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Contact: Jason Lowther, Interim Head of Policy, Programme Development and Research (ODA)

The West Midlands ODA is a hybrid form between a physical and virtual hub, with a small core team and a virtual network of partners’ research capacity.

Origins and funding

The ODA originated after the formation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) following a review of the research capabilities needed to support strategic decision making in the region on the economy and public sector reform.

Funded by WMCA and partners (mostly in-kind support), WMODA has also received funding from the HM Government as part of its second devolution agreement of £0.8 million over the next three years “to enable the evidence base for further public service transformation.

Vision and objectives

WMODA aims to support the delivery of the regional strategy and shared priority outcomes.

Its main objectives are:

  • to become an authoritative source of intelligence for the West Midlands
  • to develop robust policy research and analysis across the region, helping the development of an evidence base for reform and devolution
  • to support evaluation and evidence reviews
  • to develop more effective information sharing, and build business and investment cases in the region
  • to develop horizon scanning (on economic and wider evidence) through links to wider networks

Governance

The leading organisation is the WMCA and the programme is led by the WMCA Director of Strategy and Economy. There are currently 15 partners who have varying degrees of involvement, depending on the project.

Team structure

Currently one person is working full-time on the ODA. Decisions about the future structure still need to be made, although it is likely that the majority of the work will be delivered through joint working between partners. Analysts will be recruited to work on ODA-related projects and external consultancies will be involved to assist them, especially covering data science skills.

Working practices

Currently, information sharing is limited and is challenging across organisations in the region, this blocker inhibits effective analytics for better services and better outcomes.

The ODA is therefore delivering on two workstreams.

One is a programme to support better information sharing across WMCA partners.

This includes developing:

  • A clear roadmap to guide the approach to information sharing across the region. This will be drawn also from previous local experiences of sharing data including the Troubled Families Programme, injury surveillance work with emergency departments, and fire safety target visits to older people.
  • An Information Sharing Charter agreement between WMCA partners.
  • A consistent and coherent approach to information governance approved by partners in the region. This may include the creation of an online repository of information sharing agreements
  • An active network of civic society contacts and an agreed plan for future engagement.

The second workstream is directed at supporting opportunities for research and pilots:

  • An online directory of local academic experts developed by universities West Midlands, which partners can search by areas of expertise.;
  • A Research Delivery Group (with representatives of all partners), which has supported the shaping of the ODA and will help building pathfinder projects from improved information sharing and analysis (for example, social isolation, school readiness).
  • A number of analyses to inform policy decisions within the region, including regular "on-the-day" briefings on local implications of government statistical announcements, an in-depth analysis of youth unemployment, and housing affordability analysis to support investments and bids.

Work plans for the future

Besides the Information Governance and Sharing governance delivery, WMCA has exciting plans for the future. It has conducted analyses at the request of the combined authority and partners from different areas, which have identified opportunities for pilots in the future.

These include:

Homelessness Task Force project

Following government funding worth £10 million over three years for the combined authority to help the homeless into secure accommodation, WMODA will deliver research on different aspects of the Homelessness Task Force project, including an analysis of the effect of Local Housing Allowance and demands for particular types of accommodation. Still in the housing field, they will also further develop the evidence base to support WMCA’s £350 million Housing Infrastructure Fund bid and Affordable Housing proposals;

Multiple Complex Needs (MCN)

WMODA is currently working with two local universities on a research programme to better understand people with MCN. This is particularly focused on “radical prevention”, building on Coventry’s MEAM (Making Every Adult Matter) and Birmingham’s Changing Futures pilot, developing and delivering a coordinated approach to services offered to people with MCN locally;

Infrastructure schemes

WMODA is also working with Ordnance Survey and the Office of National Statistics on a new methodology for contributing to the evaluation of infrastructure schemes by looking at local impacts on population, employment and property values;

WMODA is developing transport network resilience predictive modelling, gathering information to develop a baseline measure for the current situation and ensure the reliability and quality of journeys provided by the strategic, local, rail and bus networks. The aim includes modelling impacts, testing solutions and understanding the best way to influence behaviour and change the travel choices of the public;

Employment and economy

The initial focus is an analysis of what issues are currently facing young people outside education, employment or training in the region, including a detailed literature review of the evidence base on effective approaches to employment support.

In addition to employment-specific employment support, WMODA will also look at a wider range of research on innovative industrial sectors in the region, graduate retention rates and employment in non-graduate roles, regional spending on welfare and education, labour market intelligence, care leavers’ skills and qualifications, digital skills demand/supply analysis, and construction skills. Some recent WMODA economic research reports are available alongside the region’s Local Industrial Strategy consultation;

Evaluations

As part of its devolution agreement, WMODA will ensure robust evaluation of each of the Public Service Reform pilots.

Authors

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

Assistant Programme Manager, Government Innovation Team

Camilla is an Assistant Programme Manager in the Government Innovation Team.

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