A Collective Look at Data Here in Sarasota County

This month Debra Jacobs, who works for the Patterson Foundation (a philanthropy that is located here in Sarasota County), contacted SCOPE with a question.   An email had been posted on the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations list serve by Joann Ricci, the Vice President of the Greater New Orleans Foundation.  She was asking for examples of “communities who have had success in looking at data collectively.”  Debra Jacobs suggested that SCOPE might respond to this request with a description of community data efforts here in Sarasota County.  We are sharing our response to Ms. Ricci’s question below, as it might be helpful in providing clarification for fellow members of our local community too:


Ms. Ricci,

In Sarasota County, a Community Data Collaborative has formed to "reboot" a community indicators process that started here over a decade ago with traditional "Community Report Cards."  This local Collaborative is unique in that partners include residents and neighbor-groups as well as formal institutions right from the start.  The Collaborative is facilitated by SCOPE, a local non-profit community engagement organization, rather than a funder. 

The emphasis is on creating a "neighbor-centric" online community data platform that can illustrate patterns in community well-being at the block and neighborhood scales, as well as the city and county scales.  This is not yet the norm - it is more typical for data to be reported across zip codes, census tracts/block groups, or service catchment areas, which may be relevant to institutions but are not so reflective of how we live in relation to one another. 

A GIS platform is used to create layers of information, which a person can "click on" or "click off" to compare various aspects of local community well-being simultaneously.  Information includes not only demographics, community indicators, and performance data about programs, services and community-building efforts, but also a diversity of assets and neighbor-generated pictures, stories and videos. It will be updated "real-time" or as frequently as data are gathered.

In order to develop the platform, it is necessary to identify local data across sectors/agencies that are important to neighbors, and then to convert the data to be neighborhood-centric. This involves ongoing collaboration with "Resident Community Changemakers" (residents in various neighborhoods throughout Sarasota County who make a formal commitment to becoming actively involved in their neighborhoods as agents of transformative community change) and Data Stewards from a diversity of sectors.

In Sarasota County, we decided to build an online platform together as a way of figuring out what works, what we need most, and what we can do without in terms of community indicators, technology and process.  As the online platform becomes populated with local data and we are able to take it for test runs, we then will compare and contrast it with the platforms developed and used in other communities.  We are collaborating with the Urban Institute to create the neighbor-centric platform for Sarasota County, and we keep up with the latest inventions and discoveries of other communities through the Community Indicators Consortium, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, and the Open Indicators Consortium.  These are networks everyone might want to check out if you aren't familiar with them yet. 

Best wishes with the work you are doing in New Orleans!