As COVID-19 took hold of New York City in mid-March, New York Cares quickly got to work exploring how to nimbly and effectively mobilize volunteers to meet the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.
Thanks to our partnership with the Volunteer Coordination Task Force (VCTF), a group that centralizes and coordinates volunteer efforts in times of emergencies and includes NYC Service, New York City Emergency Management and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), we were far from alone. Formed in response to Hurricane Sandy, the task force supports organizations in need of volunteers to provide critical services – such as meal delivery – to vulnerable residents and works to identify volunteer opportunities that residents can support. As the task force assessed city-wide need and continued to see food insecurity and social isolation spike, it was critical that we quickly visualized the environment in a way that helped inform resource allocation.
Lucky for us, Propel32 Analytics, a New York City-based data analytics firm specializing in transforming disconnected data sets into a consolidated data platform to provide insight, reached out to help. Together, we determined that contextualizing volunteer projects and volunteer activity over time by program area and neighborhood would help the task force better mobilize volunteer resources in underserved communities.
The result was a dashboard that allows the VCTF to compare project activity against COVID rates by neighborhood to identify less serviced neighborhoods and those with the highest demand. By simplifying the process of analyzing mounds of data, the dashboard provides a greater understanding of our response to the areas hit hardest by the pandemic, helps inform our community engagement, and allocate resources based on need to communities as the pandemic continues.
Best of all, the tool aligns with the strategy behind New York Cares geographic approach to identifying and designing volunteer programs. By working with Propel32 on data visualization, it is easier to share information and data with city agencies and other partners, which creates more time for us to focus on our mission: meeting pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.
To learn more about data visualization and the work of Propel32, visit them on Linkedin.