Insight Bristol – Interagency Analytics hub
Insight Bristol is an interagency analytics hub between Bristol City Council and Avon and Somerset Police. Its core creation is a database of families' risk and vulnerability indicators, together with targeted risk modelling, which has been embedded into operational practice. This has created a fundamental shift in public sector working by developing a proactive approach to early intervention, saving millions of pounds of public money and improving outcomes for children and families.
Insight Bristol is a data analytics team comprising of Avon and Somerset Police and Bristol City Council staff. The team consists of a number of leading data scientists, developers and analysts, who utilise advanced analytical techniques and processes to create a better understanding of the issues facing vulnerable families in Bristol. The ground-breaking work carried out by the team has helped to develop a significantly more effective early intervention strategy, and has also created a number of state of the art analytical tools for a whole range of public sector workers. These tools are currently in daily use across the city, and are allowing for the creation of real and sustained outcomes for hundreds of vulnerable families.
Insight Bristol’s main work is centred around the Think Family Database; a pioneering database which pulls together data from around 30 different public sector sources to create a rich and diverse dataset covering the 54,000 families across the city of Bristol. The database is used to assist a whole range of public sector staff, from case triaging to frontline workers, which helps to identify ‘at risk’ families and better coordinate the support to those families.
The data captured within the TFD relates to a number of indicators within these categories:
- Parents and young people involved in crime or antisocial behaviour
- Children who have not been attending school regularly
- Children who need help
- Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion, and young people at risk of worklessness
- Families affected by domestic violence and abuse
- Parents and children with a range of health problems
The collection, processing and presentation of data concerning these criteria elicits a deeper understanding of the vulnerabilities facing the cities’ families, allows for a more effective allocation of resources and enables predictive risk modelling to target support at those who need it most. It involves truly collaborative working and transparency, pooling together for the first time data from the police, council and a number of governmental departments. The Insight Bristol team’s work with the Think Family database has been recognised as some of the best work in the national Troubled Families programme, and the
database has been shortlisted for a number of awards, winning the iESE Public Sector Transformation Award in 2019.
In addition to the Think Family Database, the Insight team creates a whole host of predictive risk models. Using state of the art analytics, these take a cohort of individuals (for example victims of sexual abuse), identify what common factors they share and then use a number of complex algorithms to understand the similarity between the control group and others the city. By doing this key workers are better equipped to tailor their approach to manage cases and it enables a strategic understanding of vulnerability.
The team has so far collaboratively developed a number of predictive risk models which have impacted organisational change, with the Child at Risk of Sexual Exploitation model (CSE) is being actively used by the Police to identify and help hundreds of vulnerable young people across the city, and has led to the nomination of a number of national awards for the team.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Insight Bristol use the most innovative of analytical techniques to generate an understanding of risk and vulnerability. Through targeted analytics, social network analysis and more traditional analytical techniques a complete 360 degree understanding of risk for young people in the city can be generated.
An example of this has been in Insight's creation of models to help tackle the epidemic of serious youth violence, criminal exploitation and knife crime. By mapping out, through data, the social network of a vulnerable young person risk can be identified at a much earlier stage, meaning early intervention can take place. By 'catching it early' Insight can ensure that vulnerable young people are diverted away from such activities, eliciting better outcomes for them. Insight believe that they are the first in the country to take this approach to tackling serious youth violence and criminal exploitation.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Insight produces a number of tools to be used across Bristol City Council and the Police which are now fully embedded into the day to day work of front line professionals. Some of these tools are more mature than others, and Insight work in an agile way to constantly iterate and improve the tools already in place.
The current focus on the team is on producing tools to combat the rise in serious youth violence, criminal exploitation and knife crime in Bristol. For this the team has produced two bespoke tools: a model which looks at criminal exploitation risk factors in police data and cross references this with council data, and a tool which understands peer to peer relationships where serious violence has been present. As a result of these tools a new team has been formed, which use the tools as a scanning feed to identify potential harm. In a short period of time Insight have already witnessed a drop in offences, diversionary measures put in place and better outcomes for young people.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Insight Bristol is a truly collaborative approach, comprising of staff from Bristol City Council and Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Collaborations and partnerships form the foundations of the approach taken by Insight; all models are built by pulling together partnership data from a range of sources and the maintaining of relationships between partners is imperative. The result of this is a one of a kind joined up data hub, which can be used to safeguard young people in a variety of ways.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Insight has brought a number of efficiency savings and new capacity to front line staff, which has in turn passed on benefits to citizens. Over 150 front line staff perform an average of 5000 searches a month on the Insight team's main product, a multi-faceted joined up database called the Think Family Database. These staff now have a better understanding of young people they are worried about, and are able to put in more effective interventions faster, leading to better outcomes for citizens.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Insight produce a number of different tools designed to tackle a number of different challenges, so pinning down all of the derived outcomes and impacts is a challenge.
