Does your city have a robust data culture? San Antonio is building one.

Community Information Now (CI:Now)   (San Antonio)

2016 - 2018

In early 2016 a group of data professionals, along with numerous consumers of data from philanthropy, local governments, and nonprofits, came together to assess where the San Antonio region stood in their collective ability to use data to drive actions and decisions. They envisioned what local “data nirvana” would look like and talked about what it would take to get there. It would take a lot more than just access to data for the community to be good at using data: a high value was placed on using data to inform decisions and actions, data literacy, good data management practices, and help in using data, as well as a collaborative process to build that local capacity.

Out of this meeting the Alamo Regional Data Alliance (ARDA) was formed, putting the region at the forefront of the nation in mobilizing to build community data capacity. Over the year, an interim steering committee was organized and worked together to draft the vision, mission, guiding principles and governance model for ARDA. CI:Now, the NNIP partner in San Antonio, played an integral role in the formation of ARDA and staffed the interim committee’s efforts. As a local data intermediary CI:Now provides data, tools, analysis, and training to local government, nonprofits, and foundations to improve program and policy decisions.

In March 2017 the committee presented their plans to a convening of more than 65 data professionals, local leaders, and residents, who endorsed ARDA's vision to "improve the lives of people in our region by establishing and supporting a culture of data-driven action." To achieve this aspiration, ARDA’s mission is to "collectively support the Alamo Region in implementing and strengthening the policies and programs needed for data-driven decisions to be made throughout the community."

Now guided by an elected steering committee, ARDA has developed a Community Strategy to ensure that any network activities link back to the data-related needs of the Alamo region. Informed by stories of user needs accumulated over the past 18 months, four new work groups launched this month will tackle community engagement, data sharing (including open data), data training and use, and data ecosystem assessment. The Community Strategy is a living document and will evolve in response to community needs and lessons learned as the work groups develop and deploy their action plans.

CI:Now recently received a grant from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, a fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, to provide backbone support for ARDA’s work groups and steering committee. Through ARDA’s innovative structure, the previously siloed efforts to improve data collection and use can now begin to add up to more than the sum of their parts and move the region towards the vision of improving people’s lives.