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Pro Bono Hackathon Wins National Data Award for Social Good

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 05:43 am

A group of technology and social value experts consisting of whatimpact.com, Ministry of Defence, Babcock, Plymouth County Council & Microsoft collaborated on a joint Social Value in Defence project and are now celebrating after winning a national award for their work.

This project highlights the power of cross sector collaboration and open data with the intention to improve people’s lives in local areas across the country. The team created a social value deprivation data platform pilot where open-source data was aggregated to get an idea of local areas for social improvement and mandatory social value delivery*– all done pro bono.

The team found out that they won the Institute of Analytics (IOA) Data for Social Good Award for the pilot hackathon that was run in December 2022. In this hackathon, they built and tested a comprehensive dataset combining advanced analytics in just three days after careful preparation over some weeks. Aggregating various open data sources they were able to create an in-depth analysis of the socio-economic status of the pilot council Plymouth, which clarifies those areas of deprivation which should be focused on when planning on social value investments and activities.

The pilot council Plymouth was chosen by the team to support a wider ‘Plymouth Pathfinder’, an ongoing collaboration between government, business, academia and local stakeholders. The focus of the hackathon was to create a prototype of a data platform to be the first step to support the teams’ broader ambition to create a platform and user interface which will be accessible to public, private and third sector organisations in the future.

Announcing the award on Thu 9th Feb 2023 the IOA said it was the best example they had seen of how “data can be used to solve the humanitarian and environmental problems facing society today”.

whatimpact.com is the only social value management platform in the UK helping companies to match with local VCSEs and receive comprehensive social impact reporting aligned with The Government’s Social Value Model and embedded to the partnerships created with the help of the platform.

Tiia Sammallahti, CEO of whatimpact said: “We know first-hand the challenges organisations face when defining which causes they should focus on when supporting and collaborating with VCSEs across a diverse range of geographical locations, with very different kinds of social and environmental challenges. With the help of data gained from the new data platform, organisations can plan their social value activities in a meaningful way, really levelling up the society. And our platform then helps them to deliver and report on the value, and not only to fulfil their contractual requirements for the government, but also to help maximise the impact on the society. We cannot wait to integrate the data tool to our own platform for ‘smarter’ social value decisions.”

This proof of concept is just a first step to support the teams’ broader ambition to create a series of future hackathons to encourage businesses and governments to have a greater understanding of social value requirements.

David Whipp, Social Value Specialist, within the DSF and Ministry of Defence said: “What we have created doesn’t just involve defence – this is definitely a one Government approach. Working in collaboration with partners like Babcock and others we have been able to create a really exciting pilot that actually demonstrates how we can use data to create real, tangible benefits aimed at improving people’s lives. We look forward to sharing our results with other Government departments so they can all learn from our experience, and we can now move forward onto future collaborative social value projects.”

Kat Dixon, Analytics Business Partner, Babcock, who submitted the award added: “This is a real achievement for all involved and demonstrates what can be done with determined people, great partnerships and a clear vision about how we can work together to create a better world for us all to live in.”

*Social value has become an incremental part of government contracting due to an enhancement of the Social Value Act with the Procurement Policy Note 06/20 and various other policies making sure that the Government’s buying power on both a local level and in Central Government is harnessed for social value. Any tender bid now gets 10-30% of scoring based on the social and environmental activities the company performs during the contract period. The challenge, however, is that hundreds of government organisations and companies bidding for tenders struggle to find easily understandable information on the most pressing societal challenges on a local level. This makes it hard to direct social value activities (employment, community engagement, environmental and supply chain decisions) to the right direction.

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