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Breaking Down Data Barriers: A Pioneering Partnership for Positive Change with JRF

Written by Magdalena Getler, Head of Research

December 2023

Imagine a world where researchers, analysts, and policymakers are empowered to work collaboratively on their common goal – bringing together evidence to create real-world impacts. Imagine that same world where the public and private sectors unite with access to new sources of data, coordinating their efforts with the shared purpose of improving people’s lives.

In our modern data-driven world, new and innovative data sources are increasingly becoming available to accredited researchers and decision-makers to build evidence and drive positive change. From the administrative data created when people interact with public services to the smart data generated through engagements with digital systems, devices and sensors, this data provides an incomparable wealth of information that could be used to help people. However, we need to ensure that these new data sources are used for the public good and respect the privacy of our fellow citizens, you can read more about how we do this here in a recently published blog.

At Smart Data Foundry we have been working with large private sector financial datasets and adapting them for scientific use since 2020, with our data partnerships underpinned by a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) and access under GDPR Legitimate Interest. Our deidentified, granular, and longitudinal datasets are regularly updated to facilitate timely and detailed research into peoples’ or businesses’ changing economic circumstances in response to current shocks such as COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, and the current challenging economic environment. This gives the potential opportunity for further analysis of how this data could correlate with other ancillary sources in ways that could not be done before, such as linking the data to climate or health data.

Our innovative and pioneering approach to opening private sector data meant we have had to overcome multiple challenges along the way — and continue to do so! In working with and securing private sector data, and in using that data for research purposes, trust and strong relationships are paramount to a successful outcome. Building trust and credibility with data partners takes considerable time, as does developing the skills and catalysts for researcher engagement to harness the potential of this exciting innovation.

In his recent blog post, Rosario Piazza (Chief Insight Officer at the Joseph Rowntree Trust) talks about adding banking data to the data ‘infrastructure loom’ to improve JRF’s ability to produce more and better data on what’s going on now, and to recommend timely action as the potential of smart data is in its ‘as-it-happens’ information enabling real-time decision-making capability. Here, we are evidence of the growing number of financial institutions that want to see their data used for the public good, especially at times when the cost-of-living, escalating crises of homelessness, destitution, and debt among people on low incomes are running rampant.

Therefore, we could not be more delighted to announce our new partnership with JRF to make financial data available for researchers for in-depth research and analysis and to triangulate and synthesise this new form of data alongside other forms of evidence such as survey data, statistical analysis, or qualitative case studies for rich data evidence to drive timely change.

The vision of JRF closely aligns with our missions to use data in a safe way people can trust, to inspire innovation and to deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits for everyone.

As a next step, watch this space as there will be more updates coming in the new year and save a date to attend our webinar on 21 February 2024 to hear more.

The world is changing, but it’s up to us to design what that change looks like!

For any questions, contact Magdalena Getler