On the same page
Research coordinator Bob Groot has been closely involved with the Urban Data Centre Leiden on behalf of CBS. He explains: ‘The data centre’s official launch was at the end of December 2017. It actually owes its origins to the researchers and controllers who work as executive support staff for the municipality – because they initiated its establishment. We share a collaborative office space with them, which is great as it encourages us to pool our resources when formulating research questions and conducting studies, etc. It goes without saying that effective communication and being on the same page are essential in any collaboration.’ Enna Bongers, policy officer at the municipality of Leiden, agrees: ‘CBS specialises in data and methodology – privacy is of the utmost importance in this line of work. The municipality is more involved with the practical side of things and often deals with politically sensitive issues. This meant we had to get used to each other’s different approaches when we first started working together.’
The municipality of Leiden is increasingly adopting a more data-driven approach in their work. Their collaboration with CBS via the Urban Data Centre helps facilitate this process. Groot clarifies CBS’ role in this: ‘We help researchers who work for the municipality generate more information from existing data sources, such as the CBS StatLine database. We also hold workshops on how to perform research, structure data bases, visualise developments and protect privacy. And, last but not least, we’ve collaborated on several large research projects together.’
Poverty and skewed tenants
One of the UDC Leiden studies focused on gaining more in-depth insight into poverty. Groot explains: ‘We measured the coverage of several municipal schemes at district level. We also looked into the ‘skewed tenant’ phenomenon, which describes people who occupy cheap social housing even though they could afford to rent a more expensive property on their income. This was a challenging project and required several sessions before we could decide on our approach and methodology. For example, one of the issues we ran up against was how to obtain information from housing associations when the GDPR (data privacy regulation) is in full force. Determining an income threshold proved to be fairly tricky as well.’
Another important study emerging from the Urban Data Centre Leiden is one that focuses on educational opportunities. Bongers highlights the significance of this survey: ‘The municipality of Leiden relies, in part, on objective data when developing policy to level the playing field in education. We are currently using a CBS model to help us identify which districts put children at a higher risk of experiencing educational disadvantage. This type of information ensures that the right choices are made when developing policy and allocating resources.’ UDC Leiden discussed these choices in great detail when defining the parameters of this model. For example, they produced an analysis of how the target group should be defined. They also looked at generating additional information by linking different information sources, such as divorces and debts. Bongers adds: ‘Our objective for the future is to be able to track children over a longer period of time so that we can observe their development. This is the only way we can measure the effectiveness of our policy.’
CBS has implemented a national roll-out of the Leiden approach, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.