by Dana Loustalot Duncan
Post updated at 9 a.m. on July 31.
Dana Jackson and Jennie Jean Davidson believe that people make good decisions when provided with good information.
Jackson served as the executive director and Davison the deputy director of The Network Center for Community Change, commonly referred to as NC3, a Louisville nonprofit that described itself as “a movement to organize, mobilize, and advocate for an equal, fair, and just society” that touted 5,000 members who “live, work, worship in, or care about Louisville’s urban neighborhoods.”
Due to financial difficulties, NC3 ceased operations on July 11, but their work to create positive change for several Louisville neighborhoods may now be carried forward by others with help from a series of neighborhood data reports the organization leaves behind.
Each of the nine data reports focuses on a specific Louisville neighborhood and bring together a brief history of the area and data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census, Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator, and Jefferson County Public Schools, to provide a better understanding of the neighborhood and its residents.
The reports are available and will remain available, free of charge, at NC3’s Web site.
The first four reports were funded by Leadership Louisville and focused on the West Louisville neighborhoods of California, Park Hill, Portland, and Russell. The remaining five reports, covering the Algonquin, Chickasaw, Park DuValle, Parkland, and Shawnee neighborhoods, were funded by the Community Foundation of Louisville.
“There has been a lot of interest and buzz about west Louisville lately, “ said Dana Jackson, former executive director of NC3.
“What we heard in talking to people about west Louisville were a lot of ‘I think,’ ‘I feel,’ and ‘I wonder,’” said Jackson. “People needed a place to go for good information about west Louisville, especially information that can be understood strategically and that they could use to make good decisions.”
“Each of these neighborhoods is unique,” said Davidson.
She noted, for example, that while Park Hill is 41 percent industrial use, Shawnee has almost no industrial development and that the population of Russell is about 12 years younger than the overall average age of Metro residents.
“We have always believed using data to understand the context you’re working in and the impact you’re making,” said Davidson. “What do the numbers tell us about people’s lived experiences and myths?” she asked.
“This is not data for data’s sake,” said Jackson. “Every data point is a heartbeat.”
“Louisville’s appetite for data as a source of knowledge is growing,” she added.
Davidson noted the many other organizations in Louisville and Kentucky also providing critical data, such as Metropolitan Housing Coalition and Kentucky Youth Advocates.
By offering the data in easy to understand formats and for free, they hope the information will be accessed and used by people in the neighborhoods as well as business and community leaders seeking to understand the neighborhoods, the grassroots and grass tops, as Jackson described it.
“As a country, we’re grappling with this huge data ship,” said Davidson. “It’s a huge paradigm shift. The open data movement on the part of municipal government is really making available information that the public owns.”
Davidson said the information in the NC3 reports could be utilized in many ways, from grant and other funding applications, case-making for investors, and program development.
NC3 was developed from Making Connections, an Annie E. Casey Foundation program that operated in several communities, including Louisville, beginning in 2000. The Louisville group evolved into a separate nonprofit in 2005 and NC3 opened in 2007.
Jackson and Davidson continue to evolve and are currently in working to form a consultancy, Better Together Strategies, LLC. They say they will continue to focus on urban engagement and work on local and national projects.
“One reason we’ve stayed in Louisville is we feel we have something to give,” said Jackson. “It’s important to me that all boats rise in this tide that Louisville is in.”
“We all put so much into the network,” said Jackson, “it’s important that way of being continues.”
Jackson and Davidson both urged people to take a look at the reports and move beyond potential fears about being overwhelmed by the information.
“The thing I loved about data work is that it’s not wonky, I don’t have to be a ‘data person’ to engage with it and utilize it,” said Jackson.
“We would like to believe there will be an ongoing appetite for understanding conditions in neighborhoods in a different way,” said Davidson. She lauded Metro Louisville government’s efforts around collecting and utilizing data to better serve the community as well as the work of Louisville civic hackers.
“The open data movement has huge potential,” said Davidson. “It might not be immediately obvious to everyone, but it will bear fruit.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the predominant land uses for the Shawnee and Park Hill neighborhoods.