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Invitation to tender: Barriers to local data access and sharing in social prescribing

Fri Dec 4, 2020
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Help the Open Data Institute and OpenActive identify and overcome the chief barriers to effective data access, sharing, and use for social prescribing at the local level

Tender reference: RDPM-055

The OpenActive initiative harnesses the power of open data to help people – especially those who are in- or under-active – access physical activities in their area more easily. As such, it is aligned and overlaps substantially with public health priorities – and in particular with the growing area of social prescribing, whereby link workers recommend community-based activities to help address individuals’ chronic and/or subclinical conditions.

Unfortunately, the data landscape for social prescribing at the local level is fragmented and complex. Social prescribing can involve a wide range of organisations, from local third-sector groups to large private enterprises, each with its own distinctive (or, alternatively, no) online technical infrastructure. Link workers struggle to keep information current and relevant, and are often limited in the options they can offer their clients because of uncertainty over the accuracy of logistical data or unaddressed concerns regarding e.g. safeguarding or accessibility information. For link workers and their clients, the result is a lack of suitable or optimal interventions; for community activity providers, a reduction in their potential client base and, potentially, financial viability. Considered collectively, there can be an across-the-board drop in the physical, mental, and economic health of the community.

In order to realise the promise of social prescribing, then, the Open Data Institute (ODI) is launching an invitation to tender for research that will help foster rich local ecosystems of prescribing opportunities by:

  • Exploring requirements for, and barriers to, data access and data sharing for social prescription at the local (council) level, including physical activity data
  • Developing strategies for surmounting identified barriers, and measuring the success of these
  • Undertake a gap analysis of OpenActive data standards and tooling with regard to these strategies

Because social prescribing is an intensely local activity, we anticipate this research as comparative, focusing tightly on two or three local areas to capture the range of needs and challenges faced by local authorities, rather than working generically at a national level.

This research work will be funded by the ODI.

Summary and timeline

AimTo identify the chief barriers to effective data access, sharing, and use for social prescribing at the local (council) level and means of surmounting these, along with suitable metrics for measuring the effectiveness of these strategies. This work will be used to inform the development of OpenActive standards and tooling where applicable.
Welcoming applications fromThis tender is open to organisations based in the United Kingdom and able to complete the work by 19 March 2021.
DurationApprox. 40 days of work between 11 Jan and 19 March 2021
Value of award (excl. VAT)Up to £50,000
Questions to ODI by17:00 GMT, 17/12/2020
ODI responses by17:00 GMT, 21/12/2020
Costed proposals due by17:00 GMT, 31/12/2020
Tender decision by17:00 GMT, 06/01/2021
Contract awarded17:00 GMT, 08/01/2021
ODI brief winning applicant(s)09:30 GMT, 11/01/2021
ODI progress reviewsWeekly (virtually)
Final work delivered by19/03/2021
Tender reference:RDPM-055

Terms of payment

Payment of the agreed contract price will be made at two milestones:

  • 50% at the halfway point
  • 50% upon successful completion of the work, including satisfactory responses to all feedback from the ODI


Over the past four years, the OpenActive initiative has worked to open up physical activity data from gyms, leisure centres, and individual providers across the UK, making tens of thousands of opportunities to get fit available to national campaigns such as Change 4 Life and This Girl Can. In addition, OpenActive data powers a number of commercial products from private companies such as Played, Playfinder, Playwaze, and imin. Now we’re building on our existing expertise and collaborative work with organisations such as London Sport and Porism to make sure this data reaches the people who need it most, by focusing especially on individuals with accessibility needs or long-term medical conditions that raise barriers to their ability to participate in physical activities and adversely affect their mental and physical health.


The deliverables of this research will be:

  • An ecosystem map of key players in the area, along with a summary of their roles and the incentives and challenges they currently face, based on user- (not only desk-) research.
  • A report (approx. 35 pages in length) on the data requirements of social prescribers, including but not limited to the range of activities desired, the legal and administrative (e.g., safeguarding, safety) information associated with these, and data assurance needs.
  • A report (approx. 20 pages in length) on the technical requirements of social prescribers and the systems they use, including a summary of the technologies most often employed in the sector, their maturity, and the level of technical skill typical of the domain.
  • Recommendations for Key Performance Indicators of need (including end-user as well as link worker need) in the sector being met, along with methodologies for determining baselines for these.
  • An overview of the most common barriers to data access, sharing, and use at the local level, along with an evaluation of their severity and suggestions for mitigation.
  • A demonstration of the ability of OpenActive standards and tooling to meet these needs, and/or a requirements gap analysis where appropriate.

We expect project teams to:

  • Attend a 90-minute (virtual) briefing meeting at the outset of the project
  • Meet (virtually) on a weekly basis thereafter with the ODI team for progress updates
  • Work iteratively with the ODI, responding to comments on documents and email enquiries in a timely fashion

The ODI will provide:

  • Briefing on research already conducted in this area
  • Expertise and support as required, in particular in relation to existing OpenActive standards and tooling
  • Prompt response to any questions raised

Form of tender response

Applications can be on behalf of a consortium of organisations. Interested parties should submit a costed proposal (in English) to, which includes:

  • A short (no more than 5 page) explanation of your proposed project, with references to any relevant existing work or activities
  • A description of why you are best placed to deliver this project
  • A clear definition of the impacts, outcomes and outputs from the project, how you will achieve and measure them
  • A description of the team who will do the work, including biographies
  • The total value (£) of your proposal, with a breakdown of the costs by activity and people
  • A high-level project plan identifying any key milestones
  • Where required, what form of in-kind support from the ODI team would be useful, for example, to provide training, technical support etc.
  • Targeted stakeholders that will be approached/engaged as part of this work and proof of their commitment. Applicants should note that the focus on local data makes the identification of stakeholders at the local-government level particularly important
  • A brief overview of other research currently being undertaken in the area of social prescribing, and a strategy for stakeholder engagement to minimise overlap here
  • Any risks and data protection considerations

If you have any questions about the tender, please contact quoting the tender reference. The ODI reserves the right to make both anonymised questions and answers public or shared with other organisations having stated their interest.

Decision criteria

All proposals will be assessed as described in our public procurement policy. In addition, for this procurement we will be looking for:

  • The application should be supported by a named senior level champion in the organisation.
  • Applications must be from organisations or consortia based in the United Kingdom.
  • Applications must demonstrate an awareness and understanding of other UK-based research and activity in this area.
  • Applications submitted by a consortium should highlight how money is being spent across the organisations involved and the roles each consortium member will be taking.
  • Evidence that the organisation collaborates with other key stakeholders, such as letters of support.
  • Applications will be assessed with a view toward maximising the diversity and inclusion of the ODI’s procurement partners.
  • Alignment with the ODI’s goals and priority areas.

Questions about the tender

Can you define more precisely what is meant by the phrase ‘accessibility needs’ in the Background section? In general terms, for the purposes of this tender, ‘accessibility needs’ refers to any requirements that arise as a result of medical characteristics of an individual and that prevent them from participating in activities without additional provision being made. The key words here are ‘individual’ and ‘medical’, meaning that the contrast class would be demographic barriers such as income, race, sex, etc.

Alternatively, one could look at this by example. The OpenActive initiative is in the process of defining a controlled vocabulary of medical conditions that give rise to accessibility needs. While a work-in-progress and hardly exhaustive, browsing this taxonomy will give a clearer sense of the semantic terrain.

Does the ODI / OpenActive initiative have particular councils in mind for the comparative study? No, though diversity is important: that is to say, encompassing both, say, a rural and urban area, a deprived and relatively wealthy area, or a north and south area would be valuable. While we realise we can’t develop a comprehensive picture with a research effort of this size, some sense of the range of needs involved would be helpful.

Is there an expectation of what constitutes a “demonstration” of the ability of OpenActive standards and tooling to meet the identified needs – e.g. prototype code base? The sense of ‘demonstration’ here is one of feasibility or of possibility in principle. What’s needed is really more of a mapping, or alignment, indicating the points at which OpenActive standards as currently defined match requirements, and where they do not. In other words, the output here will likely be a report, rather than a software prototype.

Is there an incumbent supplier in place? No, the field is open.

Is there an expectation that the supplier comes into the project with local stakeholders already identified? This isn’t an absolute requirement, but demonstrable local connections do form part of the scoring criteria.

Is the ODI / OpenActive able to help the supplier to identify local stakeholders in the councils selected for the comparative study? We can provide some limited assistance here, but this is very much on the level of introductions to people working in the area rather than having established a willingness to collaborate on research. Given the short time-frame of the project, it would be advisable to apply with connections already identified.

Is there a minimum expectation on the number of local prescribers interviewed as part of the research? Not as such. The point is really to capture the needs of a diversity of stakeholders: end users, link workers, council workers, GPs, etc. The numbers in any one category do not necessarily need to be large, if those interviewed are well-placed to make wide-ranging observations (for example, if they have considerable experience or expertise in the area). But a broad spectrum of stakeholders needs to be considered.