The Sol Price Center for Social Innovation recently launched a neighborhood data platform for Los Angeles County, which allows policymakers, nonprofit organizations and community members to access data to better understand the places where they work and live.
The Neighborhood Data for Social Change Platform is a public resource, and its creators’ main goal was to present accessible and interactive data for community users.
“What was clear from the beginning was that a lot of folks who need data don’t always know what kind of data to visit,” said Gary Painter, director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation. “There’s kind of data overload nowadays, so one of the things we didn’t want to do is an open data tech world where you just throw up lots of data hoping people can figure their way [themselves].”
To put the neighborhood data in context, the center has published data stories on the platform and on the website of KCETLink, the media sponsor.
“We will sometimes generate stories ourselves of what are coming up or interesting questions or puzzles that are issues that are emerging from the data here in L.A. County,” Painter said. “Sometimes there’s partners in the community that have a story to tell and we can contextualize that with the data.”
So far, four stories have been published, which speak to childhood health, the effect of pollution on health, demographic shifts and rising rent. The stories are being published under City Rising on KCET, a program focused on social issues across California, said Justin Cram, director of content development at KCETLink.
For some stories, writers contrast multiple sets of data to create a composite data set, which has brought about meaningful results, Cram said. In one particular story about Irwindale, Calif., health was found to not be as directly affected by the high level of pollution.
“That I think is really powerful, that you can take these multiple data sets and you can begin to find really interesting correlations,” Cram said. “This provides interesting resources both in terms [of] journalists as well as organizers and planners and different people that are working in the social space.”
In the future, these data stories are expected to be published every two weeks.
In 2018, the Sol Price Center plans to host community training workshops on how to use the platform. The workshops would most likely be hosted once a month at USC and in the community and be free and open to the public, said Megan Goulding, program manager for the Price School of Public Policy.
“The hope is that we’ll get a lot of stakeholders like government folks, nonprofit folks, advocacy groups and residents coming to these meetings to learn how to actually use these tools,” Goulding said.
The idea for a data platform first emerged a little over 20 years ago, Painter said, when it was suggested that metropolitan areas provide easily accessible data to allow for effective planning and assist nonprofits in understanding the populations they serve.
UCLA aided in the first platform of data analysis then, but the site went dormant five years later, Painter said.
Then, five years ago, Los Angeles County was approached by the Urban Institute, which coordinates the National Neighborhood Indicators partnership, to develop a new platform. The Sol Price Center took on the initiative.
“There is an interest in Los Angeles because it’s the second largest metropolitan area in the country,” Painter said. “It doesn’t make sense for L.A. to be absent from that network.”