How Jacksonsville County is using community indicators to target resources and reduce inequalities
Jacksonville Community Council Inc (JCCI) was created in 1975 and its mission is to improve the quality of life and build a better community for people living in Northeast Florida and beyond. The organization is sometimes referred to as Jacksonville's "citizen think tank".
JCCI has been publishing annual community indicators for 25 years. These indicators help a wide range of citizens understand trends in areas such as population growth, education, work-related statistics, healthcare and housing.
Ben Warner is JCCI’s President & CEO and he emphasizes the importance of making large amounts of data available in a timely and easy-to-understand way. “We first started out publishing the data in printed form but recognised that, for the data to be as useful as possible for as many audiences as we had, we needed a platform that to would allow us to have greater control over the way the data could be published and accessed,” he says.
JCCI began to investigate different software packages that would allow it to present the data in such a way. However, concerns were quickly raised. “We were most concerned that we would end up with a proprietary database product and would not even own the data. We wanted something that that our community would find easy to use with very few technical terms involved in manipulating the data. Above all we wanted something that we could have up and running quickly.”
“We also looked at what it would cost to have something custom built for us and started getting some quotes but we realised this was outside our price range.”
One option that was flexible, didn’t require handing over large amounts of data to a third party and not as costly as a custom platform was InstantAtlas. Having decided to invest in InstantAtlas, Ben and his team were able to create an online resource for presenting community data using the InstantAtlas dynamic geographic maps within a matter of weeks.
“The dynamic maps help our community see the interrelationships between different sorts of measures (for example health, economy, education and social well-being),” he says.
From JCCI’s point of view InstantAtlas has helped it present a large amount of information in a way that is not threatening and allows users to gather more information about what the data is showing them.
Before the maps were launched, JCCI carried out a series of community training sessions and evaluated the feedback they got. “What we heard over and over again was that this was exactly what they needed.”
“The maps help our community users see where resources need to be targeted to help reduce inequalities. It also means that we can begin to make comparisons across the state. So for example, with high school graduation rates we know there is a general upwards trend but we can see that, compared to the rest of the state, the increases are below average.”
However, perhaps the most important benefit for JCCI is that they are now able to publish data online in near real-time. “When we had print version we found the information was quickly out of date – it didn’t matter when we published, something had changed.”
All the indicators are now on an internal calendar and updated as the information becomes available, which Ben says has made things far less stressful.
An exciting development on the horizon is that JCCI is looking to develop relationships at the national level which would make national comparisons possible. “When we did our training for different groups we asked what would they like to see in the future – they said that making comparisons with similar population groups on a national level (for example one urban area compared with another) would be very helpful. So we are now looking into data sharing partnerships,” says Ben.
Overall, Ben believes that the Community Snapshot Indicators have allowed JCCI to offer the community a cost-effective and popular resource. “It’s been a great experience. It started out with our commitment to democratise data so we could have informed community conversations but has led us on to greater possibilities.”
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Learn more about InstantAtlas Server - Click here
Other community stories that you may be interested in
TalkCIS interview with Ben Warner - hosted on YouTube