Taking residents on a data walk to democratize community research findings

Kinder Institute for Urban Research   (Houston)

April 2020

Through workshops, community feedback and an interactive data walk, a Houston Community Data Connections team empowered Third Ward community members and other stakeholders to use data from a multi-phase comprehensive needs assessment to pursue priorities in the neighborhood.

Since 2000, gentrification across Houston has accelerated. And, according to a Kinder Institute study, Third Ward has the highest probability of gentrifying of any neighborhood. Since the redevelopment of Emancipation Park in 2017, several community-based organizations have come together to prevent the displacement of current residents.

Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, in partnership with the Third Ward-based Sankofa Research Institute, conducted a multi-phase comprehensive needs assessment to support the development of data-driven strategies, policies and investments in the neighborhood. In particular, the research team adopted a community-based participatory approach and collected rich data about the strengths and struggles of the historic community in three phases.

After the completion of the survey, the Kinder Institute’s Houston Community Data Connections (HCDC) team joined the initiative to help facilitate the dissemination of the findings, build nonprofit organizations’ capacity to understand the data and empower community members to use data to advance community priorities. In pursuit of these goals, they gathered feedback and suggestions from community organizations and created an easy-to-access online tool to visualize shareable census tract-level data collected from phase 1 and phase 2 of the project. Specifically, the sample includes 1,277 heads of household living in the three census tracts north of Alabama Street.

On March 7, the Kinder Institute’s HCDC team, in partnership with Sankofa Research Institute, held a data workshop at Blackshear Elementary School in Third Ward to return the data to its true owners. They crafted an interactive Data Walk to better engage residents and stakeholders in dialogue around research findings about their own community. During the workshop, participants rotated through “stations” where data was displayed as charts, maps or in text to tell a story, which participants were asked to interpret, discuss and reflect on in small groups.