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Our 2021 at Open Innovations

The changeable circumstances of the ongoing pandemic meant we had to be flexible whilst maintaining momentum in our work and providing some semblance of stability for our sponsors and clients. The year ahead looked hopeful, which is always a good start. In January we began our work as part of the ODI Stimulus Fund cohort with the aim of contributing to the research and development of data access initiatives. What is data access and why is it important to get it right? In short, fair access to quality, useable (by machines and humans) data will enable more people to respond to the challenges of the future. You can read all about the stimulus fund outcomes on the ODI website. We were also productive on our blog, publishing articles about our dashboard, the future of #OpenDataSavesLives, regional inequality, and our steps towards making privacy-first analytics.

February saw a first for ourselves and Leeds City Council as we took on the challenge of moving the physical Leeds Apprenticeship Fair from the Leeds Arena to online only. Amidst a lot of uncertainty with the coronavirus pandemic, Leeds City Council were still keen for the event to go ahead for the benefit of the region's young people. But how do you recreate the experience of a huge hall, with several employers, colleges, etc, and the opportunities to discover something new? Not everything will translate perfectly of course, but we carefully designed an online option that would be easily accessible for people and still allow free-flowing conversations. The event was a huge success, over 54,000 views to the bespoke website we created and over 1,000 young people meeting online with apprentice providers. You can read all about how we designed and deliver this event via the case study on the website.

Image showing the live setup of the Northernlands 3 event
Live segments streamed from our innovation space
Credit: Open Innovations

The online events just kept coming as we moved into March. We were thrilled to be hosting another Northernlands event, working in partnership with the Embassy for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Northernlands 3 used a hybrid approach, with in-person introductions and hosting in our innovation space in Leeds combined with lightning talks that had been pre-recorded in advance. You can read about our methods on this blog post, or you can read an event summary on this blog post instead. Following shortly after, we had the opportunity to help with the then newly launched Goldacre Review. The #OpenDataSavesLives series of online events, which began in 2020 in response to the pandemic, regularly drew audiences from a broad spectrum of health organisations, so we had a prime network of people who would want to contribute to the Goldacre review. You can read about the outcome via our blog.

As we headed into May, we launched a brand new series of online events - #PoweredUp, focused on open data and innovation in the energy sector. Not restricted to just energy companies, everyone who had an interest in how the energy sector could be innovative within the context of challenges like the Climate Emergency, reaching carbon net zero goals, etc, were welcome. Alongside this, we had another productive month of blog posts, covering our open data 'toolbox' and the importance of having themes that help drive our work. We also began to expand a project that began at PlanetData 2. Stuart Lowe, who works on our data projects, delivered a talk at PlanetData 2 all about website emissions and why he took great care to make our own website lighter and leaner. Moving beyond just our website, Stuart discovered that some council websites could be very large indeed, which made them slow to load on mobile connections AND increased their carbon footprint. For a more thorough explanation of why websites should be kept small and friendly, check out this blog post. We also have a full list of UK local council homepage emissions.

In June we collaborated with Data City and ODI HQ to host an online session all about the UK Data Landscape. Perhaps an abstract concept, it was important to explore what it actually meant, whether the definition varied between sectors, and how a clearer picture of this landscape could positively encourage innovation. You can read our summary via our blog, and you can find the ODI's project outcomes on their website. We also started a brand new project partnership with UK Power Networks to help improve and develop their open data offering.

Squeezing in some fab stuff before the summer holidays, we hosted River Data in July. Working with Yorkshire Water, they were interested in the potential for Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) data to tell them more about the health of the rivers in the region. Coupled with the increase in 'wild swimming' and more time spent in natural spaces due to the pandemic, there was a lot of engagement with the event. You can read an event summary via our blog. We also welcomed a brand new sponsor! The Coders Guild have been a regular attendee of our events and were keen to develop a training programme together with us to retain talent in the region, so we were thrilled to welcome them on-board.

September was supercharged! Not only did we have some fab #PoweredUp and #OpenDataSavesLives sessions, we managed to squeeze in the Planet Data 4 launch event AND the #OpenDataSavesLives Unconference! With lightning talks in the morning and an active working session in the afternoon, we brought together a diverse group of people who were all committed to a future in the health sector that could put data and innovation at the heart of making things better for patients. If you couldn't join us, you can find all of the talks from the day on the event page. We also started a project to explore the field of data ethics.

It was all about the environment in October with our headline event being Planet Data 4. Our biggest event of the series so far, Planet Data 4 was all about continuing to highlight the good work that is still happening despite the challenges of the pandemic and actions that anyone can take now to work towards Net Zero. There was also a focus on the success of ideas that started small but made a big difference, demonstrating that anyone and everyone is capable of having an impact. All of the talks and other useful resources can be found on the event hub page.

November brought about some exciting changes. We transformed from ODI Leeds to Open Innovations. This blog post from earlier in the year outlines why the change happened and what it meant going forward. It was important for us to emphasise that it didn't mean any changes to our team or our working methods or to the core themes that drive our work. We are still the passionate, mission-led non-profit that we have always been, and we still work to make open data and innovation beneficial to all. We are excited for the future as Open Innovations. This month also saw Channel 4 pop in for some filming! Did you see us on the Channel 4 news?

Screenshot from Levelling Up event featuring Tom Forth, Paul Connell, Stian Westlake
Screenshot from the Levelling Up event featuring Tom Forth, Paul Connell, and Stian Westlake
Credit: Open Innovations

The last month of 2021. We finished December in style with the launch of the #LevellingUp project. A high profile event with speakers including government ministers, Andy Haldane and Neil O'Brien. Spanning several months and going into 2022, the project is focused on the data that could visualise what 'levelling up' looks like across the region (and beyond). Tom Forth's blog post ahead of the launch event is a good place to start to understand what we want to do, and if you missed the event you can find all of the talks from the day on the event hub-page.

There were also several projects that were ongoing and maintained throughout 2021, such as the local authority COVID dashboards, visualisation about vaccines, and COVID deaths data.