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Empowering Through Data: The Data Practitioners Network Unveiled

In the heart of our local authority, a new chapter is unfolding—one of empowerment, collaboration, and the boundless possibilities of data. Enter the Data Practitioners Network, a dynamic community woven together by the diverse threads of our local workforce. This isn’t just a network; it’s a living narrative, a story penned by those who navigate the intricate realms of data in service to our community of residents.

Each month, a virtual room opens, welcoming participants to a space where data knowledge takes centre stage. From foundational concepts to advanced tools, the workshops offered are like chapters, unveiling the ways in which we can embrace data in a language accessible to all. This isn’t just a community space; it’s a collaboration where every participant plays a vital role.

Amid the participants, there is a theme of learning and engagement. With regular feedback, we have learnt that participants have; “Learnt something new!” and have found the sessions “Very informative and easy to follow.” These testimonials are more than feedback; they’re the voices of our workforce, contributing to a community story that values every perspective.

At the heart of this tale lies a commitment to inclusivity. The Data Practitioners Network is more than a community; it’s a narrative that recognises that diverse experiences within our local authority enrich our collective understanding. Here, in this unfolding story, everyone, regardless of their data prowess, finds a place to learn, share, and contribute. It’s a story of monthly events, where connections are forged, knowledge is shared, and the transformative power of data is unlocked on behalf of our community.

The Data Practitioners Network is marked by diversity, inclusion, and a collective vision for our data futures. As the London Borough of Hounslow evolves, residents and the public are invited to witness, engage, and be part of the empowering journey that data brings to our community. And so, the tale of empowerment continues, ever-evolving, ever-inspiring.

If you’d like to learn more about the Data Practitioners Network, reach out to us using this link: https://forms.office.com/e/hdRnXEg5PP

Digital Team Goes Green For Nature! by Siobhan Neligan

Hounslow Council offers its employees two volunteering days each year to undertake charitable initiatives in the wider community so, on Tuesday 7th November, members of Hounslow’s Digital and IT team donned their gardening gloves and wielded their gardening tools to build nature habitats in the borough’s beautiful Syon Park.

In support of our strategic objective to deliver a greener Hounslow, the activities were led and organised by Digital Learning and Innovation Analyst, Adrian Griffee, who is also a seasoned conservationist. In his spare time, Adrian volunteers with a conservation group at sites across Southwest London, planting trees, managing invasive species, and promoting biodiversity. Adrian liaised with the grounds management team at the charity responsible for preserving Syon Park, who provided their advice and approval for the activity.


Pictured on site, left-right: Siobhan Neligan, Business Relationship Manager; Joyce Manangan, IT Commercial Team Leader; Simon Klee, Strategic Relationship and Engagement Manager; Mukhtiar Gill, Data Quality Analyst; Nicholas McCarthy, Head of Digital Services; Dione Harrington, Data Quality Analyst; Weronika Stelmaszyk, Data Quality Analyst; Anna Trichkine, Data Quality Lead.

Despite the November climate, and after the recent storms, it was a crisp autumn day and the sun’s rays lit up the stunning landscape of Syon Park. The famed park is host to a variety of valuable local amenities, including the Grade I listed Syon House, historic home to the Duke of Northumberland. The site hosts a popular garden centre, conservatory, arboretum, café, luxury hotel, and events venue which all contribute to the thriving local economy, history, and culture.

Syon Park is widely renowned for its 100 acres of landscaped parkland, designed by Capability Brown in the eighteenth century. Its grounds are a haven for nature and wildlife, with natural features including lakes, ancient trees, and scenic walking routes, all conveniently nestled within the bustling borough of Hounslow and overlooking the majestic river Thames. Syon Park is also home to Tide Meadow, 40 acres of tall grass washland, which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

During a busy day of activity, the team split into two smaller groups to dig two large holes through turf and London clay soil, to form the basis of a habitat for stag beetles, insects, and other wildlife. The holes must be dug wide and deep enough to accommodate lengths of wood to be covered by the ground, to enable to decomposition process to take place. The team here demonstrated the vital depth of the foundations, at around 2 feet deep.

Pictured left-right: Nicholas McCarthy, Head of Digital Services; Simon Klee, Strategic Relationship and Engagement Manager; Hovik Avedian, Application Analyst; Siobhan Neligan, Business Relationship Manager; Joyce Manangan, IT Commercial Team Leader; Mukhtiar Gill, Data Quality Analyst; Weronika Stelmaszyk, Data Quality Analyst; Dione Harrington, Data Quality Analyst; Anna Trichkine, Data Quality Lead.

Once the foundations were in place, the next task was to carefully assemble variously sized logs in the holes, to create a pyramid structure of wood that will eventually decay during winter, covered by turf, twigs and soil. The gaps that begin to form within the decayed wood, protected from the elements and predators, become a thriving home for invertebrates and fungi – essential for local biodiversity.

One of the rarest and most important insects that it is hoped will take up residence in the newly created habitats is the stag beetle. Though they can be found across London’s parkland, stag beetles are a protected species, and are in steep decline across Europe. They are also the UK’s largest terrestrial beetle, and whilst their antler-shaped jaws may look fierce, they are harmless to humans. Their larvae develop underground in rotting wood for several years, and they emerge during the summer mating season, when they wield their powerful jaws to wrestle for partners. If you are fortunate enough to spot one, the London Wildlife Trust encourages you to report the sighting, so that accurate records of their existence can be kept. Stag Beetle Campaign | London Wildlife Trust (wildlondon.org.uk)

And at last… the finished habitats! Note the way the natural materials blend seamlessly into the environment. The grass will eventually grow back to reclaim the ground around the habitats, which will be a lasting refuge for insects and wildlife.

The team really valued the opportunity to get out into Hounslow’s great outdoors and work together on a small project that will ultimately play an important role in conserving local flora and fauna. It’s all part of our vision to collaborate towards a greener Hounslow.

Hounslow Gets Digital by James Carroll

Last month I had my first experience of Hounslow Gets Digital, having started working for LBH the week after the first event in March.  Even though I have been involved in the planning and organising of the event (and therefore very biased!) I can honestly say that the event was a great success! We brought together a coalition of partners from the charity, corporate and council worlds, with the joint aim of supporting residents on their journey in the digital world.

Many who attended received 1 on 1 tech support by one of the Digital Champions, local volunteers who play a primary role in upskilling Hounslow’s residents through our weekly Digital Drop-in’s.

To date the Champions have provided foundational tailored digital skills training to over 240 residents.

In recent weeks the number of Champions has grown to 19. More Champions means more digital support for residents, and we are in the process of increasing the number of Digital Drop-in’s across the borough from 6 to 9 by this September.

Residents also came to the event to collect their own laptop from our charity partner Our Barn. By providing laptops to eligible residents who cannot afford one, we are able to ensure that digital learning can continue at home. One resident told me the day was “Fantastic!” as they picked up their own laptop.

It was also really powerful to see residents talking to the Digital Champions about their volunteer role. One local resident discovered the event whilst he was visiting Hounslow House to use the first-floor library. After speaking to one of our Digital Champions on site, he signed up and has since attended our new and improved training course and is now volunteering in Digital Drop-ins in Hounslow House and Feltham.

I caught up with this resident after his first day of volunteering and he told me how happy he was to have “found this wonderful opportunity through Hounslow Gets Digital, a platform that connects individuals with meaningful projects and initiatives in the digital realm. Their commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives resonated with me, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”

Our Digital Champions are provided with a wraparound support package that includes employability support from our Work Hounslow Team. Another of our Champions, Rhys, who is in his final year of school has recently landed an apprenticeship offer with a tech firm.

Rhys claimed that “This all thanks to the great opportunity of being a Digital Champion which came at the perfect time.”​

To enhance the second edition of Hounslow Gets Digital, we invited Emma from ThreeDiscovery to deliver two group workshops: Staying Safe Online and Digital Photography. Emma taught residents about tips and tricks on how to keep your devices safe and how to take and edit the best pictures using their smartphones.

I have had the pleasure of working with Emma and the Discovery team in my previous role and have seen how transformative their sessions have been for people. Over the coming months my team will be working with partners such as ThreeDiscovery to create a timetable of group digital skill sessions for residents. These sessions aim to offer training in several key digital areas and provide a pathway of encouragement to the longer structured digital courses delivered by Adult Education.  

It was also really inspiring to see the entire Digital Adoption and Inclusion Team at the event providing advice and guidance on areas such as social broadband tariffs, online safety, and health apps. Since the Digital Commitment was created, the team have been working hard both behind the scenes to set up programmes and on the front line to help deliver them.

I believe it is crucial that we are out there with the residents and teams that support them. Having this interaction enables us to better understand the needs of residents as well as develop professional relations with them. We are developing a community of learners who are seeking to improve their lives. Once you develop the community, then you can teach the skills.

We will be running these Hounslow Gets Digital events every quarter with the next one planned for coincide with The Good Things Foundation Get Online Week running from 16 to 22 October. As we grow our offer, we will continue to utilise Hounslow Gets Digital as a springboard to drive up digital inclusion in the borough.

“I would like to thank all those who took part in the event!”

Hounslow Gets Digital would like to thank all those who took part in the event. Delivery partners include: ThreeDiscovery, Our Barn, Seniors Trust, Community Solutions, Digital Champions and the Digital Adoption and Inclusion Team.

Inspiring our future generation of technicians and engineers

Our children are our future councillors, business leaders, innovators and so much more but how do inspire them to think about jobs in engineering & technology when the terms alone are so abstract? Thankfully, for this very reason, TeenTech exists to ‘help young people understand the opportunities in the science, technology and engineering industries, no matter what their gender or social background

I was invited along as a business ambassador to represent London Borough of Hounslow at a recent TeenTech event at Roehampton University (they run these all over the country) and my role for the day was to support the teacher and help inspire their cohort of students. I was assigned to a group of 8 Key Stage 3 children (Year 7 = 11/12 years old) from Twickenham School who, it is fair to say, were not sure why they were there but were curious nonetheless, having found out two days prior that they had been selected to attend.

The day began with a vote asking the students whether they had any interest in working in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) arena and the responses were low. Following a day of engaging, exciting and interesting sessions that brought these to life the responses at the end of the day were much higher. Each cohort of students had a slightly different schedule, so they got to see different presentations and the group I was with got to experience:

  • Adding voiceovers/dubbing and foley sounds in the university film sound studio
  • Mind-bending physics showing how poor the human mind is at judging weight and volume, courtesy of the National Physics Laboratory
  • A talk from Queen Mary’s University on hacking (with a funky, hacked Teddy Bear that controls room access (with a card reader in one foot and speaker in another) and alerts you to intruders i.e. that pesky younger brother or sister, to stop them going through your room, through flashing eyes and a digital display on which to project your warning message!
  • A talk and demonstration on space flight and fuel from Dallas Campbell and a demonstration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning from Amazon’s Space Dept. which focuses on satellite launches and maintenance, particularly using them to monitor and react to emergency situations e.g.
    • Using satellite images to learn about environmental matters so when a volcano began to erupt satellite images were captured and the system was able to present a picture of where the issue was but also to recommend where best to evacuate people from as it had learnt how to track which way the volcanic smoke was heading – amazing.

The students had also been set a group task to be completed before the event which was to create a building of the future and to really think outside of the constraints of everyday thought; what technology would help? What innovative ideas could inspire new products for the future (I am not sure how practical the chicken-cloner idea is!); who would it help and how – then they had to make a model of it.

The creativity, thoughtfulness and intelligence of these students was so inspiring as they integrated renewable energy and accessibility without a second thought but were striving to find other ways to provide the best for others. To see these younger children getting so involved and thinking things through so thoughtfully and carefully shows that their future is in the right hands.

Finally, some food for thought for us as a council and thinking of these students as future residents, business owners and even councillors: one of the questions they were asked was ‘Where does your town or city need to make the most improvements?’ and the response was significant with over a quarter of the students stating Crime Prevention as most important to them as you can see here:

Graph showing student responses to the question 'Where does your town or city need to make the most improvements' with responses:
27% Crime Prevention
20% Education
13% Sports provision
13% Parks and Open Spaces
7% Transport
6% Entertainment Provision (cinemas etc.)
5% Cultural Activities (Theatres, Museums, Concerts etc.)
4% Youth Centres

Digital life hacks

Those tricks you love to make life easy

We hope some of the following tips will make your life easier in the digital space

  1. Cut & paste, if find yourself using Ctrl-V (keyboard option) to paste last clipped item, take a look at Win-V instead and be very surprised (scroll up and down to see what is available).
  2. Changing case of a word – toggle between UPPER/lower/Title case using Shift+F3 or Shift+Fn+F3 depending on keyboard.
  3. Scanning – save the hassle of buying a document scanner – use your phone – a number of options available:
    1. Microsoft lens app – capture a range of document including white boards, includes options to straighten and colour correct.
    2. Use Notes app to scan text or document – eg open notes>create new  note>click on camera and choose scan document to get PDF or scan text to OCR your document
  4. Editing text on iPhone – struggle with moving the cursor to correct your text – then press and hold the space bar and slide your finger on space bar and move the cursor so can easily correct your message.
  5. In Google you can type a math question in the search tab like 5 x 5 and it’ll give you the answer and open a calculator for you.
  6. In Google you can convert currency, for example type 50USD to GBP and it’ll do the conversion at the current exchange rate.
  7. At home or on your mobile, if you want to check if a website has any dangerous or malicious content like stealing your credentials, you can search for it here and see a report: https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search
  8. If you receive a scam SMS, forward it to 7726 so your provider can take a look and block the sender’s phone number.  If there’s a website listed in the SMS, don’t visit the site but do copy the website address into a new email and send it to report@phishing.gov.uk.  You’ll protect yourself and probably thousands of others from being defrauded, potentially out of their life savings.

Check back for more tips from the Digital & IT team