Frequently Asked Questions

Here is all the information that you need to know about Community Insight

1. General FAQs

2. Fees FAQs

3. Technical FAQs

4. FAQs for IT teams 

1. General FAQs

What is Community Insight?

Community Insight is a lightweight community focused Geographical Information System (GIS) system that provides vital information on the communities you work in.

How does it work?

It's simple to use - you simply upload your stock data - postcodes or Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) and you can instantly generate in-depth maps and reports on the areas you work in.  It doesn't just overlay your stock on top of data maps, it allows you to define neighbourhoods (quite literally, by drawing on a map), report on them and compare them to your other neighbourhoods and communities.

It is a web-based service that accesses Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion's (OCSI) huge database of constantly updated public data.  It's mapping base is Google's well tested Google Maps technology.

How can it help me?

Community Insight reduces the burdens on data and analytical staff to provide community-focused information; provides instant access to key social data to all staff who need it, when they need it; and key strategic information for those making decisions around prioritisation of resources.

You can use it to:

- Create in depth community profiles for each of your neighbourhoods

- Export easy to use maps, charts and data to use in your own reports

- Track and understand change over time

- Identify “hotspots” where need is particularly acute

- Access the information necessary to prioritise and target community investment

- Generate information to inform bids and tenders, or community consultations and neighbourhood planning

- Access new Census, welfare and other data on your communities as it is released

- Provide real world data to feed into social impact measurement and assessment tools.

Who can use it?

Community Insight is designed for easy use by staff across housing providers.  Anyone with an interest in how their housing stock relates to community can make use of it.  However, it is likely to be of greatest value to community investment practitioners, regen teams, and housing managers with "patch responsibility".  Senior managers and boards will also welcome its strategic overview of the communities they work in. 

Do staff require special training?

Using Community Insight requires no special training in GIS mapping or data analysis - anyone in the organisation can use the information and generate reports.  Its designed so anyone can pick up, understand and use it within 90 seconds of logging in for the first time. 

Where does the data come from?

It all comes from open data sources - drawn from the Census, live Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data, deprivation indices and other sources.  It's always up to date, because maintaining that data is one of OCSI's core businesses.

Who are OCSI?

OCSI are an applied research spin-out from Oxford University who manage, maintain, analyse and provide access to public data.  They provide data management and analysis services to significant parts of the local public sector.

What IT support does it need?

You will need an internet connection and a modern browser, such as Internet Explorer (preferably IE9), Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari, with JavaScript and cookies enabled.  It also works on IE8.  Unfortunately older browsers are not supported.  If you want to access the service you need to have access to this either on your PC or on a laptop.  It also works on the iPad and on many smartphones!

I don't have the right browser installed, can I still use it?

Talk to your IT team. Some Housing Associations using the product have installed Chrome as a secure and easy way to enable staff to use Community Insight.  Because of the technology involved in building Community Insight, we will not be able to assure compatibility with IE7 or earlier.

Who is using it at the moment?

Over 700,000 homes are already uploaded onto the system.  Over 50 housing providers are currently using it, including Affinity Sutton, Peabody, Knightstone, Metropolitan, Parkway Green/Willow Park, Circle, Thames Valley Homes, Wandle HA and Veridian.

Can I have a demo?

Yes - it's easy to walk you through how the system works over the phone in about 30 minutes provided you're by a PC or laptop running the right browser software. Please call us on 020 7250 8500 or info@hact.org.uk.

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2. Fees FAQ

How much does it cost?

It's £5,000 plus VAT for an annual subscription, which includes unlimited reporting and number of users within your organisation.  This also includes new additional features that will roll out during 2013.  

Will the cost go up over time?

We have no plans to increase the subscription cost, which is pitched at a level which enables on-going investment product development during 2013.  Our intention is to continue developing the product to deliver more data sets and additional functionality and features without increasing costs.  However, the optional social impact mapping and reporting module (being developed in 2013) will be sold as an additional option (pricing is not yet confirmed, and will be dependent on development costs).

Are there discounts for smaller users?

No, sorry.  We have endeavoured to keep the price affordable for all users.

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3. Got more technical questions you need answering?  Hopefully they will be addressed here:

Can I store more of my own information on the system? For example, asset data or more complex differentiation between types of stock?

Not at the moment, as this would increase the cost and complexity of what is intended to be a simple but powerful product, with an intuitive user interface. However we are looking into possible options for future updates during 2013 and are working with Orchard to integrate Community Insight into their systems.

Is it compatible with in-house GIS systems?

It's not a substitute for an in-house stock or asset management system.  However some users have said that for community-focused reporting it is more practically useful than in-house GIS and visualisation tools.  It also takes a lot of burden off data analysts in terms of producing community-focused maps and reports.  Users with GIS based asset management tools will find it very straightforward to generate the data needed to set up Community Insight, which requires just a set of UPRNs, postcodes or geographic coordinates of their homes. You can also import the open data held in Community Insight into your own GIS systems, saving you trawling through government websites looking for data.

Is Community Insight secure?

Your postcode/UPRN data is held on OCSI's secure web-servers.  No personal information is held, however if you have concerns please contact your own data compliance advisors. HACT is a not for profit organisation, funded and governed by a partnership of housing providers. Our agreement with OCSI ensures that they cannot use the data for anything other than the Community Insight family of products.  Your data will never be used without your explicit consent or sold on for profit.

How many people can use it in my organisation?

One subscription covers an entire organisation for the year.  As many users as you want can make use of it (from 21 November).  During alpha and beta testing, the number of users in any one organisation may be limited.

Can it access locally held public data?

Not at present.  The intention is that the tool should provide maximum possible access to the extensive national public data sets that are available.

What other data sets can it access?

At present Community Insight allows access to over 60 different data sets and indicators and provides reports on significantly more, including access to comparative and trend data. During 2013, more datasets will be added, and Community Insight will allow the "toggling in" of a range of other data by users dependent on their needs and interests.

Can you overlay indicator sets?

Not at present, although it is straightforward to switch between maps.  The map includes a range of composite indicators, including indices of deprivation, economic deprivation and child wellbeing, which bring together multiple data sets.

How up to date is the data?

It accesses one of the most up to date repositories of public data.  Most indicators are updated on the day and at most within two days of release.  All data will be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure it is fully up to date.  The age of the data will depend on source, for example, much DWP data is issued quarterly, educational attainment figures are released annually, whilst current 10 year old census data will shortly be updated with 2011 data.  Community Inight provides full and easily accessible information on the age of the data when it is presented.

What resolution is the data analysed to?

For the graphic mapping, to Lower Level Super Output Area (LSOA) (about 600 homes) where available, and to the lowest level available when higher than LSOA (about 1000-1500 homes).  Detailed community profile reports draw on data down to Output Area (OA) level (about 120 homes).

What else does it do?

It doesn't just produce maps, it also generates, at the press of a button, detailed 70-80 page community profile documents drawing on a much wider range of indicators, and includes trend and historic data (functionality that will be ready for launch in November 2012).  And we have plans to make it even better during 2013.

Can I export maps, charts and tables?

Yes, data can be exported in spreadsheet format. Maps and charts can be pasted into documents.

For more information visit our Community Insight page or the Community Insight website

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4. FAQs for IT teams 

1. Do we need to install any software to run Community Insight?

No. Community Insight is a web-based tool that runs on all standard modern browsers, including mobile devices (phones and tablets). Supported browsers include IE9, IE10, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. You will need JavaScript and cookies enabled. The tool will work on older browsers such as Internet Explorer 7 and 8, but may show slower performance for some features. 

2. Does Community Insight need to be integrated with any of our IT systems?

No. As a web-based tool, Community Insight is a standalone service, and does not need to be integrated with any of your systems (whether these are in-house or externally hosted). Community Insight also runs fine on virtual desktop environments such as Citrix - although you may notice lower resolution images and maps as some virtual environments compress images to reduce bandwidth. 

In order to load your property data into Community Insight, you will need to be able to export this data in standard (eg Excel, CSV, XML) format from your systems. This can then be loaded into Community Insight from a secure web-page.

3. Is Community Insight compatible with in-house GIS systems?

It is not a substitute for an in-house stock or asset management system. However some users have said that for community-focused reporting it is more practically useful than in-house GIS and visualisation tools. It also takes a lot of burden off data analysts in terms of producing community-focused maps and reports.

Users with GIS based asset management tools will find it very straightforward to generate the data needed to set up Community Insight, which requires just a set of UPRNs, postcodes or geographic coordinates of their homes. You can also import the open data held in Community Insight into your own GIS systems, saving you trawling through government websites looking for data.

4. How secure is Community Insight?

The information on Community Insight is held on OCSI's web servers, hosted in Nottingham, UK. Access to the logged-in sections of the site (including the stock upload and display sections) is via secure HTTPS pages to prevent 'man-in-the-middle' and other redirect attacks.

Importantly however, Community Insight does not store sensitive personal data. The only information provided by your organisation is non-sensitive property data including postcode and (your) unique reference numbers. 

If you have concerns over data security, please contact your own data compliance advisors. HACT and OCSI will not use the data for anything other than the Community Insight family of products. Your data will never be used without your explicit consent or passed on to other organisations. 

5. How easy is it to manage our organisations use of Community Insight?

Straightforward. The "Managing & Using Community Insight" guide is attached, showing how easy it is for you to setup users, add & edit your stock, define new local areas ('stock groups') and create profile reports. There are also support resources including videos and knowledge base at . And if you sticll can't find what you're looking for, we provide business hours telephone and email support. 

6. Do we need to maintain Community Insight?

OCSI and HACT are continually improving Community Insight, rolling in data updates and new features on a regular basis. You don't need to maintain anything specific, however you may want to refresh your stock data from time-to-time to ensure Community Insight is based on your current property data - for example to reflect new developments, stock swaps or amalgamations with other housing groups.

7. Do staff require special training? 

Using Community Insight requires no special training in GIS mapping or data analysis – anyone in the organisation can use the information and generate reports. It is designed so anyone can pick up, understand and use it within 90 seconds of logging in for the first time.

8. Can we share and reuse the data on Community Insight?

Yes, you are free to share and reuse the data. All data provided on Community Insight comes from 'open data' sources published using the Open Government Licence (OGL). Up-to-date data is collected daily by OCSI from more than 50 sources including the Census, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits data, deprivation indices and other sources.

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The business case for Community Insight

How can Community Insight affect your bottom line?  Click here to find out.