A tactical data toolkit will help nonprofits in Madison, WI make the case for their work


The corner of Packers Avenue and Northport Drive in Madison, WI’s Northside neighborhood is a hotspot of aggravated assault. Between 2010 and 2017, between 143 and 171 aggravated assaults per square mile took place near the intersection, and several dozen more assaults took place in the streets directly adjacent. While the Madison Police certain use information like this to inform Community Policing strategies, the city wanted to make this and other information more available outside of government agencies so that community organizations could best direct their services to people and places that were most vulnerable.

During our interviews with Madison residents late last year, we heard from local nonprofits that understanding the geography of important issues like violence in Madison’s Northside is an imperative part of making it a more complete neighborhood. The City of Madison saw an opportunity for open data to help.

Today we are incredibly proud to present the result of our Tactical Data Engagement project with the City of Madison, WI. The final product is a data toolkit designed to help nonprofit organizations working to reduce youth violence on Madison’s Northside find and use open data to better contextualize their work and goals in grant applications to the city. The toolkit was written to serve the specific needs and data capacities of local nonprofit staff working to better understand and serve their neighborhood.

The toolkit is a companion to a grant opportunity currently open from the City of Madison to help nonprofits reduce youth violence on the Northside. The City wants to help nonprofit staff find open data to make a data-informed case for why their work is what the Northside needs to grow stronger and safer.

The toolkit is just a first step for Madison’s Community Development Division to help its community partners develop data skills so that they can better support their neighborhoods. It provides readers with connections to local data experts who can help answer questions for those less experienced in using data in their day-to-day work.

A short explainer video accompanies the toolkit, to make it as easy as possible to understand what’s in the toolkit and how to use it.

This toolkit is the culmination of our engagement with Madison, a process which began six months ago and included a two-week design sprint, three dozen intake interviews, six user personas, and our four Tactical Data Engagement process steps. You can read more about all this work in our full case study of the project.

We want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who have contributed to this project, including the interviewees who gave us their time, our collaborators at Reboot, the nonprofits who coordinated with us as we neared the completion of the project (including, most notably, the Northside Planning Council), and the dedicated staff at the City of Madison who work every day to bring city resources—including open data—to communities in need.

We’ll be working with the city over the next several weeks to answer questions as they come in, and to see whether this intervention helped nonprofits make a more data informed case for their work.

In the meantime, if you are a nonprofit working to reduce youth violence in Madison’s Northside, use the new toolkit to apply for the 2018-2019 Safe and Thriving Communities grant. If you are not a nonprofit staffer but live in Madison, you can also use this toolkit to get a better understanding of what information is available from the city. And if you live elsewhere, you can look to these resources for ideas about how to support nonprofits anywhere use open data to inform their work with a Tactical Data Engagement approach.