Community Insight FAQs

Below we have answered the questions that we’re regularly asked about Community Insight. Do of course get in touch with any other questions, or register for a demo if you’d like to have a play with the tool.

1. General FAQs
2. Fees
3. Data questions
4. Technical Questions


1. General FAQs

What is Community Insight?

Community Insight is a lightweight community focused Geographical Information System (GIS) system that provides vital information on the communities you work in.

How does it work?

It’s simple to use – you simply upload your stock data – postcodes or Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) and you can instantly generate in-depth maps and reports on the areas you work in. It doesn’t just overlay your stock on top of data maps, it allows you to define neighbourhoods (quite literally, by drawing on a map), report on them and compare them to your other neighbourhoods and communities.

Yes, but how does it actually work?

It is a web-based service that accesses Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion’s (OCSI) huge database of constantly updated public data. Its mapping base is Google’s well tested Google Maps technology.

How can it help me?

Community Insight reduces the burdens on data and analytical staff to provide community-focused information; providing instant access to key social data to all staff who need it, when they need it; and key strategic information for those making decisions around prioritisation of resources.

You can use it to:

  • Create in depth community profiles for each of your neighbourhoods
  • Export easy to use maps, charts and data to use in your own reports
  • Track and understand change over time
  • Identify “hotspots” where need is particularly acute
  • Find a neighbourhood like yours: the ‘My patch’ feature is a unique networking tool to link up  housing professionals facing similar challenges in neighbourhoods across the country. Currently only for Community Insight England
  • Access the information necessary to prioritise and target community investment
  • Generate information to inform bids and tenders, or community consultations and neighbourhood planning
  • Access new Census, welfare and other data on your communities as it is released
  • Provide real world data to feed into social impact measurement and assessment tools.
  • Upload your own organisational data into the tool and visualise on the map.

Who can use it?

Community Insight is designed for easy use by staff across housing providers. Anyone with an interest in how their housing stock relates to community can make use of it. However, it is likely to be of greatest value to community investment practitioners, regen teams, and housing managers with “patch responsibility”. Senior managers and boards will also welcome its strategic overview of the communities they work in.

Do staff require special training?

Using Community Insight requires no special training in GIS mapping or data analysis – anyone in the organisation can use the information and generate reports. It is designed so anyone can pick up, understand and use it within 90 seconds of logging in for the first time.

Where does the data come from?

It all comes from open data sources – drawn from the Census, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data, deprivation indices and other sources. It’s always up to date, because maintaining that data is one of OCSI’s core businesses.

Who are OCSI?

OCSI are Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion, an applied research spin out from Oxford University who manage, maintain, analyse and provide access to public data. They provide data management and analysis services to significant parts of national and local public sectors.

So who are HACT?

HACT is a social enterprise and think tank working within the housing sector, which seeks to influence and innovate in ways which help housing associations deliver more effectively within their communities.

HACT help housing providers build stronger neighbourhoods and resilient communities. They believe housing providers are the foundation for changing people’s lives for the better.

Who is using it at the moment?

Over one million homes are already uploaded onto the system, with over 80 organisations subscribing to Community Insight. There is a list of current subscribers, including Affinity Sutton, Peabody, Knightstone, Metropolitan, Sovereign Circle, Thames Valley Homes, Wandle HA and Viridian.

As well as Community Insight for England, we also have Community Insight for Wales and Scotland too.

Can I have a demo?

Yes – it’s easy to walk you through how the system works over the phone in about 30 minutes provided you’re by a PC or laptop running the right browser software. Please call us on 020 7250 8500 or email

 What future plans do you have?

Guided by the outcomes of our regular user groups, we are continually developing Community Insight. Over the last year we have seen some big features rolled out into the system, like being able to upload your own data and a complete makeover of the maps page. Most recently, you can now customise which indicators appear on the dashboard and map page, as well as customising the themes in which the indicators sit.

Coming soon there will be even more improvements to the maps page. We will be adding a feature to allow you to turn on and off Local Authority boundaries on the map, show the code for a particular LSOA when hovered or clicked over and being able to select the colours for displaying data on the maps.

See the Community Insight blog for details of recent updates.

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2. Fees FAQs

How much does it cost?

An annual subscription costs 5,000 pounds sterling plus VAT, which includes unlimited reporting and number of users within your organisation. This also includes new additional features rolling out during 2015- check the blog for details of recent updates.

Will the cost go up over time?

We have no plans to increase the subscription cost, which is pitched at a level which enables on-going investment product development during 2015. Our intention is to continue developing the product to deliver more data sets and additional functionality and features without increasing costs. However, the optional social impact mapping and reporting module Value Insight is sold as an additional option. An annual subscription to Value Insight costs £5000 as a standalone tool, or £3500 if you are already a Community Insight subscriber.

Are there discounts for smaller users?

No, sorry. We have endeavoured to keep the price affordable for all users.

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3. Data questions

Where does the data come from?

It all comes from open data sources – drawn from the Census, live Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data, deprivation indices and other sources. It’s always up to date, because maintaining that data is one of OCSI’s core businesses.

Can it access locally held public data?

Not at present. The intention is that the tool should provide maximum possible access to the extensive national public data sets that are available.

What other data sets can it access?

At present Community Insight allows access to over 100 different data sets and indicators and provides reports on significantly more, including access to comparative and trend data.

Can you view multiple indicators on the map at once?

Not at present, although it is straightforward to switch between maps. The map includes a range of composite indicators, including indices of deprivation, economic deprivation and child well-being, which bring together multiple data sets.

