New Website Consolidates Local Data; Calls for Action
June 4, 2018 – Ever wonder how many local children are still being exposed to lead? The sheer amount – 14.20% in Onondaga County – may surprise you. A new website launched by the Central New York Community Foundation aims to consolidate and analyze a variety of data points such as that one to monitor the community’s well-being over time. Using interactive visualizations, CNY Vitals (cnyvitals.org) tracks data points and monitors trends on issues related to the economy, housing, health, demographics, poverty and education in Onondaga, Madison, Cayuga, Cortland and Oswego counties. The statistics are pulled from a variety of sources including the US Census Bureau, US Department of Labor and New York State Education Department.
Each visualization is accompanied by an analysis explaining how the facts relate to residents and the region’s prosperity. Visitors can download the raw data for each indicator in a variety of formats or connect it to programs using live APIs. The visualizations can also be embedded in outside websites or shared on social media to spur discussion.
“Government data can be challenging to understand without context,” said Sam Edelstein, chief data officer for the City of Syracuse. “It’s exciting to see that CNY Vitals builds a narrative around this kind of information. From those of us who like to get their hands dirty with numbers and spreadsheets to those who want to see maps and charts already pre-built, CNY Vitals can help to satisfy the inquiries of residents and decision-makers alike.”
Visitors to CNY Vitals (Vitals) will find news announcements about local trends, stories from members of the community and ideas on how they can do their part. The Community Foundation states it would like to see these measurements used to prompt discussions amongst community members, leaders and organizations, help target resources and investments and monitor the impact of collective efforts – such as county-wide literacy programming – toward addressing challenges.
“Vitals was designed to be accessible and useful to everyone,” said Frank Ridzi, vice president, community investment at the Community Foundation. “We hope to see citizens and community leaders use the website to identify key needs and disparities to focus their charitable and volunteer efforts, better plan programs and policy, and focus on the residents most in need.”
The website also offers a specialized arm called CNY Vitals Pro, a more in-depth site designed for grant writers, researchers, community organizers and data professionals. It allows users to drill down into
statistics by county, town, city, zip code or census tract and compare them at the local, state or national level.
The site’s indicators were chosen by conferring with local leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors to decide which data points measured the important trends and issues affecting Central New York. Visitors will see such things as high school graduation rates, which neighborhoods have the most residents living below the poverty line, and where lead exposure among children is most prevalent.
While CNY Vitals is a fresh resource for the community, the Community Foundation states that local data have been a guiding element of its work for decades.
“We use data to spot regional trends and direct our funding priorities, said Peter Dunn, Community Foundation President & CEO. “Now, we are able to provide residents with access to the same consolidated data on key indicators so that we can measure progress and plan action together.”
In addition to CNY Vitals, the Community Foundation has supported the development of complementary websites in the past – such as HealtheCNY and DataCuse – that help nonprofit organizations and municipalities make their internal data public. In addition, its Performance Management Learning Community helps nonprofit agencies measure their impact in order to improve services and make them more competitive for new funding opportunities.
In the end, Ridzi hopes that residents visit CNY Vitals often to monitor the community’s progress and find resources to contribute to the cause.
“Behind the numbers are what our friends, family and neighbors are experiencing,” he said. “They reveal where we’ve grown and where we can do better, and bring to light opportunities for improving our quality of life. We hope people share this information with their friends and family, spark conversations at home and at work, and do their part to inspire community change.”
About the Central New York Community Foundation
Established in 1927, the Central New York Community Foundation encourages local philanthropy by supporting the growth of permanent charitable endowments for the betterment of the region. The Community Foundation is the largest charitable foundation in the region with assets of more than $226 million. It awarded $14 million in grants last year to nonprofit organizations. Since its inception, it has invested nearly $170 million in the community. The Community Foundation serves as the steward of charitable legacies for individuals, families and businesses through the administration of more than 700 funds. The organization also serves as a civic leader, convener and sponsor of special initiatives designed to strengthen local nonprofits and address the region’s most pressing challenges.