Partnering for Better Public Policy in Columbus

Report by Sara McTarnaghan
March 9, 2018

(Inactive) Thoughtwell   (Columbus)
Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)

Thoughtwell, a nonprofit research, evaluation, and data center based in Columbus, partners with its city and county governments to provide analysis to guide public decisionmaking and bring together allies on community issues. As one example, Thoughtwell conducted a detailed survey of conditions for more than two dozen large apartment complexes on the city’s north side. Linking data from a field survey, administrative records, and community meetings, the report gave a full picture of the properties and positioned the city to make informed decisions on planning and code enforcement. They also conducted needs assessments for children in the county, leading a collaboration of two county agencies, local philanthropy, and service providers. The findings informed stakeholders’ responses to legislative changes in reimbursement and targets for advocacy.

Thoughtwell and the governments of Columbus and Franklin County illustrate how investment in a long-term relationship can improve public programs and policies. The region is better prepared to answer questions about local challenges and opportunities because of the information and learning foundation established over two decades of partnership.

This case study is one of a series, including an overview brief, that demonstrate how local governments benefit from engaging with data intermediaries like Thoughtwell and other organizations in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership. To read the full series, visit