Westside Communities Alliance Unveils Interactive Data Dashboard

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The Westside Communities Alliance (WCA) at Georgia Tech introduced a comprehensive interactive Data Dashboard for Atlanta on February 1.

The WCA Data Dashboard serves as a one-stop shop for key data that is accessible to community stakeholders, researchers, local government agencies, and relevant foundations interested in sustainable Westside community development.

“We believe that this tool has the potential to encourage greater data-driven decision-making at the neighborhood and Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) level in addition to supporting research and policymaking that addresses significant challenges in areas of education, economic development, transit and mobility, and public safety,” said WCA Associate Director Mackenzie Madden.

In its current form, the dashboard offers resources in seven categories: 1) Community Profiles, 2) Economic Development, 3) Education, 4) Public Safety, 5) All Data, 6) Historical Data, and 7) Resource Library.

Presently, the dashboard displays information for NPUs* K, L, and T — the three NPUs connected to the WCA — as compared to the City of Atlanta.

The dashboard is a user-friendly tool that: 1) draws upon available quantitative and qualitative data, 2) stores data collected for current and future research initiatives, 3) provides metrics for assessing the success of diverse engagement and intervention models, and 4) develops comprehensive reports to identify the impact of “anchor institutions” such as Georgia Tech on neighboring communities to highlight knowledge gaps.

The Data Dashboard project began in 2011 as a static Westside neighborhoods asset map created in conjunction with faculty in the Georgia Tech College of Architecture. Under the leadership of Dean Royster and her WCA leadership team, the first virtual tool was created in fall 2013 by a group of graduate students in Dr. John Stasko’s Data Visualization class. That iteration mapped transit and walkability in the city. The platform also provided a heat map of census data that has since been transformed into the Big Data tool available today. Graduate Research Assistants in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts continued building the dashboard into its present form.

Katie O’Connell, MCRP 2015, was hired as the project manager for the Data Dashboard in summer 2014. She began by researching similar platforms across the country and collecting relevant data for the city of Atlanta. During an Online Tools session of the WCA’s 2014 Community Studio, O’Connell was able to determine the basic pros and cons of existing resources such as the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Neighborhood Nexus, the U.S. EPA’s Enviromapper, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Several focus groups with Westside residents and stakeholders were held as various portals were designed to garner feedback on the usability of the dashboard.

The WCA staff has presented the dashboard at various conferences and symposia including The Center for Community Progress’ Vacant Properties Conference in 2015, Atlanta Studies Symposium, TEDx Atlanta, and the Georgia Tech Center for Urban Innovation.

The WCA Data Dashboard has been made possible through various stages of development in collaboration with entities at Georgia Tech including College of Architecture, College of Computing, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, the Center for Geographic Information Systems, and with funding from the Ford Foundation.


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    Rebecca Keane
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