There's no question that there are significant challenges facing our neighboring cities of Fall River and New Bedford. The persistent struggles of both cities' school districts have created obstacles for economic development, which in turn fuels the high levels of joblessness that contribute to upticks in crime and substance abuse. Yet despite the interconnectedness of these urban issues—which are by no means unique to our region's cities—these issues are rarely addressed holistically because the problems are so difficult to isolate. For example, is a high dropout rate the function of undereducated adults, demographics, or even something like public health? In order to solve these problems, communities need to begin answering these questions. And in order to do that, stakeholders at all levels, including elected officials, institutions, and city residents, need access to objective information around which consensus can be built to drive solutions.
The Urban Initiative seeks to address this need with our latest endeavor, the SouthCoast Urban Indicators Project. The near-term goal of this project is to ensure that the decisions made by every level of stakeholder about how to improve their city's outcomes represent a strategic, logical, evidence-based approach that enjoys broad community support. In the long term, we hope to work with our regional partners to promote communities of empowered citizens who have the tools to be actively engaged in civic discourse.
Visit the site at: http://southcoastindicators.org/
What is this project based on? Ever the advocates of best practices, our web-based platform is modeled after similar indicators projects in cities throughout the country (such as Greater Portland Pulse, the Boston Indicators Project, and DataHaven). Like these projects, the information is presented in a way that is accessible, digestible, and solutions-oriented. Most importantly, this effort goes beyond sharing data; instead, a topic like school readiness is presented in a way that explains why this matters, how it is measured, how the community is performing, and what kinds of programs and policies exist to help improve performance in this area (including things like best practices, policy changes, and grant programs).
Critical to the success of this project is the community's use of and engagement with this information. After all, the end goal is not to make information available; instead, it is to spark conversation, encourage collaboration, and stimulate action. So please send your input to email@example.com, and thanks for your help!
This project was launched with support from the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts -- Acushnet Foundation Fund. Please contact Colleen Dawicki to learn about opportunities to invest in this vital community project.