April 1 marks, among other annual activities, the anniversary of the launch of the first weather satellite, TIROS-1. When it was turned on in 1960, people saw their first large-scale images of cloud patterns moving across the earth, including a typhoon near Australia. Since then, the weather forecasting and warning systems enabled by access and analysis of satellite imagery have saved millions of lives and billions of dollars.
That experience is just one illustration that the most impactful advances in technology and data, then and now, aren’t just about our changing capabilities, but are driven by the challenges society faces, the opportunities we prioritize, and the people we empower.
Therefore, here on earth, Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement Group is delighted to be partnering with the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) to enable work around expanding training on data and technology for enhancing communities. NNIP, coordinated by the Urban Institute, will undertake a project to explore what is known about community training on data and technology today and produce a guide and curriculum bank that can facilitate improvement and expansion of these programs nationally.
NNIP and Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement share many core values, including the perspective that technology and data are tools to improve community outcomes and the importance of building local capacity to use these levers. We believe this project fills an important need, focused as it is on training intended for audiences who work professionally or as civic activists to serve communities and improve neighborhood conditions, and could use data and technology to perform their tasks more efficiently, effectively, or inclusively.
There are many examples of these sorts of training efforts:
- The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Boston Indicators Project, and The Boston Foundation (NNIP partners in Boston), offer workshops on how to use data and technology including using Census data, data storytelling tools, and open source analytics – during their annual Data Day.
- Public Health-Seattle-King County, the NNIP partner in Seattle, provides training for nonprofits on how to support grant applications with regional data – including data available on the Communities Count and Community Health Indicators websites. They offer similar training to the agency staff who review the applications.
- The Chicago City Data Learnathon – a set of classes (targeted at city workers, but open to the public) to learn how to access, cleanse, analyze, and visualization and code to City Data.
- The NYC Civic Innovation Fellows – a curriculum and fellowship to empower NYC Community Boards to develop open data best practices appropriate for the local constituencies they serve.
The members in the 30 communities that participate in the NNIP network are great leaders and resources in helping residents and institutions use data to improve neighborhoods. Microsoft anticipates great insight and impact through the NNIP expertise, Urban’s leadership and analysis, and the input and examples of others on the front lines of defining and sharing how data and technology help governments, organizations, and individuals make their communities stronger.
Tags: Beta NYC, Boston, Boston Indicators Project, cambridge, Chicago City Data Learnathon, Communities Count, Community Health Indicators, MAPC, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Microsoft New England, Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement Group, National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, Neighborhood Indicators, New England, NNIP, NYC Civic Innovation Fellows, Public Health-Seattle-King County, Seattle, The Boston Foundation, TIROS-1, Urban Institute