New data system will aid area policy-making



DETROIT -- The Skillman and Kresge foundations are partnering on a grant that will create a powerful, new regional data system with comprehensive information needed to promote economic prosperity in southeastern Michigan.

City Connect Detroit Inc. will coordinate the development and operation of the Detroit-Area Community Indicators Systems, funded by the foundations with an initial three-year, $1.85 million grant.

The data center will gather data about neighborhood conditions regarding health, housing, education, employment, environment, crime and safety. The center will then analyze and disseminate detailed information to Detroit city and metropolitan-area officials, private foundations, community leaders and other key decision-makers to assist in making evidence-based planning and better policy and program decisions.

"Access to accurate, current information about neighborhoods is critical to community-change initiatives nationally and internationally," said Marie Colombo, the knowledge management officer for Skillman. "This grant builds on the collaborative data-sharing work done by City Connect Detroit through the Detroit Data partnership over the past four years. We greatly appreciate their preliminary efforts to lay the groundwork for the new regional data system."

The joint grant will also allow Detroit to participate with other major cities in a collaborative partnership sponsored by the Urban Institute, which aims to encourage the development and utilization of neighborhood-information systems in local policy-making.

Kurt Metzger, former director of research for United Way for Southeastern Michigan, wil lead the project as director of the Detroit-Area Community Indicators System. Metzger is a strong advocate of using data-driven decisions and asset-based analysis to move communities forward.

"This new data system will enable regional organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their community-building efforts and to make strategic course corrections when necessary," said Andrew R. Gatewood, a Kresge Foundation program officer and member of its Program team.

Created in 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy whose chief aim is to help develop good schools and good neighborhoods for children. Though grants are made throughout Southeast Michigan, most grants are directed at six Detroit neighborhoods -- Southwest Detroit (Vernor and Chadsey/Condon), Brightmoor, Osborn, Central and Cody/Rouge -- and toward innovative and successful schools throughout the city of Detroit.

Kresge is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations through its support of nonprofit organizations in six fields: health, the environment, arts and culture, education, human services and community development. The foundation's Detroit Program is a comprehensive community-development effort intended to promote economic, social and cultural advancement in the city and surrounding region.

City Connect Detroit, formally launched in 2001, seeks to help metropolitan Detroit nonprofits and governments obtain increased national funding and facilitate collaboration among nonprofits, governments, businesses, grant makers and other local organizations.