Part of our Data Journey's research case study series, with Think Social Tech.
For us the real value is being able to use our data to work with others and help develop services which respond to local needs.
Voluntary Action Camden (VAC) supports the voluntary and community sector in the London Borough of Camden.
They do this by sharing information, fostering collaboration and providing practical expertise to both established and new voluntary organisations. They serve as a connection between the sector and decision-making bodies like the local Council and funders.
VAC develops social prescribing approaches in Camden, in partnership with Age UK Camden, Wish Plus and the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group.
Voluntary Action Camden receive referrals from GPs, hospitals, social workers, mental health services, and many other local health and care services.
The Community Links team provides a single point of access and triage service. They connect residents with community-based activities and social opportunities that support their health and well-being. They also refer to a range of local services and support.
This service is open to all Camden residents over 18, who can self refer.
VAC has been steadily building its digital and data literacy over the last 8 years.
This was enhanced by the introduction of Salesforce as their main contact database and CRM for recording information about their work and activities. Luckily, their IT and Digital Manager already had the technical skills and capacity to introduce Salesforce to the organisation, and support and champion its ongoing development.
Over the years, VAC’s data culture has improved, along with the use of Salesforce.
VAC adopted Salesforce to collate and report on the wealth of data from Social Prescribing casework with a few thousand local residents a year who are referred to and make use of Community Links.
Example of referrals data dashboard
This has required investment in the system, both in terms of further configuration to capture the data needed, but also for the Community Links team to adopt new digital ways of capturing their work and gain insight from the data collected.
VAC are now able to use Salesforce to:
- Report on the Local Authority on the numbers of referrals, as well as some outputs and outcomes data
- Provide evidence of need for services, which other voluntary and community groups can use to fundraise for
- Identify gaps in services and emerging needs they are seeing from case work data
- Help other organisations develop their strategy and services to respond to emerging needs and gaps in services
- Pick up case studies from residents about the value of services from local groups
- Understand what’s popular and wanted by local residents
- Collaborate with others to share and compare data in the Borough, shaping local decision making and partnerships to meet local demand and gaps
- Coordinate how the local voluntary and community sector, as well as statutory services are responding to crises (such as Covid, Long Covid, or the Cost of Living) where support needs are changing and growing.
- See real time data from Salesforce about activities happening that day and calls coming in.
VAC has seen a real need for their data locally since the first UK lockdown in March 2020.
They were able to provide a freephone number connected to remote working and saw a huge peak in demand.
They were receiving increasing referrals for bereavement and hospital discharge support, particularly people from black and minority ethnic groups.
They were able to correlate this with other datasets and meet regularly with the council and other local organisations to share their insights and work together to shape services.
More recently, amidst the cost of living crisis, they are seeing a drop in referrals for low level depression and anxiety. Instead, their data shows people are only seeking immediate support for food banks, help with fuel payments and debt management.
As a result, they are working with community groups, the local authority and funders to explore how to co-locate wellbeing and crisis services, in order to best support local people.
Advice for others
Find an interesting data story to spark everyone’s interest
VAC found their whole team became much more invested in Salesforce when their data told an interesting and much needed story during the early days of COVID-19. They prioritised cleaning their data and getting their heads around how the system and process worked.
Data itself is not the holy grail, reflect on it, share with others and act
Over the last few years, VAC have shifted their focus from data collection, to using and responding to data. This is central to their strategy.
Get better at tech and data. There is so much to learn.
VAC wants to improve how they track the outcomes and onward referrals for social prescribing. Key to this is working closely with others to collect the right data in the right way. They are also exploring ways to support other voluntary and community groups with their data capacity and use of Salesforce.
For us the real value is being able to use our data to work with others and help develop services which respond to local needs
For VAC, collaborating with others around data to shape services is the most valuable part of the data they collect and use. It’s what motivated them to start their journey and where they want to keep improving.
Do you need help on your data journey? If you are a small charity or community organisation in London email Superhighways.
Or email Donna Turnball at Voluntary Action Camden about this case study.