About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Ultimately, an ODA creates multi-organisational, actionable insight from otherwise siloed information

People do not conveniently live out their lives in one local authority area. Communities, areas of deprivation, crime, littering and school catchment areas can (and frequently do) cut across borders. However, public sector organisations’ data and reach are notably confined within the boundaries of their geographical area and jurisdiction.

Given the complex and geographically-diffuse nature of the challenges, the last decade has seen a significant rise in interest by public sector organisations in the use of data analytics. A number of them have set up their own data teams and are experimenting with different forms of innovation. This has been possible also thanks to the growing amount of data that is now openly available.

Nesta has followed such initiatives with interest: through our research, we’ve explored some of the most pioneering uses of data in UK local government (see, for instance, our reports Datavores of Local Government and Wise Council).

With our Office of Data Analytics programme, we've conducted pilots in London, North East England and Essex. Through these projects, we’ve explored how cities and regions can establish ODAs to get to more intelligent uses of data and collaborative approaches in the public sector.

At Nesta, we define an ODA as a model for multiple organisations to join up, analyse and act upon data sourced from multiple public sector bodies to improve services and make better decisions. ODAs always adopt a shared vision and objectives, sometimes have shared capabilities and resource, often have a range of collaborative working practices, and definitely have a commitment to data analytics.

Ultimately, an ODA creates multi-organisational, actionable insight from otherwise siloed information.

Explore the report

What is an Office of Data Analytics? We begin by taking a closer look at the state of data analytics in the public sector, defining what an ODA is. We identify benefits and possible barriers to this approach.

Explore how this approach is being put into practice in various parts of the UK. From this section, you will be able to access comprehensive case studies of each of the ODAs on Nesta’s radar, with details of their vision, structures, processes and more. We have included in this list those programmes that we believe fall into our definition of an ODA.

We are conscious that there might be other local authorities doing pioneering work with their data, and their exclusion is not intended as a comment about the quality of their work. If you think you know about additional Offices of Data Analytics do not hesitate to contact the report authors Michelle Eaton and Camilla Bertoncin.

Through the publication of this report we aim at turning people’s attention to the value of Office of Data Analytics programmes by increasing the visibility of existing Offices and appealing to local authorities and public sector organisations who are planning to establish one.

We launched a detailed survey in August 2018 covering four main topic areas:

  • ODA structures, funding and governance
  • Team and working practices
  • Completed data projects, selection methods
  • Plans for the future

As ODAs are progressing rapidly, some of the information in this report will be a snapshot in time, with case studies capturing the situation between August and October 2018. While the development of pilots and some working practices are likely to change, principles and priorities will largely remain the same.

The state and progress of the UK’s Offices of Data Analytics is the subject of this report. We have highlighted the work of nine such ODAs, exploring the reasons for their founding, the structure and model they have adopted, the approach to data analytics they have taken, and the challenge areas they have sought to address with data, summarising our key findings.

We have two main aims in drawing attention to this work. First, we hope to assist the UK’s existing ODAs learn from each other’s successes and challenges; enhancing and accelerating all their work. Second, we hope to provide useful guidance for other cities and regions that may wish to establish their own ODAs, and who may be wondering where to start.

Wherever you are on your data journey, we hope you will find useful insights in the following pages to inform your future work.


Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Programme Manager

Michelle worked in the Government Innovation team on how the smarter use of data and technology can help civil society and public sector organisations deliver services, better.

View profile
Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Project Manager and Researcher

Camilla was a Project Manager and Researcher working in the Explorations team on the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design.

View profile