Part of our Data Journey's research case study series, with Think Social Tech.
Better data has helped us improve reporting, spot trends, improve service delivery and be better advocates for the people we support.
Bromley Third Sector Enterprise (BTSE) delivers Bromley Well, a partnership with local voluntary sector organisations. BTSE is made up of a small team, managing the delivery of health contracts worth just under £12 million over five years.
Bromley Well is one initiative, launched in 2017.
Bromley Well provides a single point of access to services locally, helping people living in Bromley borough to improve and maintain their health and wellbeing.
The service is paid for by Bromley Council and NHS South East London Integrated Care Board. This is delivered in partnership with Age UK Bromley and Greenwich, Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind, Bromley Mencap and Citizens Advice Bromley.
With a new CEO in 2021 and subsequently, a new data manager in place, full-time from May 2023, BTSE is starting to realise their aspirations for becoming a data driven organisation.
Over the past five years, the team at BTSE have been working hard to collect more robust client data and report on this effectively, using Charity Log and Power BI.
The original contract for the Bromley Well initiative with the Local Authority required a new data sharing agreement between partners.
A dedicated data manager role has been central to coordinating this and the associated GDPR implications and operational challenges of aligning data collection.
Originally, each partner used different systems and Excel was the main tool used to report on and share data between partners. Now all partners are using Charity Log. Using a single system to manage client records and referrals has meant easier and quicker referrals for residents.
For example, an elderly gentleman was referred due to hospital discharge. A house visit found he needed handrails. This was flagged on the system. They were installed within 48 hours.
The contract for Bromley Well has been successfully renewed until 2027. As part of this renewal process, BTSE secured the funds to employ a full time data manager and invested reserves to employ them part-time in advance of the new contract.
They had robust data on the 12,000 clients who accessed services last year, but wanted to better understand who they are and where they are coming from. They also use Power BI alongside this and pay for additional features to present a user friendly dashboard for partners.
Key turning points and highlighting data gaps
A key turning point for looking at their data critically was the drive from the new CEO in late 2021. They wanted to create an annual report which included impact data. For the first time, BTSE used Power BI and could look at trends over the past five years.
They were surprised to discover that 37.5% of their calls were people who identified as having a disability.
The process of creating an impact report also highlighted gaps in their data.
For example, they found some clients were missing key information about their ethnicity and marital status.
To understand this, the data manager spoke to staff and volunteers. They highlighted the challenge of asking people for personal information at the start of a conversation when they first answer the phone.
The Data Manager has now created a new data collection process, which involves asking monitoring questions later in the call, once people are being referred on to a service. This will help the conversation flow better and make it easier to ask these questions.
Online referrals are also increasing and the form now includes key monitoring questions. This can also now be matched with referrals, making it easier to capture the data needed with less effort from callers and staff.
The data manager at BTSE is also now looking to develop their data analysis and reporting to make it more meaningful. This includes grouping and reducing 170 referral organisations into 12 referral categories so trends and demands can be better understood.
When there are gaps in referrals (especially when compared to rising demand), BTSE intends to approach organisations to address this.
The data manager is currently undertaking a data audit with operational delivery partners. This involves looking at what each organisation is asking their clients and comparing across.
For example, one partner is asking every client if they feel isolated or about cost of living issues, it might be useful to all partners to do the same.
Where they agree, this could build a more consistent picture of local issues and needs.
For example, each agreed to add a ‘tag’ to each client call relating to cost of living last year. This meant BTSE could create new relevant materials for their website, based on demand for advice (such as help with energy bills).
Creating a data culture
Underpinning all of this work has been a focus on creating a data culture, supporting over 50 staff and involving a few hundred volunteers.
BTSE has approached this by:
- seeking feedback and asking what they can do to make staff and volunteer lives easier
- a working group of operational and service staff to identify any issues with the data collection or using the system.
- taking time to explain the need for data or why certain changes are being made to help everyone understand the value.
- sharing insights from data and how it is being used in newsletters.
As a result, data quality has improved.
BTSE are now able to share their Power BI dashboard with commissioners. This visually accessible tool has proved helpful in quarterly meetings. Feeding in key data about demand in Bromley has raised their profile in these meetings as a key data partner for the local council and NHS.
It has shaped their organisational strategy and BTSE are looking at whether this is replicable in other Boroughs.
What helped and advice to others
Power BI offers a lot of functionality for a relatively low cost and works with existing tools. It helps us make our data accessible across our team, partners and local authority.
Data takes longer than you think to sort out, you have to be patient, pick your battles and focus on what will help make life easier for staff and volunteers first.
Having senior level buy-in is really helpful, to bring other partners, staff, volunteers and trustees on the journey with you. You can do so much more with data as an organisation with their help.
Do you need help on your data journey? If you are a small charity or community organisation in London email Superhighways.