Partnering to Support Kids and Education in Detroit

The Skillman Foundation has been one of Data Driven Detroit’s (D3) most consistent funders and partners. Since helping found D3, their support has allowed D3 to undertake some of its most impactful projects, including the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey, Motor City Mapping, the State of the Detroit Child Report, and providing technical assistance around the Skillman Good Neighborhoods Initiative. In our continued effort to recognize all the support from our wonderful partners, we wanted to take a moment to recognize our most recent work with the Foundation that began in 2017.

State of the Detroit Child

This portion of the project helped us create the beta version of a data tool called State of the Detroit Child (SDC) which we developed in collaboration with NiJeL (a web development firm based in New York and long-time D3 partner) and became available to the public in March of this year. We’ve since continued to engage with stakeholders in the community to refine and advance the tool’s usability and maximize its utility for people whose work and passions it would benefit. This continued engagement included a user test performed by CUTGroup Detroit shortly after its public launch back in March.

SDC is adapted from the code of a tool called Census Reporter, a Knight News Challenge-funded project intended to make it easier for journalists to write stories using census information. We re-purposed the open-sources code and created a data tool with a focus on Detroit Children. Additionally (and thanks to NiJeL’s expertise), we’re also able to include data from sources other than the Census Bureau like D3’s Open Data Portal, thus allowing us to provide additional context about the state of children in Detroit.

Detroit Education Data Clearinghouse

There are many quirks to education data that can trip up even highly-experienced education data users (for example, the State of Michigan updates data files regularly, but doesn’t publicize when they’re doing it). Because of this, education data in Detroit (throughout the state, really) can be a challenge for many organizations. When organizations aren’t working from the same set of facts, it’s difficult to measure the impact of investments aiming to improving educational outcomes. In an effort to help remedy this fractured data landscape, D3 worked with colleagues from New Detroit to create documentation to standardize processes and knowledge for those looking to work with education data.

My Brother’s Keeper

My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is an initiative that was born of President Obama’s challenge to cities back in 2014 to provide greater opportunities for young men of color with the goal of altering the stigma surrounding their circumstance. This initiative has five goals:

  • All boys of color enter school cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally ready;
  • All boys of color are present, participating, and progressing in school;
  • All young men of color are prepared for career success;
  • All men of color are present, participating, and progressing in the new economy;
  • And all boys and men of color are supported in a community that is rapidly building capacity.

D3 supported this initiative by identifying possible data sources to help the initiative track progress toward key goals.

Inclusive Recovery Detroit

In December 2017 we wrapped up a project called Turning the Corner (TTC). The focus of TTC was to research new ways to monitor changes in neighborhood affordability and composition in closer-to-real-time, understand how people feel about it, and provide that information to people who can take real action. This multi-faceted project included both local and national components as well as a shared learning network comprised of the other cities participating in the national effort (all coordinated by the Urban Institute). With Skillman’s support, we were able to expand our communications and qualitative research, so our findings can reach farther into Detroit’s neighborhoods and represent the voices of more Detroit residents. You can also check out this interactive story map created by D3’s GIS Analyst that outlines our research findings.

Additional Projects

In addition to these initiatives, we also assisted the foundation in a few smaller research exercises:

  • Skillman was interested in generating opportunity youth estimates for smaller geographies (they’re currently only available at the city level) so we researched PUMS data to see if it was a potential data source to generate these finer-grain estimates.
  • In 2014, D3 created an interactive student dispersion tool that shows child population and where children go to school. This proved quickly to be a very powerful tool in conversations surrounding education in Detroit. Unfortunately, currently the data feeding the tool are out of date. In 2017, we researched potential avenues for an updated student dispersion analysis in the future.