Catalyst project

We're working with Essex County Council and Suffolk County Council to use data analysis and the latest technology to improve and more effectively target community services for vulnerable people. The project will help local government tackle both current and future social and economic challenges, and strengthen communities.

We’re also establishing a community volunteering hub to strengthen our links with the local community and increase our volunteering activity.

HEFCE have awarded £2.2 million catalyst funding for this collaborative 'universities as anchors' project.


Our expertise in data analytics will be applied to assess risks and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of initiatives undertaken by the two county councils which serve a combined population of 2.5 million people.

The three-year project will deliver four initiatives:

Predicting risk

When it comes to providing services for the most vulnerable people in society, the goal is better prevention and early intervention, rather than later reaction.

Essex County Countil has developed a Risk Stratification Tool as part of their Transformation Challenge Award and Suffolk County Council are adopting predictive modelling as part of their Suffolk 2020 strategy. Our expertise will help them specify the most appropriate data sets and evaluation methodologies, enabling earlier identification of 'at risk' children and adults.


Evaluating the impact of public services

Our expertise in data analysis and big data will deliver robust, credible evaluation models, to assess both individual projects, and the broader impact of public services for vulnerable people.


  • Project lead:
    Dr Gina Reinhardt, Department of Government
  • Partners:
    Essex County Council Public Reform Unit
    NHS Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Group
    Suffolk County Council

Mapping the assets within a community

We'll help to deliver robust and tested methodologies that will map the social ‘assets’ (social groups/people’s skills and time) and infrastructure across Essex available to support vulnerable people.

A Community Asset Mapping Tool will be developed to build a picture of the assets that exist within communities across Essex, and this data will be used to unlock the untapped potential of communities to build more resilience and independence.


Community volunteering hub

We'll establish a hub that will:

  • link our University's various community-based volunteering activities
  • enhance the relationship between us, our local communities and local voluntary sector partners
  • provide our students with more opportunities to develop their skills and experience and increase their employability
  • increase the number of community volunteering opportunities and hours undertaken by Essex students



  • Benefits for local communities

    • Improved health and wellbeing of individuals.
    • Quicker access to the help people need.
    • Communities are empowered to support themselves.
    • Greater family stability and resilience.
    • Greater independence from statutory services and control over their own lives.
    • More personalised interactions.
    • Increased community resilience.
    • Faster resolution to issues.

  • Benefits for councils and their partners

    • Ability to identify and predict risk and need earlier, leading to improved and earlier intervention, improved resource allocation, better commissioning and planning.
    • Significantly improved data, information and intelligence sharing amongst partners.
    • Improved outcomes and reduced cost in delivering services to citizens.
    • Enabling resources to be better targeted and shifted from reaction to prevention.
    • Ability to make more timely and informed decisions.
    • Improved community capacity and resilience and better community engagement.
    • A map of community assets will improve planning, resource allocation and coordination.
    • Wider impact on local areas by enabling more people to participate in their community, gain employment and increase their voluntary activity.

  • Benefits for our research

    • Research impact through the delivery of training, dissemination events and media, for local authorities targeted at improving commission.
    • Increasing our research profile within the academic community through the dissemination of papers and journal articles.
    • Application of Big Data/data analytics involving researchers in the BLG Data Research Centre.

  • Benefits for our students

    • Community partners as co-educators - by working together with communities and partners our students will have the opportunity to learn and develop their softer skills in ways the classroom cannot provide.
    • Students as ‘active citizens’ – encouraging our students to take action and use their time to support communities and tackle social issues; students’ using their passion, talents, skills, ideas and experiences and capacity to lead successful change is an embodiment of our ‘We are Essex’ philosophy.
    • Increasing community volunteering will improve our graduates’ employability through providing a diverse range of work-related experience and stimulating critical thinking and problem solving skills.



This project is jointly funded by HEFCE and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).


The project is chaired by Professor Maria Fasli, Director of Institute for Analytics and Data Science, in collaboration with Essex County Council and Suffolk County Council.

Project team

Contact us if you’d like to find out more, have an idea, or can see an opportunity to collaborate.

Mina Manning

Senior Project Manager

Telephone 01206 872057


Daniel King

Project Support Officer

Telephone 01206 873443



Essex County Council logo Suffolk County Council logo HEFCE logo


CCVS logo ESRC Business and Local Government Research Centre logo Students' Union VTeam logo