Blog Archive

May 2014

2014 National Day of Civic Hacking

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The nation-wide movement toward public data transparency and democratization is continuing to gain support.  As cities including Portland, Chicago, New York, Louisville, Ann Arbor and others are embracing Open Data in government by creating web sites for citizens to easily view and download data, the potential for developing useful applications driven by these data is also growing.

On May 31 and June 1, participants in the second annual National Day of Civic Hacking will gather across the country and beyond to leverage new data sets from local and federal agencies in order to create impactful, technology-based tools and services.

The civic hacking initiative aims to illustrate the power of open government, particularly where data is available to support meaningful collaboration between the public and private sectors, and demonstrate how citizens can improve their local communities with data and technology. The promotion of transparency, participation and collaboration is a cause very close to our mission here at Data Driven Detroit.

Detroit’s participation in the National Day of Civic Hacking this year includes local events at The M@dison Building, 1555 Broadway. Data in Detroit, from 2 to 4 p.m., will bring together civic data practitioners in a high-speed presentation format. In six minutes and 40 seconds, each presenter will give an all-filler rundown of their work. Detroit Startup Drinks, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., is a regular monthly meet-up with Code for Detroit. The Open Data Edition will focus on open data challenges facing Detroit, including datasets that could be used to improve communities, and datasets that government entities should open.

For more information about the initiative, visit The National Day of Civic Hacking.  For open datasets provided by Data Driven Detroit, visit our recently launched Open Data Site.

We would love to hear if you plan on participating, and what’s on your data wish list. Please take a moment to let us know in the comments!

  1. What data do you want to access in order to better perform your work?
  2. What form would you like that data to take – spreadsheets, APIs, other spatial or visual representations?
  3. How would you prefer to access that data – Internet, mobile app, or other published form?

 

Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Releases Blight Plan and Recommendations Today

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Data Driven Detroit (D3), an affiliate of Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), is excited to participate in the release of the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force’s final report, “Every Neighborhood Has a Future…And It Doesn’t Include Blight.”

Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Co-Chairs

  • Glenda Price, President of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation
  • Linda Smith, Executive Director of U-SNAP-BAC
  • Dan Gilbert, Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures

Eight months ago, the Task Force sought to develop a straightforward and detailed implementation plan to address every blighted structure and vacant lot in the city of Detroit. The three co-chairs organized a team of experts from all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the foundation community to provide insight on the topic of blight elimination.

The report uses the data collected from the Motor City Mapping project as a foundation to understand the city’s landscape and create informed recommendations.

As you flip through the pages of the report, you’ll find detailed descriptions and recommendations on how to:

  • Define the overall scope of blight in Detroit;
  • Focus efforts for greatest geographic impact;
  • Choose the appropriate intervention on a structure-by-structure basis;
  • Conduct blight elimination in a way that’s sensitive to environmental and public health factors;
  • Institute policy reform that will proactively address future blight; and
  • Fund blight elimination initiatives across the city.

What is Motor City Mapping?

Motor City Mapping Funders

  • Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA)
  • Skillman Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation

The Motor City Mapping project was a groundbreaking effort to survey each of the 380,000 parcels in the city of Detroit, implemented by D3, MNA, LOVELAND Technologies, the Quicken Loans family of companies, and a dedicated team of 200 resident surveyors and drivers. For every property, the survey identified condition, occupancy, and use, providing the information necessary to understand the challenge of blight on both a micro and macro scale.

The data from the survey, as well as data from over 20 additional third-party datasets, together created a detailed description of every property in the city.

The survey built on the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS), completed in 2009 by D3, in partnership with Community Legal Resources (now Michigan Community Resources), the University of Michigan, and the Detroit Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Response. The DRPS evaluated condition and occupancy for 350,000 residential parcels in Detroit, focusing on single-family homes, duplexes, multi-family structures up to four units, and vacant lots in residential areas.

How We Improved On DRPS

DRPS was an unprecedented effort for Detroit, and the impacts were enormous. Since 2009, the data were a cornerstone of almost every planning process in the city, on both a block and citywide level.

