Lessons from the Field: How Neighborhood Data Can Improve Low-Income Communities
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:
- Bolstering new local data infrastructure — such as integrated data systems that links information across systems.
- Encouraging the federal government to invest in the skills of local organizations to support federal place-based efforts.
- Leveraging the energy of new players — NNIP’s latest is the Civic Tech and Data Initiative (in partnership with Living Cities and Code for America).
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.