Using data to transform a generation

St. Louis doesn’t lack people with passion or want for organizations where people can direct their passion. We do need a more data-driven, people-centered approach to our decision making. For our charitable spirit to translate to transformed lives, we need inspired people to collaborate and align, challenging existing paradigms and working smarter with data and evidence.

I often think about what is possible for our region. Recently I’ve been asking, “What if there was the ability to have real time data on the challenges that ordinary people in our region face on any given day?” What if we could roll this data up by zip code, neighborhood, or legislative district and juxtapose it to the financial and programmatic resources available in an area? And then make it available to all interested parties, free of charge? We would then have demand-data for services needed and supply-data for the human and financial resources available. We could use this combined knowledge to inform local and larger policy decisions with a more objective, people centered approach. This approach could inform the development of new programs and organizations, guiding us to invest in programs that work and create services that fill a gap rather than duplicate.

Mark Twain claimed that, “Most people use statistics the way a drunkard uses a lamp post, more for support than illumination.” Heeding his words, we would have to use data responsibly and with a laser focus. Data in the right hands can transform the trajectory of a generation and our region. What would happen to the delivery of health and human services and the competitiveness of our region if we had a common data set we shared and used it to guide regional priority setting? We could likely help limited resources stretch further, rally regional engagement, spark the imagination of data geeks and social service disrupters, and achieve better outcomes. What do you think?

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