Thursday, November 12, 2009

More data platforms for philanthropy

(Photo by Andrew Roddewig, New Clarion Media,

Data are getting their moment in the sun. Data visualization (also known as infographics) like this unemployment map from The New York Times, may be part of the reason reading newspapers on the web can be so much more fun than reading them on paper. It may also be part of the business model solution for news sites, as people might just pay to see these data.
This CNN slide show offers some beautiful examples of how data can be the basis of art as well as science.

Two new data sources for philanthropy and public decision-making launched today - the beta test site for TRASI (Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact) and KidsData.

TRASI is the product of a partnership by McKinsey & Co's Social Sector Office and The Foundation Center. The database provides information on 150 different tools (questionnaires, interview protocols, scorecards, audits, surveys, certification protocols) for assessing impact. It can be searched and sorted in a variety of ways and users can suggest new tools. Each tool is classified by the organization that provided it, the costs of using it, what it assesses, and its intended purpose. The hosts welcome your feedback - go to TRASI now (tell them Lucy sent you), search it, share it, and help improve it. This is truly a public resource.

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health launched the KidsData site with information on children in all cities, school districts, and counties of the state. Currently, the site contains data on childrens' physical health, demographics, and family economics. More data will be added through 2010, including information on child safety, disabilities, emotional and behavioral health, education and child care. I'll admit, my first response to seeing the site was "How does it compare to KidsCount?" (KidsCount is perhaps the grandmother of all foundation-funded data sources for policy makers, nonprofits and funders. KidsCount is now in its 20th year of support from the Annie E Casey Foundation).

So how do they compare? Top level - KidsCount provides national data, KidsData is California specific. KidsCount, however, also allows you to search within counties and cities in a state, and for California it provides data on 17 indicators just within California - including data on foster care, dental care, children living in poverty, reading scores, obesity, tv watching, access to childcare, and health insurance access). Both sites make the data easy to understand and provide back up links to the original data sources.

KidsCount would provide a great case study of foundations, data, policy making, and infographics. What started as a printed book twenty years ago is now online and exportable, linkable, widgetable and interactive in almost every way the web lets us interact. Soon, we'll no doubt see mashups of KidsData, KidsCount and Google Maps (probably already exists), or subway map overlays like this one.

I just read about California Data Camp (which I wished I'd known about it in time to attend). This one-day event included folks from, MAPLight, SF Muni, and DataSF. Some of them came to make applications that use the SF data streams. Examples include EcoFinder, Routesy (which I use daily to find out if a bus will ever come), and MomMaps. Others came to share ideas for using data in journalism and other fields. The blog from includes a nice round up of tools to visualize data, excerpted here:

Development Seed

Twistory - combine your Twitter history with your calendar

IBM’s ManyEyes

Trendalyzer, a software for animation of statistics developed by a Swede, then acquired by Google


Finally, a reminder to keep your eyes on - which I've written about before and which is getting closer to releasing their nonprofit data scorecard. I become ever more convinced of the roles data will play as platforms for change.


Lucy Bernholz said...

Oops - I also should include the World Bank Data Visualizer. World Bank provides data through an API which is now being used by Google/Public data.

Anonymous said...

ust so you know….KidsData has been up for years (I even provided some of the content long ago). It started with San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, went to the Bay Area a while back, but just launched the statewide version. For a number of the counties, there are dozens of indicators in the 8 big topics. Very manipulable, mashable, sortable and you can drill and sort really deep -- I’ve used it to compare data by school district. One interesting extra is the public opinion info that’s included in it.

(sent to LB via email)

Margaret Egan said...

Just wanted to post David Armano as an amazing resource as someone who also is a gifted teacher about visualization of data.

Melinda said...

As someone who is pretty much totally spatially challenged, I celebrate the proliferation of these tools for visually displaying data. We know that data are more powerful this way, and yet it's hard for many nonprofits, without sophisticated graphics teams, to create and display helpful content. Thanks for the examples and for the focus on making data accessible, not just technically rigorous.

PS. I wish I had MomMaps here!