About Us:

Data Driven Detroit (D3) provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive decision-making that strengthens communities in Southeast Michigan.

2014 Open Data Day

On February 22, participants in the second annual International Open Data Hackathon will gather around the globe to liberate, analyze and publish data in order to “show support for and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments.”  (For more information, please visit opendataday.org.)

While there isn’t an organized Hackathon in Detroit, the democratization of data is very close to our mission here at D3. It increases government transparency and accountability, and can be a powerful tool in solving important civic problems. For example, we partnered with the City of Detroit Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) in 2013 to open demolition permit data. This effort allowed us to create an interactive mapping platform, which not only increased accessibility, but also opened communication channels with residents.

Governments are legally required to provide a variety of information to citizens, but all too often it is released in formats that are of little use to those who would benefit from it most. Analyzing data scraped from multiple sources and making them presentable requires a lot of time and knowledge about these sources. Therefore, Open Data Day is really about accessibility, persuading governments to release data through platforms that are useful to multiple constituencies. One great example we’ve seen recently is the new Census Bureau API.

Leave us a comment letting us know whether you plan on participating in Open Data Day, and what is on your data wish list.

  1. What data do you want to access in order to better perform your work?
  2. What form would you like that data to take – spreadsheets, APIs, other spatial or visual representations?
  3. How would you prefer to access that data – Internet mobile app, or other published form?

Thank you for participating!

Please check back next week for more information about what’s happening at Data Driven Detroit.

A Data Driven Story: TechTown’s SWOT City

This is the first in a series of profiles of partner organizations using data from Data Driven Detroit to successfully support their work. 

Detroit’s neighborhoods have long struggled in the face of declining population and growing epidemics of vacancy and blight, and few areas have been as hard-hit as the Brightmoor community, located on Detroit’s far west side. Between 2000 and 2010, this portion of the city lost more than a third of its population, and the housing vacancy rate doubled to nearly 30 percent. Nevertheless, Brightmoor remains home to an active core of passionate, committed residents and community development organizations who work tirelessly to improve the condition of the struggling area. Through effective advocacy and promotion, stakeholders in Brightmoor ensure that the neighborhood continues to be a fixture in Detroit’s long-term planning discussions. As a result of the community’s work, many funders and outside programs are looking to Brightmoor future initiatives. This is the story of one such program—TechTown’s SWOT City—and how they used data to inform their activities and improve the Brightmoor community.


Old Redford Business District.
Photo Used Courtesy of TechTown and Dave Lewinski Photography.

In 2011, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation approached Data Driven Detroit to develop a baseline profile of the Brightmoor neighborhood that could be used to direct the foundation’s continuing efforts to support early childhood education. Out of this partnership, the Brightmoor Community Needs Assessment (BCNA) was born, providing an in-depth account of neighborhood conditions compared to the adjacent community of Cody Rouge and the City of Detroit as a whole. The report examines demographic, socioeconomic and housing indicators; includes an inventory of community assets in both Brightmoor and Cody Rouge; and assesses existing programs for children ages 0 to 5. Though the BCNA was initially written primarily to guide policy for the Fisher Foundation, the broad focus of the report ensures its relevance for any individual or group looking to learn more about the landscape in Brightmoor.

A look inside Sweet Potato Sensations, a SWOT City entrepreneur. Photo Used Courtesy of TechTown and Dave Lewinski Photography.

A look inside Sweet Potato Sensations, a SWOT City entrepreneur.
Photo Used Courtesy of TechTown and Dave Lewinski Photography.

Several months after D3 delivered the report, SWOT City—a TechTown program dedicated to providing entrepreneurial assistance in Detroit’s outer neighborhoods—received a $150,000 grant from the Fisher Foundation to provide business incubation services in Brightmoor. Working with students at the University of Windsor, SWOT City set out to provide data analysis, strategic consulting services, and accounting assistance to existing business owners, while also encouraging new entrepreneurs in the community. Shortly after receiving the grant, the program’s staff adopted the BCNA as their primary data resource to support and guide their engagement with the Brightmoor business community.


Slabbee’s Ribs & Soul also received support from SWOT City.
Photo Used Courtesy of TechTown and Dave Lewinski Photography.

