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Contact: Michaela Breilmann, SODA Manager and Analytical Lead

SODA is a virtual hub, set up as a collective endeavour among Suffolk’s public services with a view to make better use of data and generate new insights.

Origins and funding

SODA originated from the Suffolk System-wide Data and Insight workstream, funded through the Transformation Challenge Award (TCA) in 2015, which saw the collaboration of Suffolk police with all local authorities and other public sector organisations.

Following this, an official ODA was established in June 2018. This project has been awarded funding for the next two years (2018/19 - 2019/20) from all partners, each equally contributing financially to the ODA.

With all partners contributing equally, there is no lead organisation. This means that the whole system will benefit from SODA’s work, with issues being tackled with a place-based approach.

Vision and objectives

“Virtual collaboration, real insight”: Suffolk’s public service organisations believe that a shared and high-quality evidence base will enable better decision making, improve policy, service design and delivery to ultimately improve the lives of Suffolk residents.

These results will be achieved through joining up and analysing data from multiple sources, including internal data from Suffolk’s public services organisations, its partners and nationally available open data.


SCOLT (Suffolk Chief Officers Leadership Team) is the commissioning body of SODA.

A Partnership Executive Group (SODA PEG), responsible for commissioning the work programmes, meets quarterly to review all activities, finance and agree the prioritisation of resources.

In addition to this sits the Programme Management Group (SODA PMG). The PMG has the role of facilitating the joining up of resources and acts as a facilitator to remove barriers to data sharing. The group comprises of all line managers of analysts from partner organisations.

The analyst team, working mainly virtually and meeting quarterly, will deliver the data analysis. Analysts are already employed in the Suffolk system; however, resources will be utilised flexibly through the existing Suffolk Analysis and Insight Collaboration Group (AICG).

The AICG is used to discuss and propose SODA work programme items, for knowledge sharing and networking, as well as to receive training and development.

Team structure

There are currently two people dedicated to SODA: one full-time manager and analytical lead (1.0 FTE) coordinating all SODA activities, and one part-time (0.6 FTE) information governance and cyber security lead. It will be the information governance lead’s responsibility to deliver an Information Sharing Assessment Gateway.

Once the ODA starts delivering projects, the analytical work will be coordinated by the manager and analytical lead, delivered through the network of analysts across the SODA partners and supported by service-specific staff responsible for datasets’ management. Analysts will be asked to contribute according to their knowledge, skills and expertise. Nothing will change in terms of analysts’ employment, working hours or line-management.

Where a piece of analytical work cannot be delivered by SODA and the Analyst Network, the use of alternative resources within SODA or external partners will be explored.

Working practices

Information / data sharing

SODA is developing an Information Sharing Assurance Gateway (ISAG), which describes the set of interconnected processes in eight stages that are required before data is to be shared by partner organisations and utilised for SODA purposes, as well as ongoing actions to maintain the agreed level of security and privacy.

The overarching SODA Data Sharing Charter makes clear that Suffolk partners will safeguard the safety and privacy of people and businesses. It will also ensure the compliance with all Data Protection legislation and other laws, assessing information risks and agreeing security controls when sharing data.

The ISA Gateway is there to ensure that all the commitments in the charter are upheld, including the need to balance public benefit with privacy.

Data storage

SODA is in the process of:

  • mapping SODA partners’ current IT (Enterprise) Architecture and Master Datasets; and
  • establishing a view of the common, secure technology infrastructure required, which enables information to flow between partners both in the short-term and in the longer-term.

This will enable development of a roadmap to achieve the target architecture to combine data routinely, safely and lawfully.

In the short to medium term, data sharing mechanisms and storage will be determined on a project-by-project basis, to ensure that SODA continues to generate insight, while target IT architecture is delivered.

Data projects

SODA projects can be added to the pipeline by anyone from within the SODA partner organisations. SODA requires a clear briefing on the specific problem, business issue, hypothesis and expected outcomes (i.e. what actions will be taken following the delivery of analytical outputs).

These are turned into project terms of reference, which are discussed and scored according to a Project Assessment Framework (available on the report).

Initially it is the SODA PMG discussing and scoring the proposed projects, using a scale of one (low) to three (high). This is then taken to the SODA PEG for final agreement or rejection. SODA has collated all Information Asset Registers from its partner organisations, to ensure that identification of relevant datasets for each potential project is streamlined.

Work plans for the future

With the ISA Gateway almost delivered, SODA will test this framework and various data sharing methods on two key projects: A domestic abuse data project and a whole system dataset project, which is called ‘Data on a Place’.

For the latter the intention is to collate, map and analyse the total public service resource efforts across the region. The focus will be on building a picture to show areas of high demand, to allow identification of duplications in efforts and provide opportunities to join up different services to make service delivery more effective. This project is a continuation of the approach taken under the Transformation Challenge Award funding across Suffolk of moving from intervention to prevention.

The domestic abuse data project will test collaboration and data sharing amongst SODA partners and external partners, such as NHS Trusts and commissioned voluntary organisations working in this space. The objective of this project is to develop a more joined up approach to data and information in order to develop a clearer picture of current provision of services, and to develop more effective prevention strategies across the system. In the first instance, a ‘minimum dataset’ across all partners has been identified, which will enable SODA to connect the data from different service areas and providers. This will be analysed to provide understanding of how and by whom services are used, where domestic abuse victims come into contact with the system. This will enable understanding around duplication and gaps within provision of services and provide a better platform for effective service design and commissioning.

Other projects on SODAs current work plan include:

  • Business Rates Forecasting Model
  • Social Prescribing Pilot Projects Evaluation


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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