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Talking data with our citizens

For ecda, and its member organisations, it is imperative that Essex residents have a voice in how we use data to generate valuable insight to protect people from harm, support the most vulnerable, and make decisions about the services they receive from Essex County Council, Essex Police and our partners. 

That's why we launched a programme of Citizen Research and Engagement in 2020. Residents throughout Essex were invited to share their views, and tell us how they felt about Councils, Police, health and our partners sharing and combining the data we hold to create valuable new insight.

Residents were also asked to express their views on data joining as part of the Essex County Council Residents Survey, which was sent out in March and April 2020. And additional research sessions took place between August and November 2020 with small groups of residents, and on the phone with individuals. 

The full details of the research programme, including the findings, can be read here.

The research concluded that people are relatively open to the idea of data-sharing when it is explained to them but have some concerns that need addressing.

The citizens that took part in this research clearly articulated the minimum standards and conditions that they expected to be in place to guide data joining and analytics between public sector organisations. This meant that people were generally willing to look for solutions that enabled data joining and analytics to be carried out in a safe and secure way that protected their personal rights.

The research has informed a set of practical recommendations, included in the report, for ecda to shape how it collaborates with citizens, including creating roles for residents to be a part of our work, making adjustments to our practices and policies to provide greater reassurance and communicating the measures we are taking to protect people's rights, and handle data securely and ethically. 

The research sessions provided an opportunity for collaborative conversation between diverse groups of residents and provided a forum for them to forge new links with the ecda team, its member organisations - ECC, University of Essex and Essex Police – and the independent Data Ethics Committee. 

ecda has worked alongside, spoken to, and surveyed thousands of residents as part of our work to date. In the Residents Survey conducted by Essex County Council in March-April 2020, seven in 10 residents told us that with their consent they are comfortable sharing data to generate insight that supports people, places and public services in Essex.

Our hope is that through open and honest conversation with residents together we can shape a role for citizens to be involved in ecda’s ongoing work. We're using residents' ideas and suggestions to create new opportunities to engage our county in a conversation about data analytics for social good.


The research was awarded Best Use of Local Area Research by LARIA (Local Area Research and Intelligence Association) for its research in May 2021.

The LARIA Awards are specifically designed to showcase the work of those researching local areas, award winners demonstrate “excellence in research and analysis that is making a real difference to the people they serve.”

Last updated 10/05/21