DataKind DC + Starting With Today: Building Data Maturity for Community Empowerment

By DataKind DC

Systemically underserved communities in the US are disproportionately impacted by external stressors such as global pandemics, racism, and public policy decisions. Washington, DC contains many of these communities. DataKind DC partnered with local nonprofit Starting With Today (SWT) to help them better serve communities in and around the Capitol. 


SWT, like many local nonprofit organizations, has grown rapidly in recent years to meet demand for much-needed services, and is now ready to focus on growing their data maturity to help meet those needs. Additionally, SWT works with individuals who may have limited access to technology and in settings such as mental health services where stigma and privacy concerns make data collection and tracking challenging. 

The DataKind team had to be creative and use multiple open-source datasets and web scraping to generate a product that would allow SWT to visualize areas with the highest needs and potential partners for its mission.

Sources used:

Community Resilience Estimates Equity Supplement:

  • Source: US Census Bureau
  • Description: This dataset contains different columns indicating risk factors that might impact the community resilience of a certain area, including education rates, poverty rates, access to internet, etc.

CDC Depression Rates:

  • Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – PLACES
  • Description: Reports on the percentage of adults living within a census tract who have self-reported if they have ever been diagnosed with depression

Walkability Index Score per Census Block:

  • Source: US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Description: The Walkability Index dataset characterizes every Census block group in the US based on its relative walkability. Walkability depends upon characteristics of the built environment that influence the likelihood of walking being used as a mode of travel. 

  • Contains information on nonprofit profiles including characteristics such as name, address, and service areas

Interactive Dashboard

The solution the DataKind team developed was the Starting With Today Community Needs and Resources Dashboard

Using data from, BeautifulSoup, and Selenium, libraries were used to retrieve nonprofits key information such as name, service, or issue areas of work, address, etc. The Google Maps API was used to access the coordinates of each organization’s address and produce the map in the photo below. The user can select service areas and the map will locate organizations that provide services in that particular area.

The horizontal bar chart below displays the number of nonprofits in the directory by service type in Washington, DC alongside the number of nonprofits specifically in Wards 7 and 8, historically under-resourced communities that are an area of focus for SWT.

The following factors were used to create a composite needs score for each Census tract in Washington, DC and Prince George’s County: 

  • Percent of the population with income below the poverty line
  • Depression rate
  • Percent of the population without health insurance
  • Income inequality (Gini) index
  • Percentage of households without vehicle access
  • Percentage of the population without internet access
  • Percentage of the population with a high school degree
  • Walkability score

Each of these factors can be adjusted depending on its importance for a given mission. The result is a choropleth map that identifies areas of higher need by highlighting them in a darker color. The map that follows provides the detail of each individual feature prior to data standardization for additional context.

The DataKind team also provided data analysis of data provided by SWT to help them identify the demographic information of users in each of the service missions they conduct. With this new dashboard, SWT will be able to plan out their next in-person workshops according to locations where the needs are the highest based on the risk factors. The project was a huge success and provided the foundation to support a growing organization with a critical mission. 

DataKind DC hopes to partner with more nonprofits in need of data guidance! If you or your organization is looking to partner with us, please reach out to to learn more.

Huge thanks to the DataKind DC volunteers who contributed to this blog post:

Alex Ackerman is a naval officer with over eight years in Special Operations as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician. He leads a team of military, civilians, and contractors overseeing the training of over 20,000 service members and has extensive project management experience around the world. Alex is in the process of transitioning from military service and pursuing a career in data science. 

Corrina Calanoc (she/her) is a first-year graduate student at Georgetown University in the Data Science & Analytics program, where she’s focused on the intersection between data science and social justice. Prior to coming to Georgetown, she worked as a Data Engineer at Beyond 12, an education nonprofit based in Oakland, CA that supports first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students on their path to college graduation. Her experience there allowed her to see the number of ways that we can utilize data in order to improve education equity and ensure that our technology doesn’t cause unintended harm to the communities that we serve. Outside of her passion for education, Corrina loves dancing, water activities, and volunteering with the local community! 

Glenn Hui has dedicated his career to improving access to information to aid evidence-based decision-making. After several years in public service, he returned to academia to obtain a PhD in statistics. When not developing risk models as a data scientist, Glenn enjoys reading novels of dubious quality, fostering cats, obeying traffic laws on his bicycle, and poking his head into museums one hour at a time.

Juan Vega is a Data Scientist with a passion for extracting insights from data to support strategic decision-making and advancing public policies that improve the wellbeing of underserved communities. He serves as Director of Learning and Evaluation at the Latin American Youth Center where he leads the data collection, analysis, and reporting efforts of the organization to tell the story of program practices that lead to positive outcomes for underserved youth in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Juan’s personal interests include serving at his local church, in the Spanish-speaking community of Washington, DC, and exploring new cities with his wife.

Header image courtesy of Starting With Today and Candi Williams Photography.

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