Celebrating 10 Years of D3

A decade is a long time! 2008 was the height of the Great Recession, the first election of President Obama, and the year Data Driven Detroit was founded (albeit under a different name).

Originally called the Detroit-Area Community Information System (or D-ACIS), D3 was incubated by City Connect Detroit (now Connect Detroit) with funding from The Skillman Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, later joined by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It’s been quite a road since then. In 2012, we became an affiliate of the Michigan Nonprofit Association.  In October 2015, we transitioned to a standalone Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C). As of now, we’re working towards developing an operating agreement to build the foundation for transitioning to an employee-owned cooperative.  For more on our history, visit here.

Our very first blog post said that we would “collect, analyze, and disseminate detailed information…” The goal? “…to help metro Detroit area stakeholders make coordinated, evidence-based planning, program, and policy decisions…”  Today our mission remains similar: “We collect, analyze, interpret, and share high-quality data to drive informed decision-making and increase data-driven outcomes.”

Over the last 10 years, more data has become available, our understanding of data has grown, and the sophistication of our tools has improved, but we have remained focused on that mission, providing accessible data to a wide variety of partners, the public, and anyone who seeks our assistance. In pursuit of that goal, we’ve worked on projects ranging from small neighborhood-based initiatives all the way to state and federal data projects.

Today, D3 works primarily in four areas: education, neighborhoods, business/workforce, and accessibility/outreach. Our projects span the entire state of Michigan, and sometimes beyond. As a celebration of our 10 years of providing data to Detroit, Southeast Michigan, and beyond, we wanted to share some highlights of our work over the years.

Since 2009, we have been members of the National Neighborhoods Indicators Partnership, a national network of “data nerds” like ourselves who strive to fulfill a similar purpose. Not only are we able to share best practices on a regular basis, but the network convenes regularly to learn more and forge working partnerships between member organizations (Check out some of our reflections from 2010, 2014, 2015, 2017). In 2017, we worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and NNIP to work with two organizations to help them build their capacity to serve their communities with data and accelerate the growth of the NNIP network.

D3 has been a partner on historic data projects related to neighborhoods and housing, starting in 2009 with the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey and continuing in 2014 with Motor City Mapping, which contributed to the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force’s plan. You can learn more about all the insights that came from our city-wide parcel surveys through the City of Change blog series. D3 provides Detroit and the region with analysis and insights related to housing topics like construction trends, vacancy rates, and home values. We recently published an online portal with much of the housing information, tools, and datasets we currently have. For example, you can access the Neighborhood Typology Tool, which helps us understand the potential for change in Detroit neighborhoods.  This past year, we expanded the typology concept into Turning the Corner to help communities better understand neighborhood change with support from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. We’ve also explored topics deeply rooted in neighborhoods like poverty, food insecurity, and internet access’ impact on Census participation.

We’ve had a strong focus on education since the beginning, focusing not just on school outcomes, but also on the many factors that contribute to educational success like healthy births and student dispersion.  We’ve explored student enrollment and MEAP scores in the tri-county area.  Our student dispersion research and tool was released in 2015 visualizing where Detroit students live compared to where they go to school. We conducted in-depth research into Michigan’s birth records resulting in a 3 part blog series. Over the last few years, we participated in the Hope Starts Here initiative, publishing an online portal of early childhood data and information with the support of the Kresge Foundation. Recently, we illustrated the challenges of navigating Michigan school data as a parent. Building on the 2012 report, we launched the beta version of State of the Detroit Child tool this year with the generous support of The Skillman Foundation.

In terms of workforce and business data, D3 has explored a variety of topics like immigration, unemployment statistics, teen employment, and commuting patterns. We’ve also used OnTheMap to analyze Metro Detroit’s job sprawl. The Turning the Corner online tool helps community members identify active business areas based on an index that incorporates density and vacancy.  We’re also currently working to support Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation to build up the creative industry in Detroit and support inclusive design.

D3 has remained committed to our mission of providing accessible data for informed decision making. Accessibility and outreach are overarching themes in all of our work. They are the values that drive us to create online data resources like State of the Detroit Child or the Housing Data Portal. Accessibility is more than that though, and that’s why over our history we’ve engaged in conversations about data usage around the world. Whether through the NNIP network, local data workshops, German PhD students, or Israeli high school students, We are committed to speaking about data accessibility and analysis and advocating for data driven decision making. Our AskD3 program provides answers to thousands of community members’ data questions with 2 free hours of work. In partnership with Microsoft, we also steward the Detroit Civic User Testing Group, a network devoted to ensuring Detroiters can provide feedback on the apps and websites created to serve them.

So what’s next?

As we pursue these lofty goals of smart data use and consumption, we’re looking forward to continuing to facilitate progress towards the Metro Detroit Data Alliance. Recently we kicked off another test case related to opportunity youth, which crosses all four of our buckets of work: business/workforce, neighborhoods, education, and accessibility.  We’re also working to expand our workshop offerings and exploring other outreach initiatives, making it easier for organizations across Southeast Michigan to use data every day.

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community for the last decade and are so excited to see where the next 10 years lead us.