The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), recently conducted a data training session for the staff of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath). At a monthly Outcomes Workgroup, a network of nonprofits convened by EMPath, Will Pfeffer, BARI program coordinator, and Riley Tucker, data consultant, presented customized training to EMPath that focused specifically on datasets surrounding income, housing characteristics and transportation access. This type of tailor-made content helps organizations understand the value of big data in the context of their specialties, as well as aids them in making decisions, effectively advocating for the community they serve, and telling their story in a more compelling and empirical way.
Whenever possible, BARI conducts data training sessions as well as makes the data products from their research projects available to the public, through the Boston Data portal, comprised of the Boston Data Library, BARI’s open data portal, and the Boston Research Map, a tool which allows users to map and visualize geospatial data. With a broad range of datasets, including demographic and housing data, 311 usage data, American Community Survey data, and even data on temperature and tree canopy cover in the city, these datasets are a great resource for anyone doing work in the public domain. For EMPath’s specific needs, BARI’s tools are ideal.
“At EMPath, we use a data-driven approach to improve and evaluate our programs,” said Devashri Salvi, EMPath’s research and data manager. “We understand that economic mobility cannot be achieved in a vacuum and that our participants are affected by their social, political and physical environments. The Boston Data Portal is a resource that helps us recognize these factors for different neighborhoods in Boston, where most of our participants live. It makes the seemingly technical process of mapping information easy to learn. After seeing the wealth of information available on the portal, we wanted our network of local partners (Outcomes Workgroup) to learn about BARI and have access to the resources they share.”
BARI also offers data consulting. Currently, Riley Tucker, a PhD candidate in criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern, works directly with organizations and individuals to help them find the right data for their application, think through their analysis, select the right tools to help them visualize and analyze data, and more. Though it is not Riley’s role to perform actual analyses for organizations, he can provide substantive help to organizations trying to develop a data-driven approach to their work.
BARI is a research center at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, in partnership with Harvard University, is one of the Greater Boston area’s leading producers of cutting edge, data-driven urban research. BARI is also a national model for substantive, university-city partnerships, working closely with multiple units within the City of Boston, as well as multiple regional and state-level agencies and municipalities around the area. BARI offers community data trainings, supported by a grant from the Herman & Frieda Miller Foundation, to increase public access to BARI’s data library and mapping tools.
Public data trainings, which are held approximately once per semester, private on-site trainings with community-based organizations, and data consulting are all available free of charge. For more information, contact BARI@northeastern.edu or BARIConsultant@gmail.com. Both BARI and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs seek to establish community relationships with like-minded partners, such as EMPath, to continue to work toward building a just and sustainable world for all.