However, as many in Detroit can attest, the landscape in the city has changed in those five years. When given the opportunity by the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force to update the data, D3 used their expertise to improve the process.

The Technology

In 2009, every record was written with paper and pencil, which an analyst then entered into a database. With support from LOVELAND, the team implemented the most significant process improvement – technology. Rock Ventures donated 200 tablets to the project that came pre-loaded with LOVELAND’s “Blexting” app (“Blight” plus “texting”), enabling the surveyors to evaluate properties with ease. LOVELAND also created an online interface that displayed data records coming in from the field in real time. D3’s quality control associates used this interface to review the records for accuracy and provide feedback to surveyors on how to improve their work when capturing future data.

The Method: Resident Surveyors

With Michigan Nonprofit Association’s experience in community engagement and capacity-building, the project hired over 120 resident surveyors, leveraging a relationship with the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation.

What started as a simple survey turned into much more – community engagement, education, and buy-in for residents in the neighborhoods. The people who participated in the survey will keep the data alive once it goes public, telling their neighbors and friends about the process and encouraging people to get involved.

What’s a parcel?
In real estate terms, a parcel is a plot or tract of land.
What is blight?
Generally, blight refers to abandoned structures within an urban area. The Blight Removal Task Force includes a more specific definition of blight in their report.Access the report here.

The Data
To provide a more comprehensive picture of property in the city, D3 integrated over 20 additional datasets to create the most comprehensive property database ever produced for Detroit. These datasets include historic designation and eligibility, ownership, current and future land use from Detroit Future City, tax delinquency, and foreclosure status, among many others.

Next Steps

In the spirit of open data, all of the survey data are available for download on the project’s website, http://www.motorcitymapping.org. Check back to the project website as we make more data available for display and for download.

Everyone at D3 is looking forward to the implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. We are committed to making this information accessible to all and hope to serve as a resource for those interested in bringing about change.

For more information on the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force and their report, go to http://www.timetoendblight.com/.

To visit the Motor City Mapping project website, go to http://www.motorcitymapping.org.

For more information on Data Driven Detroit, go to http://www.datadrivendetroit.org.

2014 One D Scorecard Launches Today

2014 One D Scorecard Launches Today

Several years ago, One D began as an effort to bring together parallel research and resources aimed at facilitating and evaluating regional development in Southeast Michigan.  Although One D disbanded in 2011, D3 continues to be a steward of the One D Scorecard – first crafted by One D partners as a comprehensive blueprint for moving our region – metropolitan Detroit – forward.

Today, D3 is launching the 2014 One D Scorecard.  Our newest iteration implements exciting changes in user experience, while building on the Scorecard’s original mission to increase access to key information, inform civic dialogue, and track progress on shared regional goals.  We’ve thoughtfully curated new indicators, analyzed them using the “One D Index,” and designed a Scorecard that is powered by interactive data visualizations.

The Scorecard measures metro Detroit’s performance in comparison to over 50 metropolitan regions throughout the U.S. across five priority areas: Economic Prosperity, Educational Preparedness, Quality of Life, Social Equity, and Regional Transit.  This year, we’ve created the One D Index to roll up over 30 outcome-based indicators into a single comprehensive score to better understand how metro Detroit stacks up across priority areas and other regions overall.

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Among its many new features, the 2014 One D Scorecard uses interactive data visuals to learn about our region.  For example, we find that our region – metro Detroit – scores higher on the Social Equity Index than on any of the other four priority area indices in 2011.  Using the bar chart, we unpack the index and individually explore the indicators that drive the Social Equity priority area.  There, we see that metro Detroit leads all other regions included in the Scorecard in “percent of owner-occupied housing” for Hispanics and ranks second in the same category for White households; therefore, positively boosting our overall Social Equity Index score.  And this is only one short chapter of the many data stories to be discovered!

Moreover, the 2014 One D Scorecard is now home to the Kirwan Institute’s Southeast Michigan Regional Opportunity Index mapping initiative, through the One Detroit Portal.  While the Scorecard reports on and across regions, the Portal is a unique data deep-dive into Southeast Michigan to explore complementary census tract level indicators that illustrate the diversity within and among the cities that make up metro Detroit.

