Our data open session

Get involved?

Short version is “would you like to come and talk about data with us at Citizens Advice? If so please get in touch”.

At Citizens Advice we’re working to develop a variety of forums for talking about our data and our data improvement work. I wrote about some of the different forums we’ve developed and why we do them. There’s also a set of principles guiding our forums. My favourite one is

One of our forums is a regular session which I describe as a ‘deeper dive’ into data topics. It’s a roughly weekly 30 minute session with a wide and varied agenda. I say roughly weekly because it’s 4 weeks on and 1 week off. The slot is at a different time each week to encourage attendance and to accommodate things like flexible working patterns.

The session is open to all staff in the National Citizens Advice organisation. There’s a fairly large invite list and we tell everybody what we’re going to be covering and share materials in advance.

We get around 15 people at each session. We run it as a remote session, not in person.

This practice provides an opportunity to go deeper on new analyses and insight, presented by the specialists who have done the work. It also provides an opportunity to talk about our data work ‘behind the scenes’, for example developing new services and standards. It has been really valuable for developing our data strategy work in an open and collaborative way.

We’ve had guests from other organisations telling us about their experiences — that’s particularly valuable when you get to hear about shared challenges and how people have approached them.

What are the benefits?

  • Showing what really goes in to the work to an audience who might not otherwise understand
  • Doing justice to data specialists’ effort by having time to go into greater detail
  • Bringing in fresh perspectives for shared problems
  • Developing in the open, particularly strategic work

Examples

Here are some recent topics:

  • A presentation by Adam from National Highways on ‘data as institutional memory’
  • Data strategy principles framework — how we’re getting owners for these principles from across the organisation
  • A new ‘service’ approach to data, building initial versions of services that we can iterate. Examples include a service for data about our volunteers and a service for data about the Network of local Citizens Advice.
  • Collaboration between Data Science and Product to decommission a legacy system, and establish a new primary source of data for reuse by multiple systems as a result.
  • A new way to visualise client volume data, showing it across our entire service at a high level for the first time.

After running a retrospective on how it was going a couple of weeks ago we’ve decided to do a bit of a relaunch of the session.

Get involved?

It’d be great to have some new guests from other organisations. If you’re working in data in a charity, not-for-profit, or government organisation¹ and have something you’d like to share it would be great to have you along.

Also if you don’t have anything to share but you’d like to attend anyway then I’m keen to make these open sessions even more open. We’ll be aiming to run at least one session each month that’s open to guests from the types of organisations I mention above.

This is all a bit of an administrative headache but I will try my best.

If you’d like to speak at a session or come to a session to listen in then please send me an email

Or get in touch with me on Twitter.

Thank you for reading 🙏

Footnotes

¹ Not sure I’ve got this list quite right. It’s a preference for non-commercial and strictly no sales.

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Dan Barrett

Head of Data Science at Citizens Advice. These are my personal thoughts on work.