August 8, 2014

What does data have to do with organizing?


Data and organizing are inextricably linked. What better way to show the collective impact of certain policies than to use data. One incredible example of this was how the Contract Buyers League used data to show the extent of redlining and predatory lending in Chicago in the 1960s and early 70s, laying the groundwork for the reinvestment movement.

Just as it works to have organizers that speak both English and the language folks in the community speak, it works to be able to tell individual stories and collective stories both in words and in numbers. While it may not be intuitive, training organizers in using and manipulating data presents a huge opportunity for building community and collective power.

When we created the Building Indicator Project, we envisioned an advocacy tool to work with banks (and eventually regulators), as well as a tool to empower tenant and community organizers. Through the subscriptions we offer to community organizations (funded by Enterprise since 2011), we’ve supported numerous campaigns across the city.

Last week we took another step towards making our data more useful by offering a training on using BIP data in Microsoft Excel for our 30 subscriber groups. Nearly 20 individuals representing 16 organizations from across NYC came to the Fordham Bedford Communuty Services’ Heiskell Technology Center in the northwest Bronx to be trained by Dereck Norville (who we met through the Center for Bronx Non-Profits) and supported by UNHP staff. While some in attendance were more familiar with spreadsheets than others, all of the participants (and even presenters and staff) developed their skills in Excel and their familiarity with BIP data.

A number of groups signed up for individualized trainings and our pool of active subscribers has already grown by 20% out of offering this training. For more information about BIP and to apply for a community group subscription click here.