The Buzz with Carolina Valencia

Carolina Valencia is the Director of Research at Social Compact, a District-based non-profit organization that brakes down the barriers to private investment in inner-city neighborhoods.

The 2010 Census has been an increased amount of media attention surrounding the challenges in capturing accurate data within minority communities. How does Social Compact collect data that more closely reflects the figures within these communities?

The DrillDown was established to provide up-to-date profiles of market strength, stability and opportunity for small, dense, and rapidly changing urban geographies. These analyses provide an alternative assessment of population, income and housing that do not rely on dated, and perhaps inaccurate, decennial census data. The DrillDown builds on current, finely sieved market information drawn from a wide spectrum of commercial, proprietary and local government sources (e.g. tax assessor, building permit, and commercial credit companies). Rather than relying on any one information set, DrillDown findings surface from a combined body of data. These findings, tested against supplemental data and the intuitive knowledge of local market leaders, serve as the foundation for an objective, systematic analysis of business attributes. Based on this data, Social Compact has developed indicators of market size, strength and stability at the blockgroup level.

Social Compact recently announced its new Washington, DC- based ‘CityDNA’ research tool. What makes CityDNA unique from other data driven applications?

The web technologies and user interface of Social Compact’s CityDNA is unique in many ways.
City DNA is a system designed to allow both experts and novice users to conduct temporal and spatial analyses for various geographies (i.e. neighborhood, ward, trade area) based on the search and query of a complete database of indicators.

The CityDNA platform employs user‐friendly and cutting‐edge technologies to provide a tool that has no technical prerequisites (i.e. GIS). Furthermore, the platform enhances a “bottom up” approach to data. In other words, datasets (which can be defined at the point/parcel level) are based on address level information. Therefore, there are no subjective filters applied to these datasets; point‐level information is not lost in aggregating the datasets to census block groups or larger geographies. Users can analyze data based on exact boundaries and time specifications with the desired calculations (i.e. average sales, average household income) automatically recalibrating in accordance to the selected time and geography. By using such a tool the user is able to analyze information based on practical boundaries (i.e. trade areas) while controlling for the presence of geographic barriers (i.e. rivers).

CityDNA also allows users to upload their own data into the system to compare and analyze with all of the other datasets that are already available. Users have the capacity to decide if they are willing to share their information with others within and outside of their organizations.

What role do you feel City DNA will play, if any, in attracting new investment opportunities to the District?

The biggest difference that CityDNA will make is to allow investors to input their data and compare it with DrillDown and other data that is available on the site.

Social Compact produces a considerable amount of data, how does this data translate to tangible changes in the District?

Social Compact’s data is used for a wide variety of purposes and by a large number of stakeholders. A few examples are cited below.
At a citywide level, the Office of Planning has used this data in its efforts to attract investment to the city as well as its short, medium and long term planning efforts.
Social Compact’s data has also been used to highlight issues in the District (i.e. high concentration of unbanked and underbanked population segments, business gaps and concentrations) that have led to other efforts such as the development of the Bank On DC initiative, an in-depth analysis of the Business Environment in D.C., and a detailed Grocery Gap analysis of the District.
Investors, developers and realtors constantly used tailored reports to understand the sites that they are working on and highlight the potential that exists in underserved areas.

To learn more, please visit Social Compact’s website.

Posted Under: DC News