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Data Users Day at UCSUR–Launching Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles Website

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By: Sabina Deitrick, Pittsburgh Economic Quarterly (June 2015)
University of Pittsburgh/University Center for Social and Urban Research
Read the full publication here.

 

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On June 5, 2015, the Urban and Regional Analysis Program (URA) at UCSUR held its Annual Data Users’ conference at the University Club on the Pitt campus. 

This year marks the sixth year UCSUR has convened the data conference, bringing together users of neighborhood information and providers of data sources for an afternoon to discuss applications, compare analyses, and learn about new developments in data applications and development.

This year also marks the launch of a new website and information source–the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles (see PEQ December 2014).

The event began with Doni Crawford, Community Data and Policy Fellow at Neighborhood Allies. doniNeighborhood Allies is a community development organization, re-launched in 2014, and the local Southwestern Pennsylvania affiliate of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Both Neighborhood Allies and LISC have been supporters of or involved in UCSUR data user conferences in the past.

Doni presented the results of a Neighborhood Allies survey designed to understand and assess the use of neighborhood data, resources, and technical assistance, conducted in late 2014–early 2015. Eighty-one neighborhood organizations completed the survey, with half either a community development corporation or community-based organization. The remainder were social service or other nonprofit organizations.

Community information was widely used by organizations across a range of purposes, but, for most of these organizations, they’ve only been engaged in using community information for less than a year. Despite that, most Data Users Day at UCSUR–Launching Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles Website By Sabina Deitrick organizations rated their capacity and ability to use community information from moderate to high.

Survey respondents reported having the highest levels of expertise with the following data tools: spreadsheets, databases, qualitative data collection, and online survey tools. GIS (geographic information systems) and statistical analysis were the tools they rated as having the lowest levels of expertise in using.

And despite level of expertise with various tools, over one third of survey respondents reported that “lack of time” was the single most common constraint for the organization to use data effectively.

The results of the Neighborhood Allies survey are being incorporated into the new Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles outreach and training plans. UCSUR will meet with and train these community data users on the many applications available from the site.

UCSUR staff member Bob Gradeck then presented an overview of neighborhood indicators and how community organizations use indicators in their programs and operations. The session marked the transition at UCSUR from the data tool, the Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System (PNCIS), developed ten years ago, to more advanced data tools and projects, Southwestern Pennsylvania CommunityProfiles and UCSUR’s Regional Data Center, an open data hub currently under construction.

Liz Monk formally kicked off the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profilesliz monk site at the conference to the data users (https://profiles.ucsur.pitt.edu). The site is largely completed across eleven domains: Arts & Culture; Civic Vitality & Governance; Demographics, Economy; Education; Environment; Health; Housing and Properties; Human Services; Public Safety and Transportation. Each houses a variety of indicators discussed in the session.

Finally, users had a chance to play “Guess the Indicator,” presented in a set of six maps of different community information. Janine Jelks-Seale of the Highland Park Community Council was the winner, the only person to get all six indicators correct.

The latter half of the afternoon was turned over to group discussions of the SW PA Community Profiles domains and data use. Conference attendees met at roundtables to discuss domain indicators and make suggestions for additional information to be added to the site. Users provided UCSUR with many valuable suggestions and additions.

For those interested in learning more about Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles or to set up trainings, please contact Liz Monk at: monk.e@pitt.edu.
For those interested in the open data platform at the Regional Data Center, please contact Bob Gradeck at: rmg44@pitt.edu.

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