Civic Data Innovation Fund: Digging deeper into civic strength

1 December 2023
4 min read

In September 2023, the second round of the Civic Data Innovation Challenge launched. Michael Rigby reveals the four groups to develop their data projects with up to £60,000 funding.

London’s communities are what sustains the city. Five-a-side played every Tuesday night. Free book exchanges. Cultural gatherings celebrating diverse backgrounds. Neighbours having a chat on the street, or in local markets, shopping bags still in hand. It’s easy to see the subtle ways that healthy communities keep London going.

Research shows the strong links between people and the communities they live in, and trust in the institutions they rely on, such as the NHS and local government, has positive effects on health. Local leaders, policymakers, and funders, understand that communities are the backbone of London, however there are gaps in the kinds of data available on them.

Taking on the challenge to learn more about communities, the Greater London Authority and Impact on Urban Health partnered in 2022 to create the Civic Data Innovation Challenge- a funding programme that supports data experts to find new ways of understanding community strength. The programme supported 9 innovative data projects, each looking at different ways of measuring what makes a strong community. The data from these projects will contribute to the Civic Strength Index, which consolidates existing data on what makes communities strong. 

The first year produced strong data projects and helped us learn more about a range of key issues. This included the importance of community networks to a data project, the need for clear data questions, and how to tell a story around the data. The learning gathered has been unique and helps develop a deeper understanding of some of London’s local communities. 

Building and connecting stronger communities

In September 2023, the second round of the Civic Data Innovation Challenge launched. In this phase, successful projects from the first round were awarded significant funding to develop further, alongside new projects starting their journey.

After a competitive application process, we have appointed four groups to develop their data projects with up to £60,000 funding. Successful grantees include:

  • MyCake specialises in financial benchmarking, especially for third sector organisations. Their project will create a new method for measuring the contribution of charities, formal volunteers and funders to London’s civic strength, refining available data to inform this.  
  • Neighbourly Lab examines the connections that bind communities through a diverse range of data. Their project will be working with Londoners to define ‘belonging’ and identifying available datasets to measure it at a local level.  
  • Migrant Democracy Project (MDC) seeks to empower migrants to actively participate in political and public life and shape a fairer immigration system. Their project will survey elected Councillors from across London to find out how representative elected officials are of the populations they serve.
  • London Sport supports all Londoners to live healthier lives by being more active, focusing their efforts on the parts of the capital facing the harshest health inequalities. Their project is the first to attempt to compile a full list of community sport organisations in London, to help better understand the social opportunities these offer.

These projects all reveal fresh perspectives on London’s communities, like what belonging means and how it functions, how representative local political processes are, and how activities such as sport can bring people together. 

In the coming months, we will be looking at how we can work with grantees to support the next phase of their activities. This will involve helping them to promote their work to audiences who could benefit from their work – from local authorities and national government to community organisations and charities as well as researchers, and funders.

We know that stronger communities contribute to better health, and we look forward to supporting these organisations to paint a deeper picture of what is key to a thriving community. We’re excited to see their work as it evolves, and how we can work together to share the knowledge and learning they gather throughout the process.