Meet the Minnesota Compass research team
Andi Egbert, Susan Brower, and Craig Helmstetter
I am excited that the project speaks to statewide issues and data. Many of the issues we have been addressing over the past few years with Twin Cities Compass are not solely regional issues, and Minnesota Compass gives a platform for all regions to improve outcomes for our state.
For example, education is one of the major topics that we track. It turns out that the Twin Cities region has some huge educational disparities that follow lines of race and income, whether you are looking at 3rd grade reading, 11th grade math, or high school graduation. While we can take a regional approach to addressing these gaps, a lot of educational policy is made at state and federal levels, and now we have data that speaks to those policy makers and the citizens they represent.
Showing trends for the entire state, as well as county-by-county maps, and comparisons with other states on each of our key measures makes Compass even more relevant for the state legislature, state agencies, and the media, as well as countless other people and organizations working to improve quality of life throughout the state.
Conversely, zooming in to some of the finer data we now have – such as our data comparing more than 400 school districts – can reveal where some of the best results are happening on a local level. (For example, 9th grade attendance by district.) We hope this will spur community dialogue about promising strategies that are driving better results.
The multitude of comparisons Compass makes should answer the hunger for better data and more information that many Minnesotans have expressed to us. However, nothing would be more satisfying to me than seeing individuals, groups and communities using Compass data to make their case for change – and then getting results.
I am really excited about a new feature that we've added to the web site: Geographic profiles "At A Glance." You can now access these through each regional home page.
Prior to the launch of Minnesota Compass, the main way to to get at the data was via the Key Measures pages (for example, low birth weight by county or housing cost burden by county). Those do allow access to county-level data – mapped for the most recent year, and typically trended back a few years in the data tables. But what if you want all the key measures for your county in one place? Now we have that option available for each county in Minnesota.
Right from the homepage you can click on the map to get your region (such as the Northland region) and from there you can choose your county (St. Louis County, for example) – and voila, an "at a glance" profile appears showing the key data we currently have, typically everything from population and poverty rates to voter turnout and crime rate.
These profiles are currently available for all 87 counties, as well as a handful of major cities around the state. We will add more information to the profiles for smaller counties and cities over the next few years, as data become available.
I am probably most excited about the opportunities Minnesota Compass offers in terms of working with others to improve not only our metropolitan region, but the entire state. I think we are bringing a tool that is helpful from day one. I know, however, that Compass will be enhanced even more over time with the help of the many partners and users of the site.
For example, we would like the "ideas at work" page within each topic area to become the "go-to" place for people throughout the state who are looking for research-tested strategies, as well as plans and initiatives that are addressing issues. But this will only happen if you send us your information about the strategies and efforts alive in your area. Similarly, for the Compass library to continue to be current and useful, we need you to send us your reports.
I want Minnesota Compass to be a boon to grant writers, planners, and advocates of all political stripes, but the only way that will happen is if we continue to hear from you. In addition to the ways mentioned above, you can connect with us by becoming a "fan" on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or becoming a donor through GiveMN. Post one of our widgets or RSS feeds on your organization's homepage, or use one of our maps or graphs in your next article or blog.
Better yet, let us know how we might best work with you. Check out some of the things we've already worked on with others through Twin Cities Compass – from developing a dashboard with Community Action Council for the city of Burnsville, to working with Greater Twin Cities United Way to produce a quarterly economic brief, to working with the Itasca Project to address disparities.
We look forward to hearing from you!