Community Development in the Era of Large-Scale Data

Integrating Quantitative Data and Community Engagement

Authored by: John J. Green

The Routledge Handbook of Community Development

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138940765
eBook ISBN: 9781315674100
Adobe ISBN:


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In the process of writing this essay, I have been reflecting on more than fifteen years of experience working directly with community organizations attempting to improve their capacity to conduct research and use data to inform decision-making. Through encounters in the American South, across the country and internationally, I have been impressed with people’s level of inquisitiveness and desire to access and utilize data and build knowledge to address problems in their communities. Still, I am often left dismayed by how data resources seem out of reach to them. Two illustrative stories make the point. There was a project where I was working with a group of college students and development practitioners to assist youth in making plans for their legally mandated school health councils in the Delta region of Mississippi. Nearing the end of a participatory planning meeting, several of the teenage students challenged me by noting that while they have access to large amounts of information at the touch of a button on their smart phones, they were unclear about how to figure out the number of people who lived in their city. Later that same year, I was doing a workshop for teenage public health interns in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands, and they wanted to know about population data so that they could participate in meetings associated with World Population Day. As our discussion went on, it became clear that they were unaware that the data were publicly available.

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