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Why is D3’s Director, Erica Raleigh, excited about the 2014 One D Scorecard? 

“Regional thinking is critical,” says Erica. “Understanding how we compare to other regions can lead to localized action, and integrating the Opportunity Index and the One D Scorecard allows just that – we can see exactly where we need to foster greater opportunity within metro Detroit.”

Start exploring at onedscorecard.datadrivendetroit.org and let us know how you’re using this data to drive regional decision-making!  Share feedback or questions by commenting or contacting us through AskD3, with subject line “One D Scorecard.”

D3 thanks the New Economy Initiative, Kresge Foundation, and Bosch Community Fund for their generous support of the Scorecard, as well as our research and development partners, the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University and NiJeL.

A Data Driven Story: Empowering Detroit’s Youth

This post is the next in a series of profiles of partner organizations using data from Data Driven Detroit to successfully support their work.

A shortage of safe and reliable public transportation presents a huge roadblock for many Detroit residents, especially children interested in participating in after-school and summer programs. The Youth Transit Alliance, funded by The Skillman Foundation, uses data to help them overcome this challenge.

A partnership between the Detroit Bus Company (DBC) and area youth groups, the Youth Transit Alliance, was first conceived in 2012. Chris Uhl, Vice President, Social Innovation of The Skillman Foundation approached the bus company when other transportation options for youth were proving unreliable. Launched a year earlier to provide Detroit residents with more transportation options, DBC was an ideal candidate to begin addressing youth transportation needs. Uhl asked DBC to launch a pilot program in Southwest Detroit in the summer of 2013.

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Student boarding a bus to her after-school program.
Photo Used Courtesy of The Detroit Bus Company; Photo Credit: Vanessa Miller

Uhl based his initial proposal on data collected from the Congress of Communities in Southwest Detroit and a Systems of Supports and Opportunities (SOSO) survey, conducted by Brandeis University in 2010 and again in 2012 by Data Driven Detroit (D3). Both data sets included youth program locations, schedules and enrollment information, as well as the number of students in need of special accommodations (such as wheelchair-accessible busses). D3 mapped these program locations, which provided a starting place for community planning. However, because program offerings and enrollment would change each semester and again in the summer, new program periods would require new surveys. Daniel Brooks, Director of Transit Planning at DBC began making phone calls, asking questions to understand exactly how many children were participating in which programs, where they were coming from and where they needed to return.

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Driver escorts children to bus heading to an after-school program.
Photo Used Courtesy of The Detroit Bus Company; Photo Credit: Vanessa Miller

Understanding the value of maintaining connections, Brooks regularly spoke with program staff and parents. He surveyed children to determine the safest pick-up and drop-off locations, based on their knowledge of school, program and home areas. Brooks continued recording data, counting every rider as they stepped onto and off of a bus at each location.

While this information is certainly important, Brooks eventually realized he wasn’t measuring the outcomes he wanted to change. A successful youth program wasn’t simply counting the number of children being served. To truly address youth transportation issues, the community needed to identify the children who were not attending afterschool or summer programs due to a lack of transportation. Finding these children will be an important next step to understanding how to eliminate transportation roadblocks and provide these children with a broader range of enriching opportunities. The Youth Transit Alliance served thousands of riders in its first summer and fall and continues to expand from its initial focus in Southwest Detroit.

Meet the D3 Staff: Diana Flora

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This Q&A is the sixth in a series of profiles of Data Driven Detroit staff members.

Diana Flora comes to Data Driven Detroit as a Detroit Revitalization Fellow, but was introduced to D3 years ago through former D3 staff and classmates. Since joining the D3 team, Diana has been the D3 lead on the Motor City Mapping project, which began as a pilot in the Brightmoor neighborhood. She is also involved in a number of other D3 projects, including our work with UIX and the One D Scorecard. Outside of work, she is a member of the Center for Progressive Leadership Alumni Committee and enjoys spending her down time with her one year old nephew, Isaac, and experimenting in the kitchen.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Bay City, MI and grew up in a tiny 1.4 square-mile town called Essexville. 2010 population: 3,446.