The BCNA continues to impact SWOT City’s efforts in a number of ways. The program provides copies of the assessment to students and volunteers to increase their awareness and understanding of the community. Leadership also uses the maps D3 created to identify areas where resources can be targeted to have the greatest impact on Brightmoor’s business community as a whole. The report has also helped to guide policy on a broader level; SWOT City staff emphasized that the child data contained in the BCNA was essential to developing a youth entrepreneurship program in conjunction with the Brightmoor Community Center. Indeed, without the information contained in the report, this program may not have been implemented. Furthermore, SWOT City’s use of the report does not end at Brightmoor’s borders. Based on the comparisons included in the assessment, the program is now in the preliminary stages of extending its work to the adjacent Cody Rouge neighborhood.

Ultimately, SWOT City’s experience with the BCNA represents an exciting example of the potential for data to transform a community. Initially, the report was commissioned by a single client to guide future investments specifically oriented toward a targeted area of policy. However, through the BCNA’s broad context and in-depth analysis, SWOT City has been able to use the assessment to support and direct outreach initiatives in a field with limited relevance to early childhood education, reaffirming the adaptability and power of open-source data analysis. According to Derrin Leppek, Director of Place-Based Entrepreneurship at Techtown and the head of the SWOT City program, “the report has impacted the overall discourse in Brightmoor. It allows us to understand the community in a deep way.”

Interested in learning more about the BCNA, or any of D3’s other reports? Be sure to explore the Projects page on our website for more fascinating D3 products!

The “Environmental & Sustainability Data Workshop” Summer 2013 Series

Staring at spreadsheets… what does it all mean? How do I actually use all these numbers and maps to make a difference in my community? Data Driven Detroit is here to help. With support from the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and the Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society, D3 conducted a series of three data workshops this summer centered on the practical application of environmental and sustainability data to community work in Detroit.


In all, representatives from 44 community and environmental advocacy organizations attended the workshops. Participants learned about sustainability research from University of Michigan professors and data tools from D3 staff members.


A crucial goal for the 2013 workshops was for D3 to learn how their community partners use data every day. Through surveys and exercises, the community provided an extraordinary amount of feedback (yes, D3 was collecting data about data) through small group conversations and post workshop surveys. This feedback is shaping D3’s future environmental and sustainability research. Above all, community feedback is helping D3 design tools that will make environmental and sustainability data accessible and will drive informed decision making.

What’s next?

D3 will be working tirelessly over the winter to create tools and visualizations that will bring new environmental and sustainability data to the community. We will combine two years of work conducted by six teams of U of M researchers with D3’s current inventory of environmental, demographic and socioeconomic data to create exciting new ways in which people access environmental data in Detroit.


Did you miss this year’s workshops? Don’t worry, D3 will be hosting additional workshops next summer and throughout the summer of 2015. During the next series of workshops, participants will get their first look at the tools created over the winter. These workshop participants will test D3’s tools and offer additional feedback.

Does your organization want to learn more about Data Driven Detrot’s interactive tools? D3 can conduct similar workshops for your staff members, volunteers and constituents. We can tailor the subject matter to your area of interest to create a fun and interactive workshop that will empower your team to make data driven decisions. Email us at askD3@datadrivendetroit.org for more information.

Stay tuned to datadrivendetroit.org for more exciting news on the “Environmental & Sustainability Workshop Series” and fascinating new data.

The Detroit Environmental Agenda Has Been Released

With generous funding from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Data Driven Detroit is proud to have provided technical support for the Detroit Environmental Agenda (DEA).


The DEA was created by a coalition of 10 local organizations that laid out a new action agenda and voter guide to help citizens and lawmakers get involved in improving Detroit’s environmental landscape. The DEA is the result of a survey of nearly 500 residents and over two years of meetings, during which a diverse range of stakeholders throughout the city identified major environmental concerns and proposed solutions in their neighborhoods. The DEA focuses on interlinked social, environmental and economic injustices, such as low graduation rates, youth violence, poor health rankings, inadequate access to transportation, high obesity, lack of access to living wage jobs, abandoned contaminated land, toxic air, and polluted rivers and streams. It provides a framework for citizens to expand on the many small- and large-scale efforts throughout the city to educate youth, deconstruct and weatherize homes, create bountiful gardens, clean up rivers, fight air pollution, and clean up and beautify abandoned lots.

In addition to completing the DEA, the group polled candidates for Detroit City Council and Mayor about the state of Detroit’s environmental infrastructure, and what they would do if elected. To view their responses, citizens can download a voter guide online here.

