Neighborhood Coalition Uses Data to Improve Conditions

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 26, 2011

The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) tracks data on services provided in city neighborhoods. These data have been useful in the efforts of The Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition, an umbrella group of neighborhood organizations, to advocate for better services in their community.

BNIA staff provided information to Coalition leaders about data available to measure on-the-ground conditions in the community. The Coalition tracked the number of service calls to the city’s Department of Public Works for problems with trash and abandoned cars. The calls provided a measure of both the conditions in the community and the level of citizen involvement in changing those conditions.

Having gained experience using BNIA data, the Coalition began to collect primary data on neighborhood conditions. The group developed a customized survey for measuring trash collection in the neighborhood. The organization distributed the survey forms to residents and groups, to document how effective trash pickup is and to identify property owners that are not adhering to rules about trash pickups.

The Coalition has presented these data to representatives of the Department of Public Works as evidence of the need for improvement in trash collection in the neighborhood. The Coalition is continuing to use these data to monitor conditions while they negotiate with the Department to develop solutions to this problem.

The Coalition has also used BNIA data in grant proposals and in strategic planning. "I don't have a large staff. So it’s been just fabulous to have some organization like BNIA keeping tabs on the numbers," says Carol Eshelman, Executive Director, Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition."It really helps us to track what’s going on." Carol has used BNIA’s web site to track indicators such as home sales, and number of days homes for sale are on the market. These indicators have been useful in their development of strategic neighborhood action plans, including advocating for the location of a new high school in their neighborhood.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

Peter Armstrong of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA), Jacob France Center, University of Baltimore, provided information for these cases. Carol Eshelman, Executive Director of the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition also provided information for story.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Peter Armstrong of BNIA and Carol Eshelman of the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance is the Baltimore partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network in 30 cities coordinated by the Urban Institute. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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