Data You Can Use


Category: Community directed data

The 1st full calendar year of Data You Can Use!

Although our nonprofit status was officially granted in May of 2016, 2017 was the first full calendar year for Data You Can Use.  We’d like to share a timeline of our highlights with you.  These events, milestones and projects are just a sampling of the work we did and the partners we collaborated with last year.

January: Release of first set of Neighborhood Strategic Planning Area reports

Data portraits for nine Neighborhood Strategic Planning (NSP) Areas were released in January 2017.  The portraits were designed with input and involvement from NSP coordinators, in partnership with the Nonprofit Center.  The data included was useful for several purposes, including planning, organizing and fund development.  Since that release, similar portraits were requested by neighborhood- focused agencies and foundations.  Now our website hosts twenty-one reports that follow this community organizer-developed template.

From a CPTED training which included Amani residents. Photo credit: Cassandra Leopold.

February: BYRNE Grant

Community Based Crime Reduction (CBCR), formerly known as the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant, is intended to provide local governments with funding focused on community policing strategies and social cohesion. DYCU is the research partner on a grant awarded to the Milwaukee Police Department in the Amani neighborhood, with partners including: Amani United, COA, Community Advocates, DA’s Office, Dominican Center, Hepatha Church, LISC, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, Milwaukee Police Department, and Safe & Sound. DYCU helped residents co-create and administer a neighborhood survey.

March : What makes your neighborhood great?

Too often, people come into a neighborhood to fix an issue.  Failure to acknowledge that services, agencies, people and businesses already exist in the area can be a missed opportunity to build existing assets.  Matt Richardson and Carrie Koss Vallejo walked through an asset map with community members, and Katie Pritchard facilitated a discussion on ABCD or “Asset Based Community Development.”  In March, we posted blog on the event and a “Identifying Neighborhood Assets” tool to our website, updated with feedback from the neighborhood changemakers at this event, community organizers and volunteers.

April: Hyper local health data from the 500 Cities Project

For a neighborhood organizer who knows that asthma is a big deal in their area, looking at County and State numbers can seem daunting and irrelevant at the same time.  Finding small-scale data for neighborhoods is a challenge, especially for topics related to health.  The CDC, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and CDC Foundation collaborated on data for 27 indicators related to adult health for 500 Cities in the US at the census tract level.  We explored this data and shared it with partners throughout the Spring.  In April, we were discussing adding appendices to our neighborhood portraits and Katie was preparing to share this data set at our Data Day.

May: Data Day!  May 31st

Data Day is our signature event, when dataphiles connect to discuss all things data. We hosted 20 speakers, a Data Dream competition (congratulations again to winner ACTS Housing), and a discussion that lead to the founding of our Health data Users Group (HUG).  We experimented with a new format including IGNITE sessions.  For those not in the know, IGNITE presenters get 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. The result is a fast and fun presentation which lasts just 5 minutes.  IGNITEs will be back this year  – the sessions received Excellent and Good ratings from over 90% of our Data Day survey respondents! 

Save the date for the next Data Day coming up on Wednesday May 30th, 2018.

June: Project Central Voice

Over the summer, DYCU worked with a team of community researchers interviewing residents of central Milwaukee neighborhoods.  Residents of the 53206 ZIP code were trained to conduct the interviews, a twist on the normal research method! The intent was to look for residents’ perceptions of community organizing and its relationship to crime control. During the second phase of the project, the focus is on documenting existing agencies, leaders, and assets in Milwaukee’s African American community. Partners in this work include the NAACP, the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Deborah Blanks from UWM.

July: A new workspace and team member –

DYCU moved into the UWM Zilber School of Public Health.  Our offices within the school allow us to partner with staff and students and network with other agencies, including the Milwaukee Health Department (MHD), with whom we co-host Van Le, our LISC AmeriCorps Service Member.  


August: First HUG meeting!

From the first HUG meeting. Photo credit: Cassandra Leopold.

With a group of founding members, we successfully launched the first Health data User Group (HUG) meeting.  The founding group set forth some operating guidelines and proposed topics for future sessions.  The purpose is to bring together neighborhood groups, public health officials, health practitioners and academics to explore how health data can be used to improve neighborhood conditions.

