The business case for Community Insight

HACT and OCSI’s online mapping tool, Community Insight, has been one of the housing sector’s fastest growing successes. Most people seeing Community Insight for the first time are impressed by the ease with which it puts the most up-to-date social and economic neighbourhood level data at your fingertips. Because investment decisions are not made on user-friendliness, simplicity and powerful insights alone, this short paper presents some of the key business benefits of Community Insight, to help you assess whether the system can deliver value in your organisation. A yearly subscription to Community Insight costs £5,000 + VAT, and can pay for itself many times over in cashable savings on expenditure, staff time savings, and through opening the organisation up to new possibilities.

Map your stock

For some housing providers, just being able to produce an up to date map of the location of stock is a great benefit. One of our subscribers had previously been quoted £20-25,000 setup plus £12,000 p.a. maintenance for a basic web-based GIS (geographical information system) that would have given them limited control and left them reliant on the software provider for even the simplest updates to their stock. With Community Insight you can re-upload your stock list whenever you want to update it, and wherever possible we give users control over how they use the features.

Approximate saving: £26,000 in year one, £6,000 in following years.

Neighbourhood profiles

Community Insight revolutionises your access to neighbourhood profiles. Before Community Insight, most housing providers had to commission consultants if they wanted a neighbourhood profile on an area. At a typical cost of £2,000-£3,000, and with a lead time measured in the weeks, this was naturally a process that most would only want to follow for a few selected neighbourhoods.

With Community Insight, a new neighbourhood can be defined with a few clicks on a map and a full 50 page report will be available for download within 10 minutes. Using Community Insight to produce just a few neighbourhood profiles each year represents a considerable saving.

The real benefit, however, comes from changing the way neighbourhood profiles are used in the organisation. One housing association has used Community Insight to generate nearly 100 profiles, creating them for a range of different operating patches and for specific projects. Another organisation’s development team routinely creates them when considering new developments.

Typical Return on Investment: 220%* (This conservative estimate does not attempt to place a value on the transformative effect of completely changing your approach by being able to create dozens of profiles at no extra cost.)

Easy access to data sets

Many housing providers already use a variety of government data sets when considering various    aspects of their business or the areas they work in. One of the most time-consuming aspects of  undertaking these analyses is obtaining the relevant data and ensuring that they are kept up to date.        Community Insight solves this problem by giving access to around 100 fully-curated government data sets. As well as being accessible through Community Insight’s mapping and visualisation tools, they can also be exported and used in any other system from a simple spreadsheet to a complex statistical analytics package. This can free up staff time to do more of the real work of actually analysing the data to generate insights for the organisation.

Typical Return on Investment: 30%ψ

Zero-install deployment

Community Insight is delivered as a web-based subscription service, meaning that your IT team should not need to do anything to make it available to your users: just visit using your normal web browserΩ. System set-up is easy too: nearly all of the functionality can be used just by uploading a list of postcodes of your stock.

Ongoing sector-led development

Not only does Community Insight deliver tangible returns today, it is also in active development. As a web-based tool, all subscribers get access to new features as soon as they are rolled out. Over the last few months alone, Community Insight has seen the addition of many new features including:

  • Extra indicators, including improved crime / ASB statistics from Police.UK and house price data from Land Registry.
  • My Patch, a function that lets you see which social landlords have been active in any
  • neighbourhood in the last five years.
  • Hotspots, to help differentiate between areas of relatively high concentrations on an indicator.
  • Dashboard views, giving you a quick overview to compare your neighbourhoods at a glance.
  • Data downloads, easing the process of getting Community Insight data into other systems.

More features are in the pipeline and development is steered by the sector. The user group meets     face-to-face three times a year and there is an active online group for use in between. Community    Insight development is informed and prioritised by the users to provide those new features that will deliver even more benefits for your organisation.

The next major functionality upgrade for Community Insight will bring the ability to upload your own data. This will give users the facility to make use of Community Insight’s mapping features with their own data on properties and neighbourhoods.

* Assuming 8 consultant-produced neighbourhood profiles, costing a total of £16,000 + VAT, which is 320% of the cost of a Community Insight subscription.

Ψ Assuming salary of research officer at circa £24,000 plus £15,000 of on costs and contributions to overheads. A 20% productivity uplift through access to a curated data set equates to £7,800, which is 130% of the cost of a Community Insight subscription.

Ω Community Insight works well on all modern internet browsers including recent versions of Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer (IE). For IE, performance is best on versions 9 and 10, and usable but slower on IE 7 and 8.

Useful across the business

Community Insight was originally developed with housing associations’ community investment teams in mind, but many of our subscribers find that colleagues across the organisation make use of the    system. In Sovereign, as well as being used extensively in housing management and the Community Investment team to aid neighbourhood understanding, colleagues in other departments have also   received reports from Community Insight to supplement their knowledge and has seen use across:

  • Lettings
  • Development
  • Asset Development
  • New Homes Advisors

For social housing providers we allow an unlimited number of logins for users across the organisation, so you can share the system with colleagues in other teams without constraints.

Supporting legal and regulatory compliance

The social housing sector is increasingly asked to demonstrate that it has considered the impact that its work is having and the efficiency with which is achieving that impact.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 creates a requirement to consider the economic, social and environmental well-being of an area when procuring services. For housing associations this makes area-based data invaluable, as it can apply to them both as procurers of services and as         organisations tendering for public sector contracts. The ability to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the area that you are tendering for could help to make the case to the procuring authority that you will be well-placed to maximise the social impact of the work.

The HCA’s Value for Money standard requires housing associations to “[manage] their resources economically, efficiently and effectively”. Using Community Insight to help inform the types of community investment activity you undertake, and the locations where you conduct it, could help you to demonstrate that you are allocating your resources appropriately.

To see some testimonials from current Community Insight users, please visit the Community Insight webpage on the HACT website by clicking here.