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How do we use innovation and insight to build an even more connected and caring borough?

Yogita Popat is Head of Insight & Intelligence at Barnet Council, and Helen Wang is a Senior Consultant at EY. In this article, Yogita and Helen reflect on using innovation and insight to build a more inclusive and caring borough.

In a year of turbulence and challenge, families and communities have been disconnected and isolated, bringing many challenges for residents in London and beyond. In turn, pressure on services has continued to rise in order to care for the resulting fragmented and complex landscape of needs, with COVID-19 amplifying existing challenges that residents are facing. Through the impact of the pandemic, we have witnessed first-hand what happens when the interconnectivity between people and their communities, the Public and Private sector and services and their users is challenged.

Conversely, we have also witnessed the great value that can be derived when interconnectivity of these things is working well, particularly at EY, where our work centres on collaborating with a number of clients across London. We work with a range of local authorities, police, education, housing and voluntary and community sector organisations to create long-term value, striving to be the best partner to improve society, sustainability and wellbeing with the ultimate mission of building a better working world.

Over the last year, we have worked closely with Barnet Council to leverage an expanded insight and innovation function; this has enabled better responses which has helped us be more targeted in prevention. Together as a blended team with Barnet, we supported investment and development of a new way of working with innovation and insight, including driving data-informed decision making, embedding preventative and inclusive approaches, and increasing efficiencies. This is now known as the Insight and Intelligence Hub (I&I Hub) and in the last ten months, we have worked together to improve outcomes for residents, ultimately enhancing Barnet’s response to needs and shaping an even better place to live, work and visit.

To set the scene of how our work together began, it is important to understand how dynamic Barnet is as a borough. It has the largest population in London and is growing, with high life expectancy (but declining healthy life expectancy) and a highly diverse population with nearly half of residents belonging to an ethnic minority group. Recognising the need to work differently to be “fit for the future” and provide the best resident outcomes, we (as the Insight & Intelligence Hub) delivered innovation by adopting a council-wide approach to decisions informed by robust insight, bringing together service level data and teams, running agile sprints, and developing a think tank and two networks to deliver cross-cutting insights across the majority of services in Barnet.

Since establishment ten months ago, we have worked on over ten insight projects, across the four Barnet Plan Priorities, engaging with over 20 stakeholders across the council and multiple external partners. Our work includes (but is not limited to):

  • Investing over £400,000, through the apprenticeship levy delivering a L4 Data Fellowship for 25+ staff across the organisation in collaboration with Multiverse
  • Engaging with four London local authorities, the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI), the Greater London Authority (GLA) and over 16 residents on how to map digital exclusion across London in order to improve and better target digital inclusion support to those most vulnerable
  • Developing an internal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Dashboard to promote change and inclusion for staff alongside supporting EDI Policy implementation
  • Building a “single view” of households utilising multiple data sources to better understand the picture of debt and vulnerabilities in Barnet, ultimately transforming our approach to delivering resident support
  • Supporting the development of Barnet’s first Sustainability Strategy, focusing on creating a place fit for the future, where all residents, businesses and visitors benefit from improved sustainable infrastructure and opportunity.

Reflecting on the last year, we are proud of the impact we have achieved together and recognise we are just scratching the surface of what insight and innovation can do. Whilst it has been challenging (given the year we have all been through) and there are many lessons learned, we are very excited to continue building a culture of curiosity and using innovation and insight to build an even more connected and caring place for Barnet residents, Londoners and beyond.

If you would like to find out more about the partnership or the projects we’ve undertaken, please contact the Insight & Intelligence Hub at InsightandIntelligenceHub@barnet.gov.uk.

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