Stay tuned to Data Driven Detroit’s website and blog for more exciting news on our work with environmental and sustainability data.


“City of Detroit Building Demolitions” Interactive Map Presented by The City of Detroit and Data Driven Detroit

Interactive demolition map

Interactive demolition map

It is well known that vacant and abandoned homes have become a public safety threat and an overall  burden on the recovery of neighborhoods in the City of Detroit. The scale of abandonment and blight in Detroit has become a national headline (“Detroit to Shrink Itself, Historic Homes and All”, “Among the Ghosts of Detroit”), as well as the focus of a new genre of photography and documentary (“At National Building Museum, a lens on the disintegration of Detroit”). Recognizing the problem, Mayor Bing has put a high priority on clearing the dangerous structures, and set an ambitious goal of demolishing 10,000 structures during his term in office.  The City of Detroit is hoping to be more transparent in its effort to erase these public nuisances, by identifying vacant and dangerous buildings that have been demolished, and indicate where future demolitions are planned.

Working with the City of Detroit, Data Driven Detroit (D3) has developed an interactive map to visualize the demolition activity since 2010 (the beginning of the Bing Administration). The Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED), which manages the demolition permitting process, provided Data Driven Detroit a list of planned and completed demolitions.  The demolition data is separated into three categories:

  • Green: Buildings that have been approved for demolition by the City Council.
  • Yellow: Approved demolition sites that are in process (shutting off utilities, surveying for asbestos, etc., and, if funding is available, bidding out contracts, active demolition).
  • Blue: Sites where demolitions are completed, rubble has been removed and the earth has been re-graded.
Filtering demolition records by status

Filtering demolition records by status

Data Driven Detroit’s interactive map allows users to explore city demolitions that are planned to take place or have already been completed. Information for each demolition is available by clicking map markers. If the user zooms in far enough, parcel outlines are shown. The search box allows users to jump to a specific property demolition record. Finally, there is a feedback system where citizens can report other dangerous buildings or report errors in the demolition record.

Searching addresses for nearest demolition point

Searching addresses for nearest demolition point

It is our hope that citizens will find this tool useful in exploring activity around the city, as well as to put into perspective on the monumental effort that has been taking place over the past several years. The tool has already been recognized by local news outlets WDIV and CBS Detroit. We will be publishing a follow-up post that will delve deeper into the analysis and representation of these data over the coming days.

Data Driven Detroit wishes to recognize and thank the Woodward Corridor Initiative for generously providing funding for the development of this data and tool. It also wishes to thank the City of Detroit for allowing it the opportunity to collaborate in this effort.

 For more on the Process of Demolishing Buildings, click here for Detroit 2020′s coverage. 

Meet the D3 Staff: Jeffrey Bross

This Q&A is the fifth in a series of profiles of Data Driven Detroit staff members.

When Project Manager Jeffrey Bross joined the team at Data Driven Detroit, he was already very familiar with the work of our organization from his classmates, Assistant Director of Projects Erica Raleigh and GIS Analyst David Mieksztyn. Jeff is [Read on...]

The Obama Effect: African Americans turned out last year in record numbers

One of the narratives that has come front and center in the last two Presidential Elections is that of race in America, with an emphasis on its role in the American political landscape .The 2008 election of Barack Obama was marked by increasing voter turnout rates for African Americans and younger voters. As these trends [Read on...]

Thank you, Mario Goetz!

Mario Goetz joined the D3 team in January as a Semester in Detroit Intern. Mario is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in History and Social Theory in Practice at the University of Michigan. Outside of class, Mario referees youth soccer, and taught English as a Second Language classes in Ypsilanti and Southwest Detroit. As a [Read on...]

Michigan’s First Year of Population Growth Shows Wide Variations

The Census Bureau has released its latest population estimates for 2012 today. The estimates cover metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas and counties. The numbers show that the Great Plains and West Texas contained many of the fastest growing areas in the country, including Casper, Wyoming and Bismarck, North Dakota. Why you may ask? The [Read on...]

Meet the D3 Staff: David Mieksztyn

This Q&A is the third in a series of profiles of Data Driven Detroit staff members.

David Mieksztyn came to work at Data Driven Detroit after working on his urban planning capstone project in 2010 at Wayne State University with Assistant Director of Projects, Erica Raleigh. He primarily focuses his attentions on spatializing data with [Read on...]