Using Data to Understand Community Challenges




We have been experimenting a lot at Mission Capital, especially when it comes to exploring how to leverage our connector role in the local social sector. In early June, in partnership with CAN and UWATX, Mission Capital organized an experimental virtual event where we tried to better understand data needs and challenges in four key topic areas: youth/education, food, health, and housing.

We called this event many things, a working session, brainstorm, but eventually settled on a data “insights jam.” This was an outgrowth of a semi-weekly meeting we had been coordinating with data intermediaries in April and May. 

Knowing that we had to stay virtual, we decided to combine the use of Miro and Zoom to allow for collaboration. We started the event with a presentation from Children’s Optimal Health, sharing maps of the needs of Austin area 211 callers, that COH had recently created in collaboration with UWATX. This allowed us to zoom out across our city to see trends in needs. 

Then we separated into Zoom breakout rooms for each of the key needs focused topic areas. In each breakout, there were one to three presentations on publicly available data or data tools (e.g. dashboards, maps, survey results) relative to the specific topic. In addition to Q&A for the presenters, each breakout attendee contributed to the conversation through interaction in Miro boards. Each Miro board asked: 

• What questions does this data bring up for you? 
• What additional data or insights would be helpful to better understand your topic area? 
• What other types of data are out there that are related to this data and topic area? 
• How could this data help us better understand equity and what else is needed? 

Using stickies, attendees would put answers, questions, and insights on the board. We also had a “parking lot” for attendees to put up stickies that didn’t fit into those four questions. We had at least two Mission Capital staff in each breakout as co-hosts. Co-hosts introduced or coordinated the presenters, helped to orient attendees in Miro, kept the conversation going, and summarized insights from the Miro board.

To help orient attendees to Miro, co-hosts first asked attendees to practice creating stickies by answering a simple question about their favorite food. After the breakouts, attendees came back into the main room for share-outs from the breakout sessions.   

You can see the Miro board here:  

For the breakouts, we had presenters from AISD, RRISD, Austin Public Health, Children’s Optimal Health, UWATX, Housing Works Austin, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and Texas Housers, Sustainable Food Center, Dell Med’s Population Health, and the Central Texas Food Bank. 

The next steps for this event are not completely clear yet, however, we know that two interests emerged or were reinforced through the “data insights jam”:  

• That there is a lot of data out there and a centralized location for accessing the data or accessing links to data could be useful. 
• A deeper dive into one specific topic area at a time, rather than an event with four different topic areas, might be a useful next step.

At Mission Capital, we are leaning into our connector role and trying to work with existing collaborations to amplify and connect others’ work at this critical time. We are adapting our membership model and our intermediary role to try and support and partner more, leveraging our positionality and power to support those who are driving change.  

If you are interested in collaborating, please let us know! You can reach us at insights@missioncapital.org. 

These are datasets that were shared either during the data insights jam or by attendees who placed the on the Miro board or in Zoom chat: 

Thank you to all of the attendees, presenters, collaborators and staff who helped make this event possible!  

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