A place-based, collaborative, multi-organisation approach to improving public services

“explore what data transformation could look like”

The diverse group of over 200 participants, drawn from a wide set of organisations, disciplines, views and experiences discussed, learned and importantly worked together. The blended format worked much better than we could have hoped for and was a successful first step with some tangible outcomes. We’ll do a quick recap and then talk about what’s next.

What was DataJam all about again??

With DataJam our aim was to demonstrate the potential of bringing data and design together for public good. We wanted to connect people through practical action aimed at shared problems and goals.

“although talking is vital, we will be defined more by the things we do than the things we say” One Team Gov

DataJam North East was our leap of faith. We said on the eve of the event we had no idea how, or if, bringing together so many elements would work in practice. But we put strong foundations in place and then we trusted everyone to bring their whole selves to make real progress happen! What transpired surpassed all of our expectations.

The DataJam mantra!

Setting the ambition

To lay the foundations for this we did a lot of work in advance:

  1. organisation agnostic problem statements driven by need: chosen by our community to tackle areas we know are particularly challenging for people who live in our region but are equally relevant at a national level.
  2. unlocking and opening up relevant data: engaging across public and private sectors and academia to encourage them to provide data to combine, enrich and unlock potential to address the problem statements.
  3. bringing people together: over 200 people from 60 different organisations from backgrounds in data, service design and subject matter experts learning from each other and working together on real problems.
  4. building infrastructure: we designed and built a cloud analytics platform for the event. This infrastructure provided low friction access to and collaborative handling of data to the broad range of users.
  5. providing experts and training in the tools and techniques: we provided training from experts. Ranging from cutting edge tools for analysis and data science to service side learning and case studies.

Harnessing the curiosity

The unconference sessions brought people together for quality discussions supported by our volunteers to ensure everyone that wanted to contribute had a voice. Topics included trust, communication, creativity within service design, data devolution, the open data spectrum, data in the voluntary sector, and organisational and cultural fear about data sharing. The workshops allowed data and product professionals time for practical learning about each others worlds as well as learning new things from their own.

Alongside these, the hack teams assembled to tackle our themes of child attainment, health, skills and innovation. Each problem statement had a very different starting point and the teams really came together to understand them, move them forward and develop potential solutions.

The health team looked to identify data that could examine the issues around social cohesion. The child attainment team interrogated data to challenge and fundamentally change the initial problem statement leading to a much better understanding and data evidenced statement about attainment and progression and where to focus.

The skills team, which had much greater initial certainty in the identified problem, were able to make real progress in developing a potential service solution. We will write more about this soon but in summary this activity provided a stark illustration that we need to have a cross-government perspective on everything we do. Thinking of ourselves as a single entity where organisations contribute to services that meet whole user needs #OneTeamGov.

organisation agnostic problem statements result in organisation agnostic solutions

Building the legacy

A number of people have shared blogposts following the event, discussing what they learnt, who they met, and what they took away with them. The infrastructure we built for DataJam has been a catalyst for further practical action and discussion with exciting possibilities.

Within our own organisation we have seen a big step forward in understanding the need to better integrate data and design demonstrated recently during #ServicesWeek with the prominent presence of sessions on data and also collaboration across central and local government boundaries.

The North East continues to cement itself at the forefront of digital and data. Notably initiatives such as The National Innovation Centre for Data, scheduled to open in 2020, aim to link public sector, industry and academic talent to help develop skills needed to solve real world problems.

come and join us

The conversations and relationships emerging from our growing DataJam community are wider than data. As a result we will be launching fortnightly OneTeamGov/DataJam breakfasts at the Urban Sciences Building in Newcastle beginning on 7th February.

We hope bringing the community together regularly will continue to build on the networks established at the event and beyond and keep our focus on practical action.


The revolution is looking to continue. Excitingly we have been approached by like minded people from the Midlands who want to apply the same approach of working across academia, central and local government and private sector to bring together people from data, digital and design backgrounds to tackle local issues.

Watch this space

We are sure this will be another important step forward in embedding joined up data and design thinking to improve outcomes for the people who need it most. We are looking forward to hearing more about the problem spaces and supporting the event.

Stay involved

Please join the conversation with us at a OneTeamGov/DataJam North East breakfast or on twitter at #DataJamNE.



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Ryan Dunn

Data Science Hub Lead @DWPDigital. These are my personal thoughts.