Since our beginnings in 2001, SCOPE has devoted itself to bringing the community of Sarasota County together around community data. Through annual community report cards, “people count” reports of census data, and study group reports on various community challenges, Sarasotans have joined together through SCOPE to clarify and reflect upon local, present-day realities. In these ways, our community has been able to better identify next steps and take action for positive change.
Over time, we have come to appreciate that there are some central questions that we need to take seriously if community data efforts are to make a real difference in the life of our community. We constantly need to be asking ourselves, as a community:
- Are we generating and gathering data about the things we most care about as a community?
- Are we considering various kinds of data?
- Are we examining data at the appropriate scale?
- Are we looking at the data at the appropriate frequency?
- Are we connecting data about community well-being to data about intentional efforts to bring about positive community change?
- Are we clear about who the “we” is when we ask ourselves these questions as a community?
In response to these questions, our approach to community data has been evolving. At SCOPE, we have been refining the community indicators examined so that they are increasingly oriented in the positive direction, as indicators of thriving rather than suffering. We are integrating methods of story-sharing with ways of examining aggregate data, to bridge the “qualitative / quantitative divide.” We are seeking out local community datasets that are available both “zoomed in” to the neighborhood block scale and “zoomed out” to the county scale, and data available on a weekly / monthly basis rather than only an annual basis. We are also looking at how more traditional “community indicators” of well-being correspond with intentional change efforts, in terms of community-building, formal service delivery, and policymaking. Perhaps most importantly, we are exploring ways of increasing the diversity of people and perspectives engaged in local community data efforts, to correspond with the diversity of Sarasota County. And we recognize that there are others here in our community who are doing the same.
So the time has come for “Community Data 2.0.” It is time for us to come back together as a full community, to examine the ways we generate, gather, and exchange data in order to understand ourselves better as a community.
This spring, we will be convening the community across neighborhoods, across identity groups (including age, gender and race/ethnicity), across domains of interest / concern, and across sectors. We will be “rebooting” our community efforts with a “cross-scale, cross-sector” process to refresh our community indicators, and to develop processes and technologies to enable us to continually gather and exchange data with one another “every which way.” Between now and then, we will be initiating processes of inquiry, both in-person and in the virtual world, to help get the exploration going.
We call this process “forming a Sarasota County data collaborative.” We can’t wait to get on with it.
Is this something you care about too? Do you know of others who are devoting themselves to efforts along these lines? If so, we are very eager to hear from you, either in response to this post, or directly through Allison Pinto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are exciting times in Sarasota County. Stay tuned…