The beauty of the Coachella Valley, the resiliency of its people and its many resources, mask some of the struggles under the surface: nearly half of all its residents live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
A new partnership between local nonprofit Lift to Rise and the University of Southern California's Price Center for Social Innovation, will dig into publicly available data in search for answers that can help the community illuminate the issues and create solutions.
"The Coachella Valley is a suburban-rural place that contains lots of communities with legacies of economic struggle and discrimination," said Heather Vaikona, President and CEO of Lift To Rise. "It's really hard to render the unspeakable 'speakable' in a place like this, where the most dominant voices get heard but others are not."
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A new user-friendly data tool was created by Lift to Rise, utilizing the Price Center's Neighborhood Data for Social Change (NDSC) platform to provide residents in the Coachella Valley with the numbers needed to inform policy and advocate for a better quality of life within their communities.
The platform will use publicly-available data to illuminate trends, challenges and opportunities facing communities in the Coachella Valley, located in eastern Riverside County, across different policy areas down to the neighborhood level, census tract by census tract.
“The Price Center is proud to work with Lift To Rise to launch the Neighborhood Data for Social Change Coachella Valley,” said Gary Painter, Director of the Price Center for Social Innovation. “Accurate, timely data is an essential prerequisite to inform the collective impact work in the region, and the platform provides an important first step in developing and scaling interventions to combat inequity in the region.”
The data is compiled from the American Community Survey, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and California Department of Education, among others.
Vaikona explained that the data portal, free to use and available online, will cover ten different policy areas and dozens of variables to learn from. The data includes housing, real estate, income and employment, health, public safety, environment, transportation, education, food insecurity, demography and social connectedness.
Almost any social trend can be better understood using raw data, as well as complementary qualitative analysis because "data rarely tells the whole story," Vaikona added.
She offered some examples of issues that the new project will look at.
"In our health work we organize around childhood obesity," Vaikona said. "We used school data to learn that Hispanic children are twice as obese as white children in every Census track in the Valley, which counters the dominant narrative that the need is concentrated in the North or Northeast Valley."
The data suggested that obesity is tied to race and ethnicity and "it's not an issue of place." This evidence can be used to "build partnership for shared strategy and intervention," she added.
Another issue that Lift to Rise has been looking at is why African American and Latino kids have high rates of school expulsion. Previously available data only looked at it by school site.
"With this tool we were able to look at address data of three school districts to look at families in the places they live," she added. "In a place as large as the Coachella Valley this is extremely important."
According to USC's Price School, the platform NDSC helps tell the stories of neighborhoods through maps, charts, data analysis and storytelling. This latest project will generate data stories that provide insight into a wide range of policy matters within the 19 communities of the Coachella Valley, spotlighting the trends, challenges, and opportunities.
The idea for the Neighborhood Data for Social Change platform originated over five years ago, when nonprofits, incubators and research institutions convened to discuss the need for a data platform that is curated through a neighborhood lens.
The Sol Price Center for Social Innovation launched the tool late last year, to find innovative and sustainable solutions to issues in low-income, urban communities. The Center has partnered with Socrata, a software company, to build out the nuts and bolts of the platform.
KCETLink, the official media partner for NDSC, will publish NDSC data stories and community profiles under City Rising, a TV and web-based program that examines the cause and effect of social issues affecting communities across California.