Regional Data Ecosystem

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The Lehigh Valley, the fastest growing and third most populous area in Pennsylvania, has experienced remarkable economic and development successes in recent years.  Yet in spite of growth, urgent challenges remain.  Today, one in three elementary school children cannot read at grade level; one in ten inhabitants is hungry, half of whom live in households that are ineligible for food assistance; the human casualties resulting from drug addiction are mounting; approximately 30,000 seniors cannot afford their basic care needs; levels of child and senior abuse and neglect have risen since the great recession, and a recent study found that youth homelessness in the region is far greater than official estimates.  Behind each statistic are people who live in our communities, and the health and wellbeing of our region depends on our collective ability to identify and address their circumstances.

Regional resources exist; the Lehigh Valley contains over 1400 registered non-profit organizations that include substantial funding agencies, three county governments (Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon), multiple municipal governments and school districts, and a number of successful business enterprises.  Yet, this wide array of potential public and private resources also poses one of the region’s greatest challenges: coordination of efforts across duplicative (and often competing) organizations.

Like a number of communities across the United States, the Lehigh Valley increasingly is committed to Collective Impact strategies for identifying and solving the region’s greatest challenges.  Unlike traditional public and philanthropic strategies focused on ameliorating individuals’ needs through differing organizations’ specific interventions, Collective Impact is the commitment of organizations from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration.  Cross-organizational collaboration is not new; what differentiates Collective Impact, however, is threefold: collaborative relationships between cross-sectoral organizations around a concrete goal (e.g. increasing grade-level reading and math competency); mutual commitment to shared data collection, analysis, and accountability; and shared leadership supported by a backbone organization responsible for coordinating the stakeholders.  The Collective Impact model is best characterized as a marathon, not a sprint – meaning that real social change takes time and intentionality to build trust, coordination, collaboration, and communication across multiple and diverse stakeholders.  Successful collective impact brings together people from different sectors encouraging fresh perspectives, creativity, and synergistic (rather than competing) efforts which, in turn, can attract increased support within and outside the community.

Arguably the most defining feature of Collective Impact is the full embrace of the power of data and data tools of analysis.  Similar to the Gates Foundation goal of using mankind’s most sophisticated data tools to permanently eradicate malaria or corporate adoption of powerful data analytics tools for business competition, social services collaboration must use the tools available to marshal our collective intentionality.  In today’s world, the challenge is not generating or collecting data; we are awash in data – from every public entity from the federal to local level, every health or education system, every business enterprise, etc.  The challenges to sharing and using data are complex and require a collaborative approach to building a regional data eco-system in service to Collective Impact.





All stakeholders in the Greater Lehigh Valley support a data eco-system that enables collaboration in data collecting, analysis, and communication to relevant decision-makers. The data eco-system ensures that all stakeholders have access to reliable data and includes strategies, standards, and policies that serve an inclusive, collaborative web of private, public, and non-profit partners whose missions support the well-being of the region.  The data eco-system encourages data sharing, while respecting the rights of organizations to control their own data.

This White Paper defines four components of a shared data eco-system:

  • desired data elements
  • data platform(s)
  • data policies and governance
  • data stakeholders


Desired Data Elements:  quantitative and qualitative information relevant to the health, wellbeing, and identity of the region

  • Reliable
  • Impartial
  • Valid
  • Regionally relevant

Data platform(s): technology associated with storage and usability of data

  • Collaborative
  • Flexible
  • Inter-operable, where possible

Data Policies: rules for collecting, using, and disseminating information

  • Ethical
  • Transparent
  • Efficient
  • Inclusive

Stakeholders: producers and consumers of data, broadly conceived

  • Diverse
  • Knowledgeable
  • Data Citizens


Rationale:  A vision statement describes successful, measureable progress toward a long term vision within a defined time frame. Vision statements are the basis for establishing S.M.A.R.T (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) goals and strategies.  This White Paper sets a 5 year frame (2022).

Desired Data Elements

By 2022, the Greