SARASOTA, FL – A new data-centric initiative has been established between New College of Florida and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to share community trends and enhance the work of graduate-level professional students.
The “Community Indicators Project” is an emerging data dashboard that harnesses the measurements of health, education, human services, arts and culture, and environmental factors to gain a more timely and thorough assessment of quality of life—both as a region, and at the neighborhood level. This cloud-based, open-source tool designed by New College students will be available to the public and used by the Community Foundation to consider how charitable giving can positively affect areas of need or concern. The dashboard will be available to the public in Spring 2022.
This multi-year initiative came from a pilot project that began during the pandemic to allow students in New College’s Master’s in Applied Data Science Program to gain real-world experience, while improving the Community Foundation’s understanding of evolving community needs through expertise in data science modeling and analysis.
“This is a great a collaboration between New College and the Community Foundation. The professional positions offered to our students provide real-world use of the skills they are building,” said Burcin Bozkaya, Ph.D., the director of the Applied Data Science Program at New College. “Additionally, by providing a publicly-accessible, cloud-based tool that others can use, students, teachers and leaders across our region will have the latest data to inform decisions large and small.”
The concept for the dashboard first took shape when the two organizations developed baseline reports about area-wide philanthropic trends, alongside key measurements of health, education, arts and civic participation.
“Data gives us the opportunity to better understand the people we call our neighbors, colleagues and friends,” said Ranata Reeder, the vice president of Knowledge and Equity at the Community Foundation, noting that the two organizations have been partners since 1994. “Through this partnership, we hope to engage students and show how they are active, forward-thinking participants in their community by applying their skills to catalyze conversations around local needs and promote equity.”
Hands-on, practical application of data science—outside the classroom—takes students’ skills to the next level, Bozkaya said.
“New College students are regularly working on important projects each semester as part of their coursework, like in their ‘Practical Data Science’ course, or outside the classroom like with this project for the Community Foundation,” Bozkaya said. “Our students will have the opportunity this fall to work under the guidance provided by the Knowledge and Equity Department at the Community Foundation, which will be continued in the spring as one student’s practicum.”
As New College interns succeed in discovering population trends that can be acted upon by community leaders, those community leaders can (through data) make better-informed decisions and policy changes.
The Community Foundation’s 41-year history of investing charitable dollars to address community needs will be enriched by the thoughtful application of big data. The organization’s first foray into applying data to better understand the nonprofit community began in 2012 with the launch of The Giving Partner (www.thegivingpartner.org), an online resource detailing the goals, successes and operations of more than 700 nonprofit organizations serving Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.
As Reeder said, “Through the ongoing assessment of key social determinants of health and well-being, Community Foundation board members, staff, donors and nonprofit partners will have even greater knowhow, guidance and resources thanks to these New College interns who are eager to use data for good.”
For more information on the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, visit cfsarasota.org.
For more information on the Applied Data Science Program at New College of Florida, visit ncf.edu/academics/graduate-program.
About New College of Florida: Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the honors college of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance and business skills. For more information, visit ncf.edu or call 941-487-5000.
About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County: The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of $421 million in more than 1,500 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $48.9 million last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $323 million to area nonprofit organizations to our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families and businesses. For more information, visit CFSarasota.org or call 941-955-3000.