I always return from the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) meeting full of ideas and with renewed energy for the work of democratizing information and connecting communities with the data they need to advocate for improving the lives of their members.

Organized by the Urban Institute, the NNIP is a community of practice brings together organizations from around the country – mostly nonprofits or, like IMS, centers within universities – to share ideas, solve problems, promote the collective work, and provide inspiration to each other.

And inspired I was!  There were two sessions in particular that inspired me to take action upon landing—and even before. The first was the session, “Your Role in Fostering a Data-Driven Community.” The examples from San Antonio and Cleveland show that data intermediaries can work closely with other organizations in their community to advance data literacy, data democracy, and the use of data in decisionmaking. While Portland has some groups that do pull people together to share their data-related work, advancing the cause of data literacy and data democracy is not generally part of the agenda. We as data experts need to let go—of the data and the power that it imparts. I’m already tinkering with ideas for the formation of a data collaborative for the region. I hope many of you will join me!

The second session with immediate applications was “The Role of Data in Times of Crisis and Recovery.”  Understanding how Houston’s Kinder Institute at Rice University used their Community Data Connections Dashboard to track rainfall, rescues, and resources during Hurricane Harvey made me realize how important it is to get our data ducks in a row before the need arises from heavy winter rains or the upcoming Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake.  This should be part of the smart cities agenda – using neighborhood data to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the natural disasters that we know are coming, using neighborhood data to connect people with resources and with each other. I hope our Communities Count partners in Seattle, who share our geological fate, will join us in putting together a data readiness and recovery workplan.

Inspiration comes from connecting with people who are passionate, knowledgeable, and willing to share what they know. The great thing about NNIP is the variety of backgrounds that everyone brings to the table. Thank you NNIP Headquarters and our hosts at the Polis Center at IUPUI  for a great meeting!