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UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Applied in Focus. Global in Reach


Why partnership and collaboration are the future of data in cities?

By maria.solis.18, on 14 June 2019

MPA candidate María Jarquín attended the City Data Conference in Birmingham to learn about innovative solutions in which collaboration between local authorities could bring new approaches to urban issues.

Data is the future. However, this future is built upon collaboration. This is the main take away of the City Data Conference organised by NESTA, in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the West Midlands Combined Authority in early June. The purpose of this event was to bring solutions to the data challenges faced by local authorities.

The Conference started with insights from the first keynote speaker, Kit Collingwood from ThoughtWorks, who discussed the growing demand of expertise in data collaboration, which translates in having career transitions and cross-functional teams where developers can work with data scientists, policy-makers and users. Two solutions (and creative outcomes) shared were the FixMyStreet project and the Dear Data experiment.

Later, the participants heard about two examples of partnerships: the ODAs and ECDA. The ODAs are the UK Offices for Data Analytics, who were built to join cities and regions together in the mission of generating integrated intelligence to support decision-making. The Essex Centre for Data Analytics (ECDA) is a multi-agency joint initiative between the Essex County Council, the Essex Police and University of Essex focused on improving outcomes for local people. Both initiatives hold the notion that is all about having better-connected cities.

Another highlight of the day was the intervention of Stefaan Verhulst, from GovLab, who explained how collaboration is a key issue to ensure the sustainability of data projects. The keynote focused on the importance of public-private partnerships to use private data for the generation of public value.

As well, Verhulst considers that data can transform the innovation cycle as it provides a sense of reality and how to get to the desired outcome. Interesting projects shared by the speaker were the Amsterdam Data Exchange (AMDEX), the Data discovery challenge and the Atlas of inequality by the MIT. He concluded stating that every city should have a network of data stewardship.

The content of this Conference highly relates to the learnings of the Master’s programme taught by the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) at UCL, particularly in the Urban Innovation and Policy route as students are exposed to challenges that are at the intersection of urban experiments and data at the city level.

Attending this conference was of huge interest as María Jarquín is currently part of the team that is conducting the dissertation for the Master’s degree with the Greater London Authority and BOP Consulting on culture data and superdiversity in cities. The group will explore how urban diversity is related to progressive cultural policies, particularly the role of local authorities in using culture data to bring new insights to the superdiversity phenomenon. This project is led by Dr. Ellie Cosgrave, who is the current Director of the Urban Innovation and Policy Laboratory at UCL.

For more insights about the Conference and the culture data group project, please contact María Jarquin at maria.solis.18@ucl.ac.uk and @mariaestelijarq on Twitter.


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