September: Urban Institute recognizes DYCU as its official Milwaukee Partner

 After review by the Executive Committee and approval of its full membership, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP)welcomed DYCU as its newest member.  NNIP is a collaborative effort by the Urban Institute and local partners to further the development and use of neighborhood information systems in local policymaking and community building.  Our partnership with NNIP has provided an effective forum to share and receive new ideas from organizations across the country.  

Photo credit: Cassandra Leopold.

October: Turning the Corner project

Turning the Corner is a national cross-site project that DYCU is involved in through NNIP and the Urban Institute.  The project explores the post-recession housing market and looks for indicators of change, focusing on neighborhoods that have the potential to become unaffordable for current residents and businesses.  The neighborhoods identified in Milwaukee for this project are Brewers Hill and Walker’s Point.  In October, DYCU staff conducted a focus group and several interviews with residents of Walker’s Point.  Look forward to our report which will be released in July 2018.  The broader cross-site report is planned for release by NNIP in December 2018.

November: DASH Conference

Katie Pritchard and Bridget Clementi from Children’s Hospital, were invited by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) to participate in a special Summit on Health and Housing. This day-long program in Chicago preceded the Midwest Forum on Hospitals, Health Systems and Population Health. It was sponsored by ALL IN and brought together “health doers” who are using and sharing data to improve communities. Most projects are multi-sector, collaborative efforts. It’s a network of collaborations from across the country that provide technical assistance webinars, affinity group calls, one-on-one connections and an on-line community to connect with others in this work where few roadmaps are available. Our plans are to make these resources available to our Health data Users Group.  Let us know if you’re interested!  

Photo credit: Cassandra Leopold.

December: 30th St Corridor releases the Garden Homes Neighborhood Plan

DYCU promotes neighborhood-level data with agencies that have neighborhood level expertise, including the 30th Street Industrial Corridor.  In December, the Garden Homes Neighborhood Plan was launched, and we are excited to partner with this organization (and many others) which work to improve Milwaukee.

Baker’s dozen bonus project:         

On December 14th, the Community Development Alliance meeting took place at the Zilber School of Public Health. Katie facilitated a discussion on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Peer City Identification Tool.  We had the opportunity to do a deep-dive into the data with community members who are actively involved in revitalizing Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

New Data for Better Neighborhood Health

This Spring, Data You Can Use sponsored a session at the Zilber School of Public Health highlighting three new sources of data that can help promote healthy neighborhoods. Participants included representatives from health clinics, hospitals, community development corporations, neighborhood organizations, the City Health Department, faculty and students from UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin and United Way.  The slides from the session are available on our reports and presentations page.

The session introduced participants to each other, to new data sources, and the potential of using these resources to improve neighborhood health. It began with a quick quiz on the connection between health and wealth. Most participants were aware that:

  • people with lower income report poorer health (both physical and mental);
  • people with lower incomes have a higher risk of disease, and
  • people with lower incomes have a significantly shorter life expectancies.

Many attendees were surprised to learn that according to the research, promoting economic growth doesn’t always correspond to improved health. However, investments in improved health and nutrition are associated with improved productivity and economic development.The three datasets we presented can be used to further explore this connection. They include:

  1. CityHealth, from the deBeaumont Foundation which looks at policies that affect health;
  2. 500 Cities Project from the Center for Disease Control and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which provides health data at the census tract level; and
  3. the Milwaukee Community Data Base, a local portal for a range of data from a variety of sources.

CityHealth rates the 40 largest US cities on nine evidence-based policies that affect health.  It offers information on nine policies, by city and by policy. For example, evidence shows that health outcomes can be affected by paid sick leave laws, high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing/inclusionary zoning policies, alcohol sales control, Tobacco 21 policies, healthy food procurement policies and complete streets policies. Each city gets a rating and some earn a bronze, medal or gold depending on the policy. Milwaukee received medals in three of the nine categories, suggesting there is much to be done.

The group was interested in the “data deep dive.” For each policy, the site provides the full codebook, the data and, of most interest, the evidence. This is a great resource for assuring funders, board members, public officials, and most importantly, the residents in your neighborhood, that there is some evidence that the policy will make a difference.

