Uniting partners to collaborate on data projects is not without its challenges!
The complexity in bringing so much data and so many people together, to agree on and then actually coordinate data joining, both within one organisation and between several, is a huge undertaking.
When we say ecda’s second year was one of incredible collaboration, we’re not just referring to the delivery of valuable new insight that we generated on issues such as mental health crisis, but also the feat of imagining what was possible by joining health and social care data and the immense shared effort that goes into achieving that.
It’s important to recognise that as well as delivering new insight throughout our second year of operation, we gained significant value from establishing and embedding the behaviours of collaboration in the way we work with our partners in Essex. Our time was well spent enabling teamwork, building trust, sharing and exchanging ideas, skills and experience, supporting and assisting one another and communicating with and inspiring those around us to achieve collective success.
Among the biggest of our achievements have been the initiation of two new projects with our colleagues in healthcare and public services. These are particularly significant as they give us the opportunity to demonstrate how improved relationships between organisations can foster collaborations that can really make a difference to the lives of people in Essex.
The first project forms a critical part of the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Partnership’s work, to reduce serious violent incidents through targeted intervention and preventative responses. The project aims to improve the insight available on the scale, size and locations of violent incidents in Essex by standardising data collection (for the existing Information Sharing to Tackle Violence – ISTV dataset), and promoting the sharing of A&E Hospital, Ambulance and Police data.
The second project is centred around identifying and targeting support for our most vulnerable residents in North East Essex. Data about vulnerable residents is currently fragmented and held by many different organisations so the project aim is to create a combined view of vulnerabilities (social, financial, physical and clinical), to support individuals before they hit crisis. This work has been highly prioritised to support our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which will have potentially left more people more vulnerable than before.
Although our two projects are very different, there is also a wealth of similarities between them. The most important of these is the presence of a culture of siloed working, both within and between organisations. “Siloed working” is often considered the equivalent of a minor misdemeanour: with regards to specialist departments, teams and organisations, silos are valuable, however, they can also sometimes be prohibitive to collaboration. These new health projects aim to showcase that we can navigate the complexity of our structures by connecting people and information to create shared value, and that this collaborative behaviour is critical to achieving a more holistic view and better understanding of multifaceted issues.
Both projects are in the early stages, but we have already learnt so many valuable lessons along the way. We have studied methods and case studies from other organisations that have successfully delivered what we are aiming to achieve. We have been proactive in engaging with critical partners and colleagues early on in a project lifecycle, to try to best understand their priorities and challenges. Finally, we have provided incentive to join and contribute to our projects by highlighting the benefits and societal impacts of our work; proving how insight from data is vital to inform successful action.
For both projects, these new collaborations will enable us to identify hotspots for intervention, inform the overall strategic approach to reducing serious violence, and avoid crisis for vulnerable residents across Essex. Through better insight from data sharing we aim to more effectively plan and deploy emergency services, local authority resources and community support. We very much hope that our problem-solving paves the way for future projects and creates networking opportunities (through our Be Part Of The Equation network) but most importantly, creates the unity in thinking both within and between organisations that is critical for future success: tackling issues together.