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UWSEAK presents dashboard: a better way to look at data

Posted: December 8, 2013 - 1:02am

Advances in technology change the way societies operate. From the creation of the wheel to the recent technological advances with smart phones, we find ourselves wondering how we ever lived without them. Advances such as these streamline our life and allow us to function with ease. McDowell Group has created a system that changes the way data is managed, viewed, and shared. Their new dashboard tool streamlines data and creates a system that allows us to research with ease.

Dashboards, created by synthesizing data into interactive charts and graphs, provide information in a quick glance. Jim Calvin, principal and senior economic analyst for McDowell Group, believes that “dashboards are a great way to clearly and concisely present data in a very interactive, user-friendly way.” For Calvin, the purpose of dashboards is multifaceted. “Whether for analysis of data for internal management purposes, or for communicating information externally, business and organizations can enjoy quick and easy access to large amounts of information.”

Dashboards are a critical tool utilized by United Way of Southeast Alaska. Through a generous partnership with McDowell Group and modeled on a previous dashboard created for the Southeast Conference, United Way has created striking visualizations of community indicators (measured data points) for Juneau for the organization’s three areas of focus: education, income, and health. These indicators are used to spotlight critical information that is relevant to many community organizations across the region.

Wayne Stevens, president of United Way of Southeast Alaska, said, “We have this wealth of data hidden inside a COMPASS report, but it is not readily accessible to everyone.”

The dashboard turns a bulky, data-heavy report into an instantly accessible, concise and interactive database. Stevens is “pleased that McDowell Group was willing to work with us to convert raw data into very usable tools for people to be able to access online.”

The importance of such a tool is immeasurable.

When asked why the COMPASS report is so crucial, Stevens responded, “There is an old adage of ‘What gets measured gets done.’ This provides us a tool to measure the data and see if we are headed in the right direction. As we develop new solutions to problems we can track outcomes.”

While the United Way dashboard currently only shows indicators for Juneau, United Way and McDowell Group are working to add other communities from the existing COMPASS data report, as well.

The practical uses of this tool are not limited to United Way. The Juneau information housed on the United Way dashboard (found at unitedwayseak.org) and McDowell Group’s original dashboard on the Southeast economy (found at McDowellGroup.net), are accessible to other organizations and groups. Combined, these tools have a wealth of information about Southeast Alaska that could be crucial for other non-profits, businesses, schools and even individuals. These two dashboards provide information on the health, education, and economics of the Southeast Alaska community as a whole, as well as the smaller, individual communities.

This isn’t just for us. This is a tool for you. For the non-profit fighting to feed and house the homeless; for the school striving to educate its students; for the business searching for a way to give back; for the individual passionate and driven to improve their community. Compare what you thought with what’s real. Find out where you stand in the numbers. Use the tool to determine, segment, and target your audience. Utilize the dashboard to show your staff, your supporters, your friends, and family what your mission is and why.

Take a look. See where we stand, where we fall short, and where we can go in the future.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Treadway with United Way of Southeast Alaska at 463-5530 or staff@unitedwayseak.org.

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