That being said, the achievements listed below could not have been achieved without the Insight team and innovations:
- A multi-agency joined up data set, compiling over 32 vulnerability risk factors for over 62,000 families in Bristol
- 232 young people identified through data to be at risk of/currently experiencing criminal exploitation, leading to 469 bespoke interventions designed to reduce offending and vulnerability
- 2669 outcomes captured by work done by the Council's Early Help service, which include improving access to education, reducing domestic violence and reducing barriers to employment
- 2234 young people identified to be at risk of not being in education, employment or training when they leave secondary school with the most at risk having bespoke interventions put in place
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge facing the team has been embedding the innovative tools created by the team into the working practices of front line professionals. Data teams often fall into the trap of building tools which are interesting to developers but have little practical use by the most important people: the end user. By embedding staff from the Insight team with end users during the agile development process the Insight team can be sure that at every stage the products being developed meet the needs of these end users.
Another core challenge is ensuring that the approaches and tools created by the team are transparent and easy to understand. By ensuring the end users' voice is present at every stage of the process the resulting products are genuinely useful and therefore much easier to operationally embed. Transparency with the public is also important; it is their personal data which the team is using and Insight routinely engage with the public and press to ensure that this happens.
Conditions for Success
One of the core reasons as to why Insight has been so successful has been their resilience and desire to innovate. There is, for good reason, a stringent framework of laws and systems which ensure the proper processing and manipulation of personal data. In some instances this can stifle innovation, as the 'easy' thing to do is be risk averse and stick with the status quo. However Insight have always striven to be innovative, working closely with their colleagues responsible for data protection, to push the boundaries of what has been achieved before, whilst still adhering to the legal frameworks surrounding our data.
Another key condition for success is to automate processes and not get tied down with maintenance. All of the products and tools designed by Insight are fully automated, allowing Insight to ingrain them into working practices and then move onto the next challenge. This ensures Insight are always able to put their full attention into designing solutions for the next problem identified.
Due to their successes the approach taken by Insight has been replicated across the country. Insight hold regular sessions with other councils and local authorities to ensure that all learning is shared and to encourage the replication of best practice. They are not protective of their learning; they don't sell the products they've designed to other local authorities as the ultimate goal is to improve the wellbeing of citizens, not to create a profit.
In the future the ambition is to scale beyond the boundaries of Bristol. The medium term ambition is to expand the approach to a regional level, in line with the boundaries of Avon and Somerset (a move that would see the served population grow from 535,000 to 1.6million). Once this is done, the ultimate ambition would be to expand to an approach that is replicated nationally, to help to understand risk and protect vulnerabilities of the population of the UK as a whole.
The core lesson is to constantly innovate. This is easiest done through adopting an agile process to product development - conventional methods of development (such as the waterfall methodology) can never be as responsive to the ever-changing needs of the end user. Adopting such strict development methodologies means the end product will always reflect the needs of the user at the start of the process, without recognising that requirements may change. Iterating from the point of a minimal viable product ensures that at any stage of the development process the tool being developed will be accurate, meet the needs of the user and ultimately affect the most change.
Strong relationships with partners is also imperative. Conversations need to be had with the end user at all times to ensure that they feel involved with the development of tools, which therefore means that they're more likely to properly utilise them once they're developed. There is no point in expending effort creating things which don't solve problems or address the needs of users.
Another core lesson is to recognise that nothing is ever finished. Each product needs to be conceptualised as an iteration in a never ending process; the needs of users might shift, or a product might be able to be adapted to help solve a different identified problem. This was found with their model which Insight used to identify young people at risk of sexual exploitation, where they adapted the methodology and the data that fed the model to identify children who were at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training). Whilst the principles remained the same, Insight then had two distinct products which could be used to help address risk and vulnerability in different ways.
The final lesson learned was to be proud of their products and tell other people about them. By sharing their learning with other organisations Insight have helped to reduce risk and vulnerability not just in Bristol, but nationally.
Insight were recipients of the 'Intelligent Council' Gold Award at the 2019 iese Public Sector Transformation Awards
Insight have been shortlisted for a number of other awards praising innovation in the public sector