Community Action, Planning

The dualities of data

When we set out on our mission to democratize data and equip Changemakers with tools to amplify their impact, we imagined stories like these. For the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP), putting the power of community data to work toward economic equity meant granting its partners access like CommunityTeamwork, too.

The Challenge

The Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) has always wanted to understand community need. In order to build pathways to eliminate poverty, one of MASSCAP’s key priority areas, its agencies needed access to data—and a way to illustrate local needs.

Imagine a nesting doll. MASSCAP, being the outermost dress in the scenario, is the statewide arm of 23 Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in Massachusetts. Each has their own unique residential populations, geographic makeups, and connections to local organizations serving community needs. 

MASSCAP’s goal is to serve those agencies, one being CommunityTeamwork, with the tools and resources they need to support work making a difference in the lives of individuals across Massachusetts. 

Without the clarity to sort and select relevant sources, CommunityTeamwork spent a ton of time and resources wrangling data in a myriad of projects.

“There is a constant need to show the need in the community for the thing we’re asking for,” says Ann Sirios, CommunityTeamwork’s Chief Planning and Development Officer.

To give organizations better access to information without having to comb through Census tables and do all of that work is a big motivator for us.
Ann Sirios

Chief Planning & Development Officer, CommunityTeamwork

The effort it took to work across such a diverse state was compounded by the sheer volume of primary and secondary data available. Worse yet, much of the information nonprofits and organizations seeking assistance have access to is outdated, or flat-out inaccurate. While new data is constantly released, its varying methodologies and formats are typically useless to the average grant writer or program director. 

However, access to data isn’t the last stop for CommunityTeamwork, or any of MASSCAP's agencies. Bringing a community’s story to life typically takes more than numbers and narrative. Dynamic and interactive visualizations, such as charts, graphs, and tables, help organizations put a spotlight on community needs.

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The Solution

Initially, MASSCAP built 50 custom dashboards for its agencies, helping them tell robust stories about the economic health of their regions. Since then, it has put more of its agencies in the driver seat with their own mySidewalk subscriptions.

About CommunityTeamwork

CommunityTeamwork is an arm of the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) serving the northeastern part of the state with resources to mobilize low-income and vulnerable populations.

Visit their website →

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With billions of community data points, tools to create visualizations and custom narratives, and a platform to publish engaging data stories, CommunityTeamwork has wasted no time putting its foot on the pedal. 

Meeting those data requests and cranking out neighborhood-level CNAs has transformed its team’s ability to work with partners and make daily data-driven decisions. Whenever there’s a question about the right direction, Ann leverages the platform and the data in real-time. 

“I’ve shared my screen with people a few times and said, well let me show you what this looks like,” she stated. 

Being able to respond to those questions quickly is one way CommunityTeam work leverages mySidewalk. The team's use of data has helped build trust within its communities. That kind of "win" that goes beyond a board meeting or video call.

We have become someone who other organizations reach out to. It enhances our ability to be those people who we absolutely want to be—without creating another huge burden for us.
Ann Sirios

Chief Planning & Development Officer, CommunityTeamwork

With mySidewalk’s platform, the time and energy it used to take to ready and use data is a thing of the past. 

“We were in a meeting about housing,” Ann said, “They said, I don’t know if you guys know this… and I was able to go in and look at it and tell him what it was. I would’ve had to crunch the numbers myself.”

The time savings translate exponentially to the hundreds, if not thousands, of grant applications the agencies review every year. Newer teammates catch on quickly, too. In CommunityTeamwork’s planning department, Jenny Pickett works on the writing of many grants and sees mySidewalk as a tool to “open up my lens.”

For Jenny and Ann and other Changemakers in Massachusetts, that’s only the beginning.

The Outcomes

Save Time Wrangling Data
Access to explore over 4 billion data points from 40+ trusted sources in one data library on a single user-friendly platform
Source of Truth
Become a Source of Truth
Building trust and transparency in Massachusetts with accurate, reliable data that are always up-to-date and ready to explore
Data-Driven Impact
Make a Data-Driven Impact
Leveraging community data to make confident decisions about needs, where to invest resources, target programming, and how impact generations to come