One challenge we often hear from social change practitioners, especially those working on collective impact issues, is around the lack of data available to show the well-known issues in their communities. Collecting, organizing, and reporting data can be difficult and time-consuming, but it’s a crucial piece to help groups identify goals, build support, and evaluate progress on an initiative or program.
That’s why we were excited to find the Distressed Communities Index from the Economic Innovation Group, a series of tools for visualizing demographic data broken down by zip codes, counties, congressional districts, or cities. The Index uses the following 7 metrics to determine the economic distress or prosperity of a given community, with data covering 99% of Americans:
- High School Degrees
- Housing Vacancy
- Adults not working
- Median income relative to state
- Change in employment
- Change in business establishments
We’re using the Distressed Community Index at FSG to provide greater context and points of comparison for many of the different communities in which we work. Here's one example from FSG senior consultant David Garfunkel:
“While the Distressed Community Index could be used in a number of different ways, we’ve found it particularly helpful when illustrating the Social Determinants of Health in our work. We know that community health outcomes are driven by many of the factors that the DCI measures (e.g., poverty, education), and this tool brings many of those most important factors together. It can also help to easily visualize disparities in outcomes that fall along geographic lines to help pinpoint where a group might focus its strategies—there are areas where we work on Staten Island, for example, where one zip code has a Distress Score of 83 out of 100, and the neighboring zip code has a Distress Score of 15 out of 100.”
What tools do you find most helpful in collecting and displaying data? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.