USC Empowers SoCal Community with Quality of Life Data
Which datasets relate most strongly to quality of life and what happens when residents are given block-by-block access to them in one place? The University of Southern California (USC) has created a platform to explore that question.
The USC Price Center for Social Innovation recently launched the Neighborhood Data for Social Change (NDSC) platform, designed to provide residents of Los Angeles County neighborhoods with data that helps them advocate for a better quality of life within their communities. NDSC shares trends and challenges by way of interactive maps, charts, data analysis, and storytelling. The goal is for this free resource to inspire citizen engagement and improvements to local policies.
This site highlights 10 different policy areas, census tract by census tract. The data is largely socio-economic and covers housing and real estate, income and employment, health, public safety, environment, transportation, education, food insecurity, demography, and social connectedness. It is compiled from the American Community Survey, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, California Department of Education, among other administrative datasets.
USC Builds on Citizen Connect
USC partnered with Socrata to build the site using Socrata Citizen Connect, a mobile-friendly application designed to create a two-way information channel between municipalities and residents. It is interactive and flexible, allowing visitors to:
- Explore social, economic, and health data at the census tract, neighborhood, and city (regional) levels
- Select multiple census tracts to create their own neighborhood
- Automatically aggregate data across those multiple selections
- Compare data across neighborhoods or cities
Sharing Data Through Stories
Some of the most outstanding features of the NDSC site are its stories. With titles like “Rising Rent Burden in Los Angeles” and “Environment and Health in Irwindale,” they offer readers an immense amount of useful information that is interactive and compelling.
For example, visitors to the Irwindale story learn about terms like “pollution burden score” and see a chart showing that, although Irwindale suffers from higher pollution than most areas nearby, it has a much lower incidence of asthma among residents. The story page then goes on to explore reasons why, offering visitors even more data.
A Smart Approach – Five Years in the Making
The team at USC took their time preparing this website and, through their partnership with Socrata, created a tool with tremendous possibilities for researchers, policy makers, students, and other municipalities that want to do the same.
The following are five reasons I believe the USC team was so successful. They:
- Had a talented team including, postdoctoral researcher and Sol-Price graduate students who worked in close alignment with Socrata to support the data publishing process.
- Developed a detailed data inventory that included source systems, years available, and baseline quality of all the datasets to power the app.
- Used beta testing to help us refine requirements and deliver a solution that would be easy for people to use.
- Understood the importance of developing data stories to provide a detailed analysis of a particular neighborhood or trend in a narrative.
- Had a robust marketing and launch strategy which included bringing in a media partner to promote the site and data stories, connecting with local news organizations, and hosting a launch party to promote their new NDSC platform.