Where did you go to school?
I have three degrees from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!).

What is your degree in? Why did you choose your degree?
I have a BA in Spanish and Anthropology, a Master of Public Policy (MPP), and a Master of Urban Planning (MUP). I chose the dual Masters because of how well they complemented each other – urban planners often think about problems and their solutions from a historical and spatial perspective, while policy wonks can be strategic and analytical. I fit somewhere in the middle.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us? 
After immigrating from Italy, my great-grandpa started a business here in Michigan that my family continues to own and operate, four generations later. What started as a grocery store is now a small chain of restaurants in mid-Michigan.

What is your history with Detroit?
Before moving here in January 2009, I visited Detroit a grand total of three times (two concerts and a class trip to the DIA). I read Origins of the Urban Crisis by Thomas Sugrue in college and started to pay more attention to what was happening in Detroit. After volunteering as a tutor, a researcher, and an organizer for countless of hours in the city, I finally decided to move to the city through a UM program called Semester in Detroit. The rest is history.

What did you do before working at D3?
When I first moved to Detroit, I was an intern for State Representative Rashida Tlaib. After graduating and completing an AmeriCorps year at Gleaners Community Food Bank, I worked again with Representative Tlaib as her Campaign Manager in 2010. I decided to go back to grad school for my MPP/MUP, and as a grad student, I had the opportunity to work with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and Mayor Dave Bing as a Bohnett Foundation Public Service Fellow.

What do you like about working at D3? How do you think the work you are doing benefits the city/region?
The people! I’ve been with D3 for almost a year, but already I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people who are doing incredible work in this city. I’m including D3 staff in that group as well; there’s a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm here that is inspiring.

What is your favorite D3 map or data visualization? I’m a big fan of our City Council District interactive tool, which displays a number of different variables over the new City Council districts. The tool gets people thinking about how to represent assets and challenges with political boundaries in mind, with the intent of holding our elected officials accountable for the community they represent.

What is your favorite type of data?
Spatial data. Being able to visualize the distribution of information across space – whether you’re looking at demographics or socioeconomic, environmental or housing data – reveals valuable insight into where we live, work and play.

Who or what inspired you to take the path to Detroit, data or both?
I was drawn (and continue to be drawn) to Detroit by its history, the people that I’ve met over the years and the incredible energy I’ve felt when spending time here. After I graduated from college, I wanted to be a community organizer, specifically in Detroit. In my first year, I quickly learned after meeting an amazing set of community leaders that being an organizer was not my skill set. As I watched people who were extremely effective at being representative voices for their community, I wondered what my role was. I went back to grad school to figure that out, discovering that I was pretty good at analysis, strategy and making data meaningful to people. Now that I’m back in Detroit, I couldn’t have asked for a better fit than D3.

Data Driven Detroit’s New Open Data Distribution Site

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Data Driven Detroit’s mission to provide accessible high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making just got a little more high-tech. This week, ESRI rolled out a new platform that allows customers to more easily distribute geographic data to the public. D3 has been an avid user of ESRI products like ArcGIS and their ArcGIS Online platform since we were founded. As a pre-release partner of ESRI’s Open Data project, D3 is working to build the back-end infrastructure to house the data, as well as our own Data Driven Detroit Open Data website for anyone to use. With this week’s beta release, we are now happy to share the fruits of this labor with the public.

While it is still in its infancy, this platform is part of a group of online tools that Data Driven Detroit is developing to help make data widely accessible in a reliable, convenient, and timely manner.  With just a few clicks, users can search for and download available data in several different common formats for use in GIS and spreadsheet applications. Additionally, all of the data provided on the site are available through an API for integration with third party applications. This is just one more step for D3 in making data more accessible for community stakeholders, researchers, journalists, technologists, and government agencies.

Take our new tool for a spin and tell us what you think! Be sure to revisit the site periodically, we will be expanding the collection of data available throughout the beta period and beyond. We welcome your feedback, please send any comments or questions to AskD3@datadrivendetroit.org.