit them to our Resource Catalogue (requires login) or contact stephen.howarth@wmro.org.

Summary of data, mashups and APIs event

Birmigham Social Media CafeLast Wednesday, I went to an event at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham to explore innovative, useful and important applications of data.

The event — titled Data, Mashups and APIs — was organised by Birmingham Social Media Cafe and sponsored by The Guardian, Barefoot Wine and Screen WM.

I won’t try and summarise the whole event. A huge amount of material was covered and Chris Unitt has already posted this very detailed round up pulling together all of the talks and links.

However, I thought I’d pull out a couple of highlights.

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Give us a Twirl!

twirlThe Observatory’s resource catalogue continues to grow, giving policy and decision makers across the West Midlands improved access to data and research to support evidence-based decision making.

The development and growth of the catalogue has been achieved by working in partnership with West Midlands and sub-regional organisations to help share and publicise data and research about the West Midlands. Organisations such as Coventry City Council, Centro and Advantage West Midlands have all worked with us to share their intelligence through the catalogue.

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Substance misuse in the West Midlands

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse has today published its report, Getting to grips with substance misuse among young people (pdf, 54kb), which indicates that increasing numbers of teenagers in the West Midlands are receiving help for drug and alcohol problems through increased access to services in the region.

The report shows that the vast majority of the 2,447 young people helped with drug and alcohol problems in the West Midlands last year received specialist treatment such as counselling-based services to overcome harms caused by cannabis or alcohol use and reduce further risks to their health and wellbeing.

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Making information more accessible

InstantAtlas maps

InstantAtlas maps

How to make complex information available to a wider audience and how to make it more easily understand? Those were questions being considered in Coventry this week.

On Tuesday 20th January, Coventry City Council hosted a meeting designed to share ideas on how regional partners were using software to make their information more readily available.

The main focus of the event was Geowise’s InstantAtlas tool, which is used by many public sector organisations to provide a nice clear visual interpretation of the data they hold.

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Got something useful you’d like to share?

As part of our strategic objectives, we aim to provide effective access to intelligence to encourage higher standards of evidence-​based decision-​making. One of the ways in which we do this is by providing a resource catalogue of research, data and intelligence about the West Midlands and its sub-regions.

The catalogue is built through contributions from Observatory staff and others around the region who want to share research that they’ve produced or found useful themselves. However, we recognise that sometimes people don’t have the time to complete a full submission to the catalogue, so we’ve introduced a new quick recommend a resource form.

All you need to enter on the recommend a resource form is the title of the resource and URL where it is located, along with your email address in case we need to contact you with any queries about it.

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Sharing intelligence from Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire

Yesterday, I attended the Coventry, Solihull and Wawickshire Researchers’ Forum to demonstrate the Observatory’s Resource Catalogue and show how the data and intelligence in the catalogue might support the work that they’re engaged in, and also to encourage further contributions to the catalogue from members of the forum to help share their data and intelligence across the region and sub-region.

The Resource Catalogue is available through the Observatory’s website and collects research, data and policy documents from across the West Midlands to create a fully searchable database for policy makers, decision makers, researchers and anyone else to access. There are contributions from organisations across the public, private and third sectors and what is particularly useful is that almost all are free and available immediately via a web-link.

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Have your say!

We at the Observatory aim to provide you with a first class information service on the region, and a website that makes this easy for you to do. Recently we have been thinking about what we could do to improve finding information on our website and how we could lay it out better for you.

To help me with this I would be very grateful if you could give me five minutes of your time to complete an online questionnaire about it.

Please use this link to access the questionnaire

West Midlands sub-regional information sources

If you are looking for specific data or information about one of the sub-regions, in addition to our Resource Catalogue on wmro.org, you might also like to try one of the sub-regional intelligence units.

Here is a list of some of them to help you track down the information that you need.

In addition to these, many of the local authorities also have intelligence or research units that can provide data and statistics. I’ve previously looked at one, Research Sandwell, in an earlier posting.

If you have other sources of sub-regional information that are not listed here, why not post a comment to let others know about it. And of course, you can always submit details of any research and data sources relevant to the West Midlands to the resource catalogue, thereby making it even easier for others to track down!

West Midlands worst for fear of homophobic hate crime

The West Midlands heads some league tables that it can be proud of, but this is not one of them.  According to new research published by Stonewall, gays and lesbians are more likely to fear homophobic hate crime in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the UK. Of course fear of crime isn’t the same as being a victim of crime, but as the saying goes “perception is reality”. This and other issues are explored in The gay British crime survey 2008, which can be found in our resource catalogue.

Can’t I just use Google?

When promoting the regional resource catalogue to colleagues around the region, we tend to find that most tell us they’re using a search engine like Google, Live or Yahoo! to try to source data and information.

However, they also tell us that these Internet search engines do not always locate the information that they need or they present a lot of irrelevant material that the user has to trawl through before locating the desired information.

The regional resource catalogue, available here on wmro.org, was set up specifically to provide easy access to data and information that is directly relevant to the West Midlands region. We aim to link our users through the catalogue with the data and information about the West Midlands and its sub-​regions that they need to inform their work and inform decision-​making across the Heart of England.

We currently provide access to more than 2,500 reports, datasets, websites, strategies and other useful resources, and the content is constantly being reviewed, updated and added to. Continue reading

Sandwell… I know it so well!

Sculpture in West BromwichOur regional resource catalogue has grown rapidly during the past twelve months and it now provides fully searchable access to over 2500 datasets, reports, web sites and other intelligence available. It’s one of the – if not the – most comprehensive catalogues of West Midlands data and intelligence available.

With coverage growing all the time, we are improving the content of the database all of the time. One of our more recent additions is the Research Sandwell website which is a ‘must-visit’ for anyone looking for data and intelligence on the Sandwell area. Continue reading