Collective Data Capacity Innovations

Connecting People through Community Data Events
An annual event builds community and fosters the exchange of knowledge about using data for action among neighbors, government staff, nonprofit professionals, and researchers.

Building a Robust Data Culture across Sectors
Organizations across sectors come together to exchange information about community data needs and resources.

Investing in Data Sharing to Improve Youth Services
Investigating barriers to data sharing among youth-serving nonprofits leads to an innovative approach to overcoming those challenges citywide.


Connecting People through Community Data Events

An annual event builds community and fosters the exchange of knowledge about using data for action among neighbors, government staff, nonprofit professionals, and researchers.

Across the country, several cities and local nonprofits organize annual gatherings to highlight how data can help improve neighborhoods and to allow local data users to network and learn from one another. Since 2015, Milwaukee has hosted Data Days, organized by Data You Can Use, to connect about 100 people with a range of technical expertise. Several local foundations, including the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Siebert Lutheran Foundation, and the Zilber Family Foundation, have supported past events.

At Data Days, neighborhood champions, data scientists, government leaders, researchers, and data visualization specialists share innovative projects to understand, build alignment on, and act on issues that the city faces. Data Day 2019 focused on data’s role in the media, featuring a keynote speech by an Associated Press journalist and a panel of local print and radio journalists. Several people from government agencies, academia, data science groups, and neighborhood organizations also gave presentations on using data and accessing data resources.

The Data Dream competition is a unique feature of Milwaukee’s Data Days. In the competition, Milwaukee-based volunteer neighborhood groups, churches, and nonprofit organizations can win up to $5,000 in support for collecting and analyzing data to meet a Milwaukee neighborhood’s needs. The 2019 finalists included a children’s health advocacy group, an organization working to end gun violence, and a neighborhood nonprofit organization that focuses on civic engagement, environmental stewardship, and economic enterprise.

Thanks to Katie Pritchard from Data You Can Use for her contributions and review.


Building a Robust Data Culture across Sectors

Organizations across sectors come together to exchange information about community data needs and resources.

To facilitate consistent and widespread data use to address pressing issues, a community must have connections among different groups, allowing organizations to take advantage of one another’s perspectives and skill sets. Place-based funders can foster a culture that values data by bringing together organizations from across sectors and expanding these connections.

In San Antonio, the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, a fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, funded convenings and initial staffing that launched the Alamo Regional Data Alliance (ARDA) in 2017. The alliance’s mission is “to advance community-wide collaborative support for data-related programs and policies.” The alliance nurtures the region’s data culture by showing that data capacity is not just an individual and organizational attribute but a worthy and crucial community-wide asset.

To fulfill its mission, ARDA first developed a community strategy. Over three facilitator-led work sessions, an interim steering committee collaborated to develop a shared vision, describe local data-related needs, and identify issues to consider as ARDA works to meet those needs.

Now run by a volunteer steering committee, the alliance provides forums, such as quarterly “show and share” meetings and an annual conference, for its members from public agencies, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and private firms to discuss data resources and applications. Through its efforts, ARDA has facilitated data sharing among its members, expanded awareness of the data and training available in the region, and built a sense of community among the diverse people and organizations that use and publish data.

Thanks to Laura McKieran from Community Information Now for sharing information about the Alamo Regional Data Alliance. 


Investing in Data Sharing to Improve Youth Services

Investigating barriers to data sharing among youth-serving nonprofits leads to an innovative approach to overcoming those challenges citywide.

An important aspect of a community’s data capacity is data sharing and integration, which can give residents, nonprofits, and local government a better understanding of who uses services and what outcomes those services produce. In 2018, organizations in Hartford, Connecticut, that serve young people expressed an interest in building their capacity to share and integrate data so they could track educational outcomes, with the aim of improving service delivery. In response, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving commissioned an in-depth assessment of the barriers to data sharing and integration across the organizations.

The assessment found many challenges, such as navigating the legal requirements to request data from public schools and identifying trusted organizations with the technical skills to link and analyze data. In light of the findings, several local funders supported the development of the Hartford Data Collaborative, a shared client-level data infrastructure to provide timely, integrated, and accessible data for analysis of services, operations, policies, and outcomes.

Established in 2019, the Hartford Data Collaborative piloted its first data integration project between Hartford Public Schools and Hartford youth service providers to study program enrollment across multiple agencies and related postsecondary outcomes (e.g., enrolling in college, completing degrees). In 2020, the collaborative is integrating summer program enrollment data from organizations that serve young people. This data-matching effort is helping organizations understand how young people are engaging with services during the COVID-19 pandemic and helping identify and target young people (especially those who are at risk of being disconnected from work and school) for program recruitment.

Many thanks to Michelle Riordan-Nold of CTData Collaborative for providing insights into the Hartford Data Collaborative.


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