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18 February - Session 4: Evidence-based Design & the Effective use of Data


Evidence based design is a key component in achieving better city outcomes. It relies upon the systematic gathering of both qualitative and quantitative information together with its rigorous and methodical integration, interrogation, and application. Evidence based design helps us to learn lessons from the past and so be more responsive to future needs. It encourages and enables greater citizen engagement and is used to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance quality of life. Used properly, it helps to promote collaboration and transcend political cycles while increasing transparency and accountability.

To accommodate the nature, scale, and complexity of the issues to be tackled in today’s cities, evidence-based design, together with day-to-day city management, increasingly relies upon the use of large-scale computer-based datasets which may be held centrally in some form of local information system, often in the form of a data observatory which may be developed in partnership with others. The development of such systems also requires consideration to be given to a range of associated issues such as data platforms, data standards, information security, data protection and privacy etc. The availability of large-scale integrated datasets creates opportunities for innovation and improvements in service delivery, which, in turn, call for new skills in service design.

Building on the international standard for sustainable cities and communities (ISO37106), this session considers the importance of evidence-based design and data as a pre-requisite for developing and delivering citizen centric applications that will achieve meaningful cost benefit and service level improvement. The session was facilitated jointly by the British Standards Institution and Smart London.

Key Takeaways

  • Need to secure top-level buy-in to a data and evidence led approach to help overcome bias. Collaboration first, data second. Build links with academia (reciprocal value for research) and with the private sector (to help develop new services). Leverage recruitment and training to build skills.
  • Cautionary note on evidence-based policy: Not all evidence is equal, collection of data needs to be guided by a specific policy question, more data is not always preferred to less, an evidence-based approach requires strong institutions and capacity to implement.

Principal Contributors

Ms Victoria Delbridge, Head of Cities that Work Initiative, International Growth Centre

Victoria Delbridge is the Head of the International Growth Centre’s Cities that Work initiative. She is working with Paul Collier, Ed Glaeser, Astrid Haas and Tony Venables, to develop a network of economists, urban planning practitioners and policymakers to translate economic research into clear urban policy guidance. Victoria holds an MSc in Economics for Development from the University of Oxford, and a BSc in Environmental and Geographical Science and Economics from the University of Cape Town. Prior to her Masters at Oxford, Victoria was an economist at the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism in South Africa. Her current research areas include urban land use planning, public infrastructure and service provision, urban employment, municipal finance and city-level data strategies.

Mr Chris Cooper, Consultant, British Standards Institution

Chris Cooper is a smart cities expert and consultant to the British Standards Institute. Chris helped write the original first set of smart city standards - including ISO37106 - Guidance on establishing smart city operating models for sustainable communities. As well as being a member of the steering groups for BSI PAS184 Developing project proposals for delivering smart city solutions; and BSI PAS 186 Smart cities – Supplying data products and services for smart communities – Code of practice. This active ongoing participation has helped the BSI shape how smart city standards are used by organisations and communities. Chris is also a practitioner of the BSI Smart City standards. He uses them to help communities globally adopt sustainable, open, transparent, and interoperable smart places. This gives Chris a unique insight into seeing how applying standards can be beneficial to communities 'smart projects'.

Mr Nathan Pierce, Head of Smart London, Greater London Authority

Nathan Pierce is the Head of the Smart London Team based in the Greater London Authority in the UK. He is also the Programme Director for Sharing Cities, a pan-European programme that tests out innovative smart city solutions across a number of major European cities, replicating and scaling what works through new business and investment models. Nathan has 15 years’ experience across a range of public sector bodies having led on major service design and commissioning projects within London and at a European level. Nathan is determined to improve the lives of regular people by finding innovative ways to make government more sustainable, efficient and citizen focused.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the session, participants were:

  • able to show the importance of evidence-based design
  • able to describe an operating model for a smart city
  • better equipped to critically reflect on the effective use of data in their own city

Contributors recognised that evidence and data can help to improve the targeting and allocation of resources, as well as forecasting future demand for public services. It was suggested that the need for data should be guided by a specific policy question, that not all data is equal, and that more data is not always preferable to less. It was noted that an evidence-led approach requires strong institutions with the power to implement the strategies selected. Participants also heard about how data is being used by the London Datastore.