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.

Although there are definitely benefits to having dedicated staff working from one physical location, most ODAs currently operate through a virtual hub, with analysts located in different services, allocated to projects on an ad hoc basis.

Here we outline the pros and cons of virtual and physical spaces, looking at who is using each approach:

Physical Hub

We observed this approach in The Office for Data Analytics - Avon and Somerset


  • It allows quick and easy communication between analysts
  • It can encourage good working relationships and inclusive practices
  • It breaks down organisational barriers
  • It can help give the ODA a sense of identity
  • It allows improved and consistent access to software and technology


  • A large investment may be needed to secure and maintain a space
  • Resources taken from other organisations may bring contractual challenges
  • Cultural differences between organisations may become more evident in a combined working space
  • Differences exist in data security and access for different types of service

Virtual Hub

Observed in the Worcestershire Office of Data Analytics, Suffolk Office of Data & Analytics, London Office of Technology and Innovation


  • Lower cost
  • Number of resources is not limited or confined to a space
  • Shared resources can remain within own organisations, reducing contractual challenges
  • Data sharing capability is prioritised, e.g. need for good data sharing platform and information sharing protocols up front


  • Culture and working practises are more difficult to develop
  • Communication can be more difficult
  • Organisations only have access to one source of software and tech
  • Potential for cross organisational project working is limited


Observed in the West Midlands Office of Data Analytics, Essex Centre for Data Analytics


  • Allows quick and easy communication between analysts
  • Can begin to develop good working relationships
  • Can help give the ODA a sense of identity
  • Opportunities to introduce consistent software and technology for ad hoc working


  • Can lead to inconsistent working practices
  • Only the ‘visible’ resources get recognised as the ODA resource


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.

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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.

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