Lessons from the Field: How Neighborhood Data Can Improve Low-Income Communities

Posted September 29, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog lessonsfromthefielddata 2015

As Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties strug­gle to over­come the chal­lenges of pover­ty and racism, the new book, Strength­en­ing Com­mu­ni­ties with Neigh­bor­hood Data, pro­vides a use­ful roadmap for com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and pub­lic offi­cials to use neigh­bor­hood-lev­el data in craft­ing effec­tive solu­tions. The book — large­ly drawn from the expe­ri­ences of the Nation­al Neigh­bor­hood Indi­ca­tors Part­ner­ship (NNIP), a net­work of local data inter­me­di­aries in 30 cities — offers exam­ples that can inspire and guide oth­ers. These local NNIP orga­ni­za­tions pro­vide infor­ma­tion and analy­sis to sup­port data-dri­ven deci­sion mak­ing by cities and region­al gov­ern­ments and non­prof­its. Exam­ples in the book demon­strate how data can high­light dis­par­i­ties by race and place, and fos­ter cross-sec­tor col­lab­o­ra­tions to act on the information:

  • The Cen­ter for Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment and Pover­ty pro­vid­ed sophis­ti­cat­ed data and tools to inform blight-fight­ing actions in Cleveland.
  • The Insti­tute for Port­land Met­ro­pol­i­tan Stud­ies lever­aged data from their Region­al Equi­ty Atlas to shift fund­ing for open space projects to under­served neighborhoods.
  • Children’s Opti­mal Health in Austin insti­gat­ed a broad com­mu­ni­ty effort to tack­le child­hood obesity.

The book is a primer for peo­ple new to think­ing about com­mu­ni­ty data ecosys­tems. It doc­u­ments the progress in avail­abil­i­ty of data and out­lines the ways that dif­fer­ent types of insti­tu­tions use data to improve local gov­er­nance. For researchers, it describes the newest ana­lyt­ic meth­ods for under­stand­ing neigh­bor­hood change. 

Strength­en­ing Com­mu­ni­ties con­cludes with rec­om­men­da­tions to boost the capac­i­ty of local actors to use data in pri­or­i­tiz­ing issues and plan­ning tai­lored respons­es. Rec­om­men­da­tions include: 

The work of the Nation­al Neigh­bor­hood Indi­ca­tors Part­ner­ship is part of a Casey Foun­da­tion port­fo­lio of grants designed to improve child out­comes by pro­mot­ing data-dri­ven poli­cies and pro­grams at the local, state and nation­al lev­el. The book is avail­able as a free e‑book with high­lights pre­sent­ed in a video inter­view with the authors. It was writ­ten with gen­er­ous sup­port from the John D. and Cather­ine T. MacArthur Foun­da­tion.

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