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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 a jack-of-all trades at D3; he analyzes data and manages projects utilizing a variety of tools. He has also been working closely with the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD), providing technical assistance in Northeast Detroit and Brightmoor. On his off time, Jeff enjoys PC flight simulation games and once had the opportunity to fly a full motion training simulator at a Boeing factory. According to Jeff, “It was a rough landing, but everyone survived!”
Where did you grow up?
I spent my entire childhood in Bloomfield Township living in a home near the Franklin Cider Mill.
Where did you go to school?
I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan – Dearborn and my graduate degree from Wane State University
What is your degree in? Why did you choose your degree?
I pursued a master’s degree in Urban Planning for many of the same reasons. With the economy spiraling downward, I made the decision to pursue a graduate degree in 2009. At the time, discussions about Detroit’s future were beginning to take center stage in the nation media, and the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey was underway. I realized the time had come for me to play a role in shaping Detroit’s future, so I enrolled in Wayne State’s Urban and Regional Planning program.When I began my undergraduate studies, I planned to pursue a MBA. I switched my major to political science shortly after 9/11. While I always enjoyed politics and public policy from the cheap seats, the events of 9/11 moved me to become more than just a spectator of local, national and world events. Fortunately, I was too old (and out of shape) to join the military, so a poli-sci degree seemed like the next best option.
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us?
While I love technology, I cannot figure out how to properly program our DVR. That is my wife’s domain. I am equally challenged in the operation of firearms and power tools. I do, however, make fantastic omelets.
What is your history with Detroit?
As a child, I spent a lot of time in the city at my father’s drug store (Northeast corner of Lindsay and 7 Mile Rd. – it’s still there but no it’s longer the family business). My father grew up in the city, and while we lived in the burbs, he made sure that I knew my hometown was Detroit. He always looked for opportunities to bring me in to the city through birthday dinners at Lelli’s and Carl’s, sporting events and trips to Lafayette Coney Island.
What did you do before working at D3?
I was pursuing completely different career track before I earned my undergraduate degree. During my pre- college years, I worked in sales, purchasing and even enjoyed a brief stint as a repo-man. After college, I worked in politics as a grassroots activist and in the non-profit world as an event manager.
What do you like about working at D3? How do you think the work you are doing benefits the city/region?
I have the privilege of working with a diverse group of highly intelligent and professional colleagues. While our work doesn’t always take center stage, I know that our work is part of the decision making process for large and small organizations.
What is your favorite D3 map or data visualization?
The Detroit Residential Parcel Survey produced some very compelling maps.
What is your favorite type of data?
I like data that are fully documented.
Who or what inspired you to take the path to Detroit, data or both?
My first mapping project came about by accident several years ago – long before I knew anything about GIS or Urban Planning. While researching potential event locations for a local non-profit, I came across Microsoft MapPoint. I spent hours mapping every possible condition that could help the organization make data-driven decisions about new locations.
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This Q&A is the third in a series of profiles of Data Driven Detroit staff members.
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