Community Solutions is a nonprofit community development organization which works to reduce unemployment, crime, and homelessness in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville.
As the volume of available data about their neighborhood continued to grow, Community Solutions became interested in using data for decision-making and storytelling.
"People tell a lot of negative stories about Brownsville, and although it's true that the area faces many challenges, positive developments tend to go unnoticed," says Jamie Schleck, the chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Community Solutions. "We wanted to be able to contextualize the anecdotal evidence we hear on the street within data-driven stories about what is really going on in Brownsville: what's getting better, what still needs work, and what's being overlooked altogether."
Although Community Solutions wanted to dive deeper into its data, the organization faced obstacles that are common to many nonprofits, including limited project budgets, staff, and IT capabilities.
After evaluating other possible partners, Community Solutions selected Vizalytics to help it better understand and find value in external and internal data. "We knew of Vizalytics through other work they've done in New York City," says Schleck. "They're a highly regarded service provider for data visualization."
“We’re just beginning to learn what data can teach us so we can focus resources on real problems,” says Terry Brown, editorial director for Vizalytics. “Vizalytics was founded to deliver on the promise of using data as the start of a virtuous cycle. The better we can understand our communities, the stronger the questions we can ask about them.”
Vizalytics worked with Community Solutions to understand its goals and budget and then deployed a customized, predictive data solution based on the Vizalytics City Builder platform. The solution ingests public data streams from law enforcement, housing, and other agencies to help Community Solutions picture data on a block-by-block level, allowing them to visualize current and past conditions and predict future trends. Staff and volunteers can also enter their own data to give more nuance and context to data snapshots and stories, and they can view everything together in beautiful, intuitive dashboards.
Vizalytics City Builder makes extensive use of Amazon Web Services (AWS). The solution's core Knowledge Graph runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) clusters. The solution also uses AWS Lambda to execute code in response to events and Amazon Kinesis to ingest and process real-time streaming data.
Vizalytics, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Standard Technology Partner since 2012 and now a member of the AWS Public Sector Partner Program, sees AWS as crucial to its strategy. "We were born in the AWS Cloud for ease of use, constant innovation, and a global reach that allows us to serve customers just about anywhere in the world," says Aileen Gemma Smith, the CEO of Vizalytics. "The flexibility of AWS makes it easy for us to evolve our solutions as our customers’ data needs and goals change, so we can provide truly customized service and support."
Vizalytics helped Community Solutions achieve its most important goal for this project: a data analysis solution that would be easy for staff and volunteers with limited computer experience to understand and use.
As one example of the insights now available, the Community Solutions team used the Vizalytics solution to detect a high level of police activity in two Brownsville public housing complexes with a high concentration of families with children ages 12-16. Based on this insight, Community Solutions directed resources to better support resident-led youth programs and improve community spaces at these locations, resulting in a 23 percent increase in the use of these programs and spaces. The Community Solutions team can now use the real-time information visible in the City Builder dashboard to continue monitoring the volume of police incident reports from these locations and make data-driven decisions about ongoing outreach and support efforts for the initiative.
"We are not in a position to hire data scientists or other new employees to help us work with data, and we're too busy to put our existing staff through time-consuming training," says Schleck. "With Vizalytics City Builder, not only do we not need any new staff members, but our current employees and volunteers can use it effectively after just a few minutes of orientation. That ease of use lets us keep the light IT footprint we have now while helping our practitioners become even more effective."
Ease of use is important not just to Community Solutions, but also to the many partners with which the organization wants to share data and insights. "Many of our partners are stretched very thin and have even less time to devote to training," says Schleck. "Because Vizalytics City Builder is so simple and intuitive, it was easy for us to show them what’s possible with a unified dashboard where we can all report and view data and share best practices."
Community Solutions sees the solution's flexibility as another key benefit. "Our community is never going to stop changing, and neither are our data needs, so an off-the-shelf solution wouldn't have worked for us," says Schleck. "Vizalytics works with us on an ongoing basis to customize the solution, make sure we have the data we need, and view it in the ways that are most helpful in achieving our goals."
In addition to the flexibility of the solution, Community Solutions appreciates the flexibility of the company providing it. "We assumed solutions like this one would be out of our price range,” says Schleck. “Vizalytics listened carefully to our cost concerns, tweaked its offerings, and presented us with a proposal we could afford. It's clear that Vizalytics really understands how nonprofits operate and the challenges we face."
Learn more about the AWS Public Sector Partner Program.
Vizalytics Technology uses Knowledge Graph, a proprietary solution for graph database machine learning, to ingest disparate event and logistical data to generate contextual insights for its customers. The New York–based company works with customers ranging from nonprofits to governments and large enterprises around the world.
For more information, connect with Vizalytics through its listing on the Partner Solution Finder.