Improving opportunities for kids through big data

During DC Data Dive, the smallest nonprofit in the room, DC Action for Children, had an ambitious goal: to visualize childhood well-being at the neighborhood level across Washington, DC.


  1. DC Action for Children aims to ensure that all children in DC have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The advocacy group tracks indicators of youth well-being to support effective public policies, funding and programs. While traditional ways of looking at the data have tended to indicate that well-being is defined by the individual child and the family context, DC Action for Children believes that with the right insights it's possible to see why neighborhoods also matter. Their challenge to the assembled data volunteers: help us build a compelling visualization of childhood well-being to focus policy and decision makers on improving kids outcomes at the neighborhood level.
  2. Early on the Saturday morning, a team of 25 plus data volunteers dived in to help DC Action for Children. The group, dubbed #teamawesome, included talented individuals from The Washington Post's visualization group, PhD engineering programs, accounting firm forensic teams and various government agencies.
  3. The group started building a picture of what it's like for children to live and play in neighborhoods across DC by combining detailed geographic data with existing Kids Count data (a set of childhood indicators developed by Annie E. Casey Foundation), income and housing information, test scores, crime statistics and even information on swimming pool locations. 
  4. After some frenzied brainstorming the team began tackling the challenge on three fronts:
         * Data Gathers and cleaners: assessing new datasets;
         * Geospacial & GIS mappers: parsing data into census tracts $ neighborhoods
         * Data visualizers: creating a multi-layered map for neighborhood-level data.
  5. A visibly excited and invigorated HyeSook Chung, Executive Director, DC Action for Children, reflected on how things were going midway through the day: "it is pretty amazing the brainstorming that is happening, they are just running with things..."
  6. DC Datadive. DC for Children reflections
  7. The work continued well into the night as the visualization team pulled out the stops to map the information.
  8. By Sunday morning what started out like this...
  9. DC Action for Children Excel Spreadsheet - Data Dive
    DC Action for Children Excel Spreadsheet - Data Dive
  10. Turned into this...
  11. DC Action for Children Visualization - Data Dive
    DC Action for Children Visualization - Data Dive
  12. The tool was named 'Visualization of the Week' by Radar O'Reilly...not bad for 36 hours of work.
  13. What did this mean for DC Action for Children? HyeSook Chung summed up her experience: "Being the leader of a small non-profit charged with the incredible task of tracking child well-being to ignite social change is daunting. Like many organizations, nonprofit and for-profit, we wish we could afford to hire a team of outstanding data experts. Luckily, all of you walked into our lives!" Here's a link to her full blog post: