6th February 2015

GeoVation Challenge successful finalists Democratising Development


We recently announced our successful finalists for the housing challenge that we’d worked on with Land Registry. Four fantastic ideas, all using data from us and LR, aiming to help Britons live in better places, were awarded funding to develop their ideas further. For the first time last year, we ran a series of our opendata masterclasses to support people in building their ideas for the challenge using our data. Andy Reeve (pictured on the left below), on the successful team for Democratising Development, shares his GeoVation experience from joining in a masterclass to having their idea selected by the judging panel.

Andy Reeve (left) and Joyjit Sarkar (right) of Democratising Development

Joy and I are both part of the team founding Impact Hub Birmingham, a space to inspire collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurial activity. I have had a varied career but have always been interested in how to use creativity to solve problems. Joy is a Medical Engineer and is constantly solving problems through a design led process for patients with limited mobility.

It was through one of the other cofounders of Impact Hub Birmingham that we heard about the GeoVation challenge initially. I have a keen interest in using open data to solve problems and it seemed like a great opportunity to use data for a good purpose and deliver value from data analysis. The chance to experience data from OS and LR and see where you could go with it was also attractive, as well as the offer for a free lunch.

The masterclass really opened my eyes to a lot of things.The previous data role I had work in was a very closed system which was very frustrating, so to see two large organisations opening up their datasets was refreshing. The whole masterclass was really beneficial, it served as a great introduction to the challenge and the tools available to come up with an idea. Just finding out about the QGIS software has been really helpful, learning how to layer a lot of the open datasets within in this for geospatial analysis has proven invaluable. We will definitely be using it in lots of different ways in the future.

When I first saw this housing brief it seemed like such a huge challenge but also a massive opportunity. The themes identified in the Pow Wow were great as it broke down the issues into easier to handle problems. We really wanted the data to be central to our idea and hopefully find a solution to some of these problems.

The idea for Democratising Development is to use a data led approach to identify underused publicly owned land which could be suitable for micro scale development. We would then use an open design platform, WikiHouse, to allow people to literally build their own sustainable, well designed, livable home.

By utilising Land Registry data to identify underused plots owned by a public body we can then run a geospatial analysis of these sites by adding in information from Ordnance Surveys various datasets. Further open data sources can then be added such as crime data, Environment Agency data, schools data and more to get a greater understanding of the identified plots.

Once these plots have been identified we would create a web portal where individuals could see the plots, the data behind them and visualise what a WikiHouse would look like on one of the plots. This would give them all the data they would need to make a well informed decision about whether to apply for a plot or not.

When we heard that we had been selected to get through to the GeoVation camp we were over the moon. We turned up at the offices of Ordnance Survey not really knowing what to expect or how we would work over the weekend. But we soon got to meet our team of talented helpers, Iza, Julie, Rose and Lucie. They were all very enthusiastic and got really involved with the challenge and within no time it felt like we had built a really strong team. The structure of the weekend helped us to pull apart the initial idea, identify the weaknesses and strengths of our approach and develop this into a viable proposition. The pitch process and presenting to the judges was nerve-wracking but helped us to crystalise our knowledge and point out any gaps for future work. Being able to work solidly on an idea with like minded individuals has really accelerated the possibility of turning the idea into a sustainable business. Being selected as a successful finalist was amazing, and we are so excited about working with both Ordnance Survey and Land Registry to have a really positive impact on the housing market.