Strengthening Local Capacity for Data-Driven Decisionmaking

A report by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP): “A large share of public decisions that shape the fundamental character of American life are made at the local level; for example, decisions about controlling crime, maintaining housing quality, targeting social services, revitalizing low-income neighborhoods, allocating health care, and deploying early childhood programs. Enormous benefits would be gained if a much larger share of these decisions were based on sound data and analysis.
In the mid-1990s, a movement began to address the need for data for local decisionmaking.Civic leaders in several cities funded local groups to start assembling neighborhood and address-level data from multiple local agencies. For the first time, it became possible to track changing neighborhood conditions, using a variety of indicators, year by year between censuses. These new data intermediaries pledged to use their data in practical ways to support policymaking and community building and give priority to the interests of distressed neighborhoods. Their theme was “democratizing data,” which in practice meant making the data accessible to residents and community groups (Sawicki and Craig 1996).

The initial groups that took on this work formed the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) to further develop these capacities and spread them to other cities. By 2012, NNIP partners were established in 37 cities, and similar capacities were in development in a number of others. The Urban Institute (UI) serves as the secretariat for the network. This report documents a strategic planning process undertaken by NNIP in 2012 and early 2013. The network’s leadership and funders re-examined the NNIP model in the context of 15 years of local partner experiences and the dramatic changes in technology and policy approaches that have occurred over that period. The first three sections explain NNIP functions and institutional structures and examine the potential role for NNIP in advancing the community information field in today’s environment.”