data on scrabble tiles

‘Data analytics use cases’ and how they help influence policy change

By Hannah Kowszun 3 August 2023

Government departments have a rich source of data, which can be used to help organisations explore their social impact. To access this data, several ‘Data Labs’ have been set up. NPC is keen to make a stronger case for more Data Labs to be launched by government departments. To do this we need organisations to provide data analytics use cases. In this blog, NPC’s Hannah Kowszun and Tom Lyscom explain how you can help. 

It took ten years for the Justice Data Lab model to be adopted by a new government department. Last October, the Employment Data Lab was launched and we’re excited about its potential to help us to understand the impact of employment interventions by UK charities. 

However, using a Data Lab is not as intuitive as, for example, an app like Uber or Tindr. While it would be nice to imagine a Justice Data Lab app that can provide comparative analysis at the press of a thumb, that’s unlikely to happen. At least not anytime soon. 

This is why NPC is keen to make a stronger case for Data Labs to be launched by other government departments, as well as improvements to be made to the existing Data Labs. 

One of the ways we can do this is by providing data analytics use cases, and this is where you come in! 

What is a ‘data analytics use case’? 

A data analytics use case describes how an organisation intends to use data, and the insights it provides, to answer tangible questions that contribute to better decision-making. 

Essentially it is the argument you make for the data you need to inform your work.   

Here’s an example from the medical sector: 

Using genomic data from tens of thousands of patients, researchers can identify disease genes and biomarkers that pinpoint potential future health issues. This information can help medical research companies prioritise where they invest resource for the most likely financial return. 

The ‘user’ of the data is the medical research company. Their objective is (let’s be honest) to make profit. So, they want to analyse genome data to identify what the most prevalent diseases are likely to be in the future. This will then inform where they invest their R&D (research & development) resource. 

How does this relate to Data Labs? 

You, or rather your charity, is the ‘user’. Data Labs provide access to comparative data and insights you could use to improve your intended impact as an organisation.  

Ways you could harness these insights include: 

  • Identifying which interventions are more effective than others. 
  • Comparing the effect of interventions between different types of service user. 
  • Identifying whether there is a geographical factor in the effectiveness of interventions. 
  • Or indeed other factors that affect the outcomes for service users.

These are high level examples that don’t drill down into the specific context of your work, the data that you capture or your organisational objectives. 

This is why we need your help. 

What the Data Labs currently provide 

We’ve learned a lot from the Justice Data Lab over the last 10 years. All use cases compare the reoffending rates of those that received a specific intervention with those that did not. In many reports the evidence is inconclusive and/or demonstrates no statistically significant difference between the two groups: findings that are crucial to our understanding of what works well and less well in reducing reoffending rates. 

The Employment Data Lab only launched last year, and has only one report published so far, comparing how long participants spent in employment in the two years after starting the Resurgo Spear Programme, compared with those not on the programme. 

There is potential for these other data sets to be made available through a Data Lab, if there are compelling use cases we can bring to the conversation. There is a lot more data that government holds on people, which could form the basis of another Data Lab: for Education, Health etc.  

Get involved  

Charities are at the frontline of employment and justice interventions. They know their service users better than anyone and are constantly learning from their work to make improvements and maximise their impact. 

While we can’t promise that we can make your data analytics use case a reality, we would welcome examples we can use in our influencing work. 

If you have the time, the inclination and the interest then please get in touch with Tom Lyscom, NPC’s Principal Consultant in Theorising Change, he would love to hear from you. 


Related items