Data analytics can help organizations discover how their programs impact communities, where those programs fall short and how to deliver better outcomes.

Every organization will have different challenges, restraints and goals. Learning how to maximize the insights provided by their data can improve efficiency and highlight any organizational or process-based roadblocks.

Affordable housing

A non profit developer for affordable housing has collected 15 years’ worth of data from their annual resident survey. The non profit wants to use their data to advocate for more  resources for additional affordable housing, but does not have the time or the staff capacity to analyze the data in a meaningful way. 

  • Organizing and cleaning data from multiple years and formats into a standardized database
  • Performing an exploratory data analysis (EDA) to examine tenant retention and income mobility
  • Comparing collected data to open source datasets, like the Census and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID)
  • The developer’s tenant retention rate is 5x higher than market rental units. 
  • Tenants who stayed in the same place for over 3 years showed growth in their income. 
  • Households with over 5 people were more likely to be involved in the resident’s association.

Affordable housing is key to generating individual and community wealth. Housing affordability allowed tenants to stay in the same neighborhood and form deep relationships, building their social and financial capital. Flexible units that can accommodate large and multigenerational households vastly benefit the development’s community because large households and long term tenants act as the keystone of the community, inviting more members and keeping everyone engaged.

City public health

The public health department of a small city wants to advocate for more parks in low income neighborhoods, in order to improve physical, mental, and environmental health of residents. They have access to 5 decades of data from the City ranging from individuals’ health, to districts’ air quality, to the amount of public expenditure on green space.

  • Extrapolating data from the City’s open data portal and socio-economic data from the census
  • GIS network analysis to measure and visualize how access to green space varies by neighbourhood
  • Linking and then analyzing neighbourhood data on access to green space relative to census data on income health outcomes
  • Maps show that households with incomes less than $30 000 are located, on average, a 25 minute walk away from a large park.
  • Childhood obesity is 25% more likely for children without access to parks. 
  • In the past 30 years, 60% of the City’s expenditure on green space benefited the top 5 wealthiest neighbourhoods.
  • Survey on daily activity shows the average person spends 90% of their day indoors.

Parks greatly improve the physical and mental health of city dwellers, while also benefiting the environment. People who can access a park within a 10 minute walk have lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Parks help people feel connected to nature, which has become a high priority for people since the pandemic. Environmental benefits of green space in the city include reduced urban heat island effect, improved air quality, groundwater reservation, and increased biodiversity. The City must invest more to provide quality greenspace, especially in low income neighborhoods.

Main street business improvement district (BID)

A major public transit project is being constructed on a main street in a historically Latino neighborhood. The construction will take at least 24 months and it will be disruptive to residents and businesses. The BID wants to use their data to gain public and political support to help keep small businesses open and residents in place during the LRT construction. 

  • Collecting and synthesizing data from the businesses (e.g. sales, employees)
  • Developing surveys for collecting data on how customers travel to and visit the main street
  • Analyzing collected data in reference to construction schedules to mitigate impacts
  • 35% of the small businesses owners are Latino/Hispanic and 12% are Asian. 
  • 70% of the businesses in the service sector have less than 10 employees.
  • 40% of the small business owners did not speak English as their first language.
  • Most businesses relied heavily on foot traffic for customers, rather than marketing.

While the LRT will bring public transit to the community in the long-run, it is important to acknowledge and mitigate the negative consequences of construction on business and residents in the present. Most small businesses on the main street have low capacity and are owned by non-native English speakers. Multilingual legal assistance will greatly help businesses to apply for disruption assistance programs and understand their rights and responsibilities during the construction period. The BID’s anti-displacement efforts, such as loans, clear signage, and legal support will greatly benefit the community.

Voter's advocacy group for affordable housing

A housing policy advocacy group is lobbying for voters and policymakers to take action on the housing crisis. The organization conducted surveys and interviews to study residents’ mindsets on the state’s current housing system and the role of the government. They want to use this data to create new strategies to convince voters with different views on affordable housing to take action, particularly pushing the narrative that housing is a human right.

  • Transcribing recorded interviews and coding data into different themes
  • Analyzing qualitative and quantitative survey data
  • Grouping voters with similar views on housing into typologies, based on their interview and survey responses
  • 30% of the study group believe that housing is a privilege, not a right. This demographic tends to be older than 60 years old, white, and homeowners.
  • 27% of the study group believe housing is a human right. This demographic tends to be 18-44 years old, renters, and have a University education.
  • Specific narratives should be constructed to target groups who have different views on affordable housing in order to yield positive results.

There are several types of mindsets that voters fall into when asked about their views on the housing crisis. In order to compel voters to take action to support affordable housing policies in the state, specific marketing strategies must be created to appeal to each of the mindset types. The organization uses positive narrative framing to move voters to support housing as a basic right, to support production of housing in their communities, and to increase their likelihood to take action in support of housing solutions.

Data Visualization Examples

Examining the Unintended Effects of Climate Change Mitigation

We made an interactive map showing where transit stations, bike lanes, parks, and other “green” investments were built in recent years in the Bay Area, Fresno, and Los Angeles. We also mapped new housing construction as well as migration rates of households at different income levels.

We created this map as a tool to help policymakers and advocates better understand the relationship between climate mitigation projects and neighborhood change.

Comparing the recovery of different downtowns post-COVID

We analyzed cell phone data and made charts comparing levels of activity in the downtowns of American and Canadian cities before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

We created this graph and others to highlight which cities’ downtowns have managed to recover from the pandemic, and which cities have struggled to attract people back to their urban centers.

Analyzing eviction trends in U.S. states

We made maps and plots like this one, which shows eviction cases by county from 2016 to 2022 in Minnesota, and included them in web pages illustrating eviction trends in states throughout the country.

We created these state “profiles” to reveal how many evictions occurred before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlight the impacts of policies like eviction moratoria on eviction levels. These visualizations also reveal spatial, racial and ethnic disparities in evictions.

Assessing the vulnerability of minority-owned businesses

We mapped the concentration of minority-owned businesses in the Bay Area and interviewed stakeholders, such as city governments and small business associations, about the challenges that these businesses are facing as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since cities do not systematically track their minority-owned businesses, we took on this project to demonstrate the possibility of a more sustainable data collection infrastructure, as well as recommend policies to support these businesses.

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