500 Cities Data for Local Health

For dataphyles, this is an exciting new data set made available through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the CDC. For people who care about health and neighborhood conditions, this is a tool to better understand and address health disparities.

Although there is a growing understanding of the impact of place on , there has only been limited data available at the county and city levels. And we know that county and even city level data masks the disparities that are so important to address.

Now, for the first time ever, we can access the 500 Cities database and see the differences at the census tract level! There are 27 variables, reflecting unhealthy behaviors, health outcomes, and preventative measures. In Wisconsin, the data are available for Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton and Waukesha. Using reliable small area estimations, we can compare Milwaukee to the state and national numbers, and for neighborhood enthusiasts, we can now compare neighborhoods within Milwaukee.

In a hyper-segregated city like Milwaukee, we are accustomed to seeing highly clustered data. The 500 Cities data reveal some interesting differences that should be affecting the way we target our resources.  The MapBook for Milwaukee is available on our website and has each of the indicators mapped across the census tracts. For those who want to examine comparative areas, the actual data can be accessed and used interactively.

The Milwaukee Community Data Base is a portal to readily available data. The group explored how this could be used to identify housing built before 1951 and therefore more likely to have lead-based paint and/ or plumbing. Combining this with other available information could help identify local health needs and mobilize solutions. For a neighborhood group, the ability to match street addresses with both young children, and the threat of high blood lead levels, provides the ability to target education and water filter distribution.

What Participants Said

The “quickie critique” suggested that the session was well received.

  • I liked the variety of data sources covered.
  • I liked the introduction to new data sets that I will certainly be able to use in my work.
  • I really appreciate you all taking the time to share these tools.
  • I liked learning about and getting to play with the datasets, A very helpful resource—thank you!
  • There is a great cross section of health/neighborhood representation here!
  • I like that it was in the computer lab so I could look through the sites while learning about them.

Besides a suggestion to add wine to the session (it was a Friday afternoon after all), one recommendation that came from several attendees was to provide more examples of how the data could be used.

What’s Next?

At Data Day 2017 MKE last week, we posted the 500 Cities map for Milwaukee throughout the day and participants took a data walk, noting some patterns unlike our usual heatmaps. This group agreed: there is much to explore.

So… to get things started, we’ll be convening a group of interested stakeholders to form a “users group” to explore the use of health data at the neighborhood level.  If you’d like to join us, please contact before July 6th 2017 and we’ll find a time to get started!

Beautiful day in the neighborhoods


Photo credit: Milwaukee Christian Center

We are pleased to share three new neighborhood level data portraits. In addition to the many interesting facts within the reports, the background and development process of these reports is worth sharing.

In September, data portraits were released for  the City of Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Strategic Planning Areas.  Now the template has been adopted by a second set of neighborhood data users representing Amani, Metcalfe Park and, which are Milwaukee’s Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP) areas.  These reports highlight data chosen by community leaders, assembled by a data team, and now adopted by a second group of community organizers.  

It can be a real challenge to try to show  change in a neighborhood when the data can only be found at the city level.  With data assistance, however, these organizations can use datasets like the American Community Survey (ACS)  to inform their planning, and complement their  observations and neighborhood knowledge.  

To strengthen the partnership between those who need data and those who use data in Milwaukee, the Nonprofit Center convened a group of Neighborhood Strategic Planning Area (NSP) community organizers and worked with Data You Can Use staff, to develop a template of neighborhood data.  These community organizers provided critical input by:

  • Defining neighborhood boundaries, and
  • Prioritizing data for inclusion

The template began with standard data points recommended by the data team, including population by race and poverty status.  With input from the community organizers the template grew to include other data such as cost of rents and mortgages and the year housing units were built.  

The adoption of the report by a second group of community organizers is a sign that the reports were created thoughtfully and that the data are useful.  We at Data You Can Use will continue to collect feedback on what’s helpful to community builders and advocate for the use of data.  But it’s important to take a moment to celebrate this shared effort, and thank the community organizers and residents who have contributed their time and shared their priorities.

So, thank you to: Danell Cross, Sister Patricia Rogers, Pepper Ray and Juanita Valcercal for their insights and questions when creating these new neighborhood data portraits.

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