Northamptonshire has areas that are in the top 1% most deprived nationally for education and skills, income and employment, health, crime and housing.

We learnt a lot at Northamptonshire Community Foundation’s (NCF’s) recent Hidden Needs launch event, where this was the headline statistic.

The event, which supported the launch of new Northamptonshire Hidden Needs research (read the summary and full reports here, and try out the interactive map) was all about bringing into the open the lesser known, ‘hidden’ issues facing our county. It also brought together a group of people sharing a passion to make a difference, which is key to NCF’s mission to build a better future for all – and a mission Novacroft wholeheartedly shares.

We’ve really enjoyed getting to know the NCF, and seeing how we can harness the technology we’re passionate about to make a positive and lasting impact on our local community. It was a privilege and an insight to be part of the Hidden Needs event.

What did we learn?

There are hidden public sector challenges…

We learnt that significant challenges (consider budget cuts and directives to improve efficiencies) face local authorities, now and in the future. Northampton Borough Council is a case in point – the authority has recently agreed a budget involving nearly £40 million of cuts. The impact of this on funding to tackle the critical issues highlighted in the report remains to be seen.

Challenges are facing the wider public sector too. John Nickson (Hidden Needs panellist, author and a board member of UK Community Foundations) commented that charitable giving in the UK has not grown in real terms in the last 30 years.

…we need to consider more private sector partnerships

Richard Hazenberg, from the University of Northampton’s Institute of Social Innovation & Impact, led the Hidden Needs research. Richard is passionate that ‘a co-ordinated approach is needed to support hidden needs to make a long term difference’.

Richard and the panelists joining him for the post-presentation debate called for an increase of partnerships between public and private sector against the backdrop of funding cuts.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

We learnt that if the people in the room were anything to go by (these were people from private enterprises, local authorities, charities and even the emergency services, who had turned out in force despite snow and ice) there is a great hunger to overcome challenges. How? By working together. Developing new ways to tackle critical issues and re-framing debates.

What was the biggest takeaway?

Northamptonshire’s hidden needs are no longer hidden. They’re very much out in the open, and what a big open space it is. A space that we, as private sector, public sector, third sector, as individuals, as partners, have the opportunity to shape.

A particular interest for Novacroft is in health and wellbeing. Northamptonshire’s population is growing faster than the national average, with 17.3% of the population aged over 65 and 20.1% under 15. The report highlights that childhood obesity rates are above national average (which is 19.1%) in many county districts (19.5% in Northampton, 23.1% in Corby). Life expectancy sits at 76.7 and 79.5 years for men and women in Corby, compared to a national average of 79.5 and 83.2 years fro men and women respectively.

We’re passionate, as Richard is, that ‘getting people active is fundamental to long term health outcomes’ and we’re finding innovative ways to encourage that and measure the difference it makes.

Richard made the point that charities, social enterprises and public sector bodies need to engage more with the private sector to create a ‘truly cross-sector approach’ that will enable us to achieve our goals, and we’re with him all the way.

Where do we go from here?

We have ambitious goals to make a difference.

We’re taking technology to the next level to improve health and wellbeing (we’ve developed a programme called Ucando-it) and we’re using it to simplify complex processes for charities and businesses, saving them valuable pence in the pound and allowing them to engage with their team members, encouraging them to move more and rewarding them for doing so.

With that truly cross-sector approach, combining knowledge and expertise, we can help the people and communities behind the statistics to thrive.

Find out more:

Presentation, reports and interactive map:

Northamptonshire Hidden Needs presentation

Northamptonshire Hidden Needs Summary Report

Northamptonshire Hidden Full Report

Interactive map of Northamptonshire’s Hidden Needs