Connect- Engage- Inspire: Data as a community-building tool

Image Map LayersThe collection, study and sharing of data has always been core to SCOPE’s mission and a key approach to community building.  Mining data for valuable insight provides an objective way to understand the issues and opportunities of the community, forming the basis for SCOPE’s Annual Community Report Cards and other community building activities. While some may view data as “cold”, it is the realities behind the data that bring life to the numbers and create opportunities for deeper understanding and the potential to inspire positive change within the community.  Making data about the community available to the community, for the community, is the essence of the Community Data Platform now being developed by the Community Data Collaborative in partnership with the Washington D.C.-based Urban Institute. Recognizing that citizens play an essential role in working toward better communities, making vital demographic data available to the greater community is a game-changer in citizen empowerment. Even so, hard facts like voter registration, crime statistics or scholastic performance don’t tell the whole story. The other side to the story is the knowledge embedded within the people -close to the ground knowledge held by residents living their lives each day. This softer side of community data includes the observations, aspirations and backstories of the community that are simply not contained within agency databases.

This tremendous body of largely untapped citizen-based knowledge is the perfect complement to the robust agency data sets typically used to study our community.  The intersection of these two forms of data creates the opportunity for a powerful tool for a deeper understanding of the tapestry of our community. Leveraging this intersection is the goal of the Community Data Collaborative through the Community Data Platform. This new tool, being prepared now for public launch later this spring, provides a way to collect and store both hard and soft community data. By encouraging citizens to add data of their own, the community has a way to share an abundance of locally held knowledge. Using geography-based technology is simply a way to connect aspects of “people” and “place” in a meaningful way. Providing all of this information in a web-based platform will create not just a gateway to obtaining relevant community data – but also a gateway to empowering people as they seek positive community change.