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Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

Smarter working through a cloud based digital platform

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Bradford District Infrastructure Partnership (BDIP) share their experience of using technology to enhance services, become more sustainable and better connected, and provide smarter support to 2000 community organisations.


With its rich industrial heritage, diverse cultural background, a varied mixture of urban and rural environments, and a strong and vibrant Third Sector, Bradford in West Yorkshire is a dynamic district. Through UNESCO it became the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, has a World Heritage Site at Saltaire, is home to the National Media Museum and has the UK’s tallest fountain at City Park.   

The issues we faced

Uniquely, the District has five main infrastructure providers located across five offices: Volunteering Bradford, Bradford CVS, Shipley & Bingley Volunteer Services, Keighley & Ilkley Voluntary and Community Action, and CNet. We needed a central database accessible to BDIP so information could be shared between us and with other organisations such as GP offices. We wanted to make information on community groups more accessible and also have the ability to measure outcomes and impact. 

The actions we took

We were awarded a BIG Assist voucher in “Developing new products, services and ways of working” to look at options which would allow a more joined up approach to asking both individuals and businesses to give to the voluntary sector, whether that be resources or time.

Working with our chosen supplier, the voucher was used for advice on the different options for a suitable database. This database would be a central point for all the partners to make an ‘ask’. It would also support the development of more joined up strategic pathways for Corporate Social Responsibility support encouraging local businesses and SME’s to give time, share resources and give money. 

As part of this process we put together a specification for the database we wanted and chose CiviCRM as we felt it was the best match for us; it’s open source, flexible and adaptable.

We also undertook a BIG Assist sponsored visit to Voluntary Action Southwark (VAS) in London. VAS had just implemented a database in a very similar scenario to us and it was extremely helpful to engage in what I’d call the more the human side of the project – trying to engage staff and the board of trustees so they used the database. They shared their good practice with us and we used the materials they’d put together to help us provide a framework in which the database would operate.

Fujitsu gave us some pro-bono support around data protection, helping us to merge together the information from each of the five organisations and putting together a data protection policy that met the legal requirements. 

Positive outcomes

Because BDIP now has a joined-up way of working, we’re able to co-ordinate our communications, so we can see who’s received an e-bulletin on a particular topic and can co-ordinate and organise social media campaigns. Training and events can be booked online which is efficient and cuts down administration. We’re hoping to soon be able to sync our database with the database – we’re not quite there yet but it’s in our future plans.

Measuring Impact

Our database has an add-on module which enables us to measure our impact, giving us a picture of the support we provide to groups and the changes and benefits this brings.

Using an ‘outcome stars’ type module on our database, we’re able to put together a needs analysis of the groups in Bradford to make sure we’re offering the right kind of help and support.


Using new technology saves money and provides an efficient way of working which local authorities are very keen on. We’re now able to provide statistics and intelligence showing the impact of our work in particular ward areas.

The database helped us secure a £500,000 infrastructure grant from the local authority, and a CCG grant based around using the database to support a local and social prescribing and signposting programme using health providers and GPs. The local authority grant came with a 20% cut so the database has helped us implement efficiencies without affecting front line services.

In addition, through a unique partnership with the BBC My Bradford Project, we are training community groups on using digital platforms to promote their groups. This has already led to local community groups featuring on BBC TV and BBC Radio, and a specially commissioned BBC film to promote volunteering locally.

In our Corporate Social Responsibility volunteering programme we helped engage a new company, Driver Hire who engaged 40 staff from head office in delivering 300 hours of volunteering to five local community organisations, adding over £5000 in time and resources. 

We are in are in dialogue with the three local CCG’s to improve infrastructure support to health and social care organisations, improve partnership working, delivering a grant making scheme for the CCG and better consultation with the sector.

Negative outcomes

There weren't any negative outcomes as such. We're doing lots of things and we needed systems in place to make sure we come across as coherent and organised.

Lessons learnt

The support from BIG Assist has been invaluable, not only in providing access to consultancy but also the visits helped to provide learning so we did not have to reinvent the wheel in the implementation of the new database.


Page last edited Jul 10, 2017

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