Connecting Communities Through Technology

July 18, 2012

For many, data can be a static representation of a demographic, geography, numbers or figures. But what would it look like if information was interactive?

Many organizations and companies are working to create better and better interactive data gathering and mapping platforms. For nonprofits, foundations and other organizations in the business of changing the world, accurate and user-friendly, interactive data is crucial. For example, we need good data to tackle social or policy issues effectively.

Healthy City, a program of Advancement Project, has an online platform that maps and charts demographic or community service data for individuals, nonprofits, foundations and government agencies. Our logic is that accurate information + action is needed to create social change.

How are foundations funding and using these new technology platforms?

In early 2010, for example, CCF worked with Healthy City and other foundations and nonprofits on the “Hard to Count” Census 2010 Project in L.A. County.

Healthy City first mapped hard-to-count populations across the state and tracked Census 2010 participation week-by-week in these communities. Users were then able to customize maps, upload data and share them with other organizations. The platform also allowed organizations to enter the locations of their canvassing efforts and the demographic profile of the community members they were targeting. Through the custom-created profiles and neighborhood boundaries, organizations, government programs and foundations were thus able to share and identify where their outreach efforts overlapped and where there were gaps in coverage efforts.

As a result, the “Hard to Count” Project contributed to L.A. County exceeding its goal of a 70% or better participation rate in the 2010 Census. Also, in an after-action assessment of this work, it was found that neighborhoods which received targeted outreach activities using Healthy City’s data and maps outperformed similar neighborhoods. This improved Census count in these areas equate to $3.3 billion in federal funding that LA County would have lost over the next ten years without this unique collaborative effort.

Tools like these are allowing those in philanthropy and the nonprofit world to look at and engage with communities differently. People who were hard to count in the past are being accounted for. These platforms are allowing us to not simply map our data, but “live map” and auto-aggregate information to paint a real-time picture on how big and diverse communities really are.

Thanks for reading,
John Kim is the co-director of Advancement Project, and Director of Healthy City. More information and Healthy City’s live mapping platform is available at


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