Harnessing the Power of Open Data for Children and Families

Article by Kathryn L.S. Pettit and Rob Pitingolo: “Child advocacy organizations, such as members of the KIDS COUNT network, have proven the value of using data to advocate for policies and programs to improve the lives of children and families. These organizations use data to educate policymakers and the public about how children are faring in their communities. They understand the importance of high-quality information for policy and decisionmaking. And in the past decade, many state governments have embraced the open data movement. Their data portals promote government transparency and increase data access for a wide range of users inside and outside government.

At the request of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which funds the KIDS COUNT network, the authors conducted research to explore how these state data efforts could bring greater benefits to local communities. Interviews with child advocates and open data providers confirmed the opportunity for child advocacy organizations and state governments to leverage open data to improve the lives of children and families. But accomplishing this goal will require new practices on both sides.

This brief first describes the current state of practice for child advocates using data and for state governments publishing open data. It then provides suggestions for what it would take from both sides to increase the use of open data to improve the lives of children and families. Child and family advocates will find five action steps in section 2. These steps encourage them to assess their data needs, build relationships with state data managers, and advocate for new data and preservation of existing data.
State agency staff will find five action steps in section 3. These steps describe how staff can engage diverse stakeholders, including agency staff beyond typical “data people” and data users outside government. Although this brief focuses on state-level institutions, local advocates an governments will find these lessons relevant. In fact, many of the lessons and best practices are based on pioneering efforts at the local level….(More)”.