How up-to-date is the data?

It accesses one of the most up to date repositories of public data. Most indicators are updated within a few days. All data is reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure it is fully up to date. The age of the data will depend on source, for example, much DWP data is issued quarterly, educational attainment figures are released annually, whilst the census data is the most current data from 2011. Community Insight provides full and easily accessible information on the age of the data when it is presented.

What resolution is the data analysed to?

For English and Welsh users: For the graphic mapping, to Lower Level Super Output Area (LSOA) where available, and to the lowest level available when higher than LSOA (about 1000-1500 homes). Detailed community profile reports draw on data down to Output Area (OA) level.

For Scottish users: For the graphic mapping, to Data Zone where available, and to the lowest level available when higher than Data Zone. Detailed community profile reports draw on data down to Output Area (OA) level.

Can we share and reuse the data on Community Insight?

Yes, you are free to share and reuse the data. All data provided on Community Insight comes from ‘open data’ sources published using the Open Government Licence (OGL). Up-to-date data is collected daily by OCSI from more than 50 sources including the Census, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits data, deprivation indices and other sources.

What else does it do?

It doesn’t just produce pretty maps, it also generates, at the press of a button, detailed 50 page community profiles drawing on a much wider range of indicators, and including trend and historic data.

Can I export maps, charts and tables?

Yes, data can be exported in spreadsheet format. Maps and charts can be copy-pasted into documents.

4. The technical bit

What IT support does it need?

You will need an internet connection and a modern browser, such as Internet Explorer IE9 or above, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari, with JavaScript and cookies enabled. Older browsers (such as IE8), should work, however may show slower performance for some features. If you want to access the service you need to have access to this either on your PC or on a laptop. It also works on iPads and other tablets, as well as smartphones!

I don’t have the right browser installed, can I still use it?

Talk to your IT team. Some Housing Associations using the product have installed Chrome as a secure and easy way to enable staff to use Community Insight. Because of the technology involved in building Community Insight, we will not be able to assure compatibility with IE8 or earlier.

Why don’t we support IE7 and IE8?

Newer versions of Internet Explorer (included IE9 and 10) correctly implement standards for JavaScript and other functionality required to run Community Insight, with a number of organisations used to speed-up browsing. Although may Community Insight Users are successfully using IE7 and 8, these older versions are IE versions are not fully standards compliant. As a result, when using Community Insight with IE7 or IE8, users may experience slow speed [for reference, Google stopped supporting IE7 in 2011, and IE8 in 2012. Other websites such as Facebook also no longer support IE7, while some even charge extra for IE7 users].

Can I store more of my own information on the system? For example, asset data or more complex differentiation between types of stock?

Not at the moment, as this would increase the cost and complexity of what is intended to be a simple but powerful product, with an intuitive user interface. However we are looking into possible options for future updates.

Is it compatible with in-house GIS systems?

It is not a substitute for an in-house stock or asset management system. However some users have said that for community-focused reporting it is more practically useful than in-house GIS and visualisation tools. It also takes a lot of burden off data analysts in terms of producing community-focused maps and reports.

Users with GIS based asset management tools will find it very straightforward to generate the data needed to set up Community Insight, which requires just a set of UPRNs or postcodes. You can also import the open data held in Community Insight into your own GIS systems, saving you trawling through government websites looking for data.

How secure is Community Insight?

The information on Community Insight is held on OCSI’s web servers, hosted in Nottingham, UK. Access to the logged-in sections of the site (including the stock upload and display sections) is via secure HTTPS pages to prevent ‘man-in-the-middle’ and other redirect attacks.

Importantly however, Community Insight does not store sensitive personal data.

The only information provided by your organisation is non-sensitive property data including postcode and (your) unique reference numbers. If you have concerns over data security, please contact your own data compliance advisors. HACT and OCSI will not use the data for anything other than the Community Insight family of products. Your data will never be used without your explicit consent or passed on to other organisations.

How many people can use it in my organisation?

One subscription covers an entire organisation for the year. As many users as you want can make use of it.

Do we need to install any software to run Community Insight?

No. Community Insight is a web-based tool that runs on all standard modern browsers, including mobile devices (phones and tablets). Supported browsers include IE9, IE10, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. You will need JavaScript and cookies enabled. The tool will work on older browsers such as Internet Explorer 7 and 8, but may show slower performance for some features.

Does Community Insight need to be integrated with our IT systems?

No. As a web-based tool, Community Insight is a standalone service, and does not need to be integrated with any of your systems (whether these are in-house or externally hosted). Community Insight also runs fine on virtual desktop environments such as Citrix- although you may notice lower resolution images and maps as some virtual environments compress images to reduce bandwidth.

In order to load your property data into Community Insight, you will need to be able to export this data in standard (e.g. Excel, CSV, XML) format from your systems. This can then be loaded into Community Insight from a secure web-page.

Do we need to maintain Community Insight?

OCSI and HACT are continually improving Community Insight, rolling in data updates and new features on a regular basis. You don’t need to maintain anything specific, however you may want to refresh your stock data from time-to-time to ensure Community Insight is based on your current property data – for example to reflect new developments, stock swaps or amalgamations with other housing groups.

Do staff require special training?

Using Community Insight requires no special training in GIS mapping or data analysis- anyone in the organisation can use the information and generate reports. It is designed so anyone can pick up, understand and use it within 90 seconds of logging in for the first time.

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