As head of international development in ONS, my role is to utilise the talent and experience of ONS to support better statistics and better decisions in developing countries. I am therefore highly aware of the breath of skills and knowledge that ONS has to offer to others.
When I became involved in supporting the organisation of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data’s ‘Data for Development Festival’, happening this week in Bristol, I saw an opportunity to showcase this to a wide audience. My team and I put together an exciting ‘field visit’ for 150 of the conference delegates to visit ONS offices in Newport and arranged coaches to bring them over the Severn Bridge into sunny South Wales. Delegates had the opportunity to visit several ‘zones’ , including
- a tour of our new Data Science Campus;
- learning about how the UK is tackling the challenge of reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals;
- modernisation of the UK population census;
- the opportunity to learn about how ONS is developing and using new data partnerships with public, private and academic partners to improve UK official statistics;
The biggest challenge was identifying exactly what we should showcase, as ONS has so much to offer. We decided to focus on these areas because they are highly relevant to the partners: GPSDD is all about how unusual partnerships and methods can help to get the most out of available data for measuring and achieving the SDGs. But I am quite sure that we could have cut the cake in other ways.
There were of course no shortage of last minute practical worries too: would the snow over the weekend mean that delegates wouldn’t be able to travel to the UK? Would the traffic on the M4 cause significant delays? Would the carpet being fitted on the main staircase be done in time? – but luckily we managed to get through all of these and it all went smoothly.
Delegates were very impressed, not only by the wide range of interesting work on show, and the conversations had, but also the small details, from the welsh themed buffet to the ONS choir greeting guests in reception.
The event was great for ONS too, the buzz in the room after the delegates had left, late last night was one of excitement and enthusiasm for the conversations that had been held and the contacts that had been met.
Many thanks go to all of those who contributed, from the presenters who provided their expertise and material, to all the helpers who ensured that the event ran smoothly. I am now heading to the main conference in Bristol, where I am hoping I can relax as a normal delegate!