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Using Open Data to Help Winchester Homeless Support Organisations

As open data enthusiasts, it is tempting to concentrate on data and applications which we think are interesting or useful.  But if the kind of open data provided by the Hampshire Hub is going to make a big difference to the local community then it has to have a much broader appeal.  It needs to be providing real value to organisations who have to deal with core issues in the local community and who may have little interest in the Hampshire Hub,  Open Data or even the Web. We need to see open data from their point of view.

To address this, Johanna Walker and myself from the University of Southampton are going to try something different. We are running two workshops in January looking at the how open data can help three  organisations that are doing a great job in helping the homeless in Winchester:

Winchester Churches Night Shelter

Trinity Winchester

The Winchester branch of A2Dominion

Also attending will be Tom Belshaw from Winchester Area Community Action who has been key to organising the workshops and a representative from Winchester City Council who deals with homelessness.

The objective is to see how open data could help them with their most significant problems – but we are going to start with the problems not the data. The first workshop will not think about data at all. It will be all about identifying the problems and what information would help solve them. This is definitely not a Hackathon. Then the open data enthusiasts will take a few days to think about how open data could provide that information. At the second workshop we will present our ideas to the attendees and go over them in detail – trying to pin down what are the most important aspects of the data and any vital missing elements.

Johanna and I will then be trying the same approach in a completely different culture – the homeless in India. If we can make it work for both Winchester and Bangalore then we think we might be on to something!