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This week saw the launch of 17 Vital Signs reports, which measure social trends and issues, and bring in the view of local communities. Similarly, OCF’s Oxfordshire Uncovered research is already starting conversations about the need for strategic charitable investment.

Vital Signs are reports that are produced annually in various regions of the UK to act as guides to local charitable giving, by measuring social trends and issues. They pull together existing research and combine this with a community consultation, to gain a full picture of the issues in particular regions. This week, 17 community foundations published their 2016 Vital Signs reports. See a list

Understanding needs and issues in a community are the first step to being able to solve them. Vital Signs and other needs analysis reports measure the social temperature of different cities and communities across the UK to uncover the areas that need most help. Community foundations that publish this type of research can then guide the generosity of local philanthropists towards the areas that need it the most.

In Oxfordshire, OCF published its Oxfordshire Uncovered research earlier this year to coincide with its 21st birthday. The research, completed in collaboration with a raft of local community organisations and using a combination of government stats and other published data, revealed a shocking picture that gives the lie to the stereotype of Oxfordshire as a uniquely wealthy and privileged place. Amongst the findings are the fact that Oxfordshire has 15 neighbourhoods in the 20% most deprived in England; the worst homelessness problem in UK outside London; and some school results in the bottom 25% nationally. It shows that despite being a beautiful and thriving place for many, Oxfordshire is a darker and more threatening place for thousands of isolated older people, at-risk children and people living in abject poverty.

Oxfordshire Uncovered is already starting some important conversations amongst OCF and its donors and local community organisations, such as children’s centres, working to counter these problems in a long-term, preventative way. In the face of increasingly straitened economic times for the charitable sector, OCF is directing funding more thoughtfully and strategically to support alternative solutions.

Find out more about how you can give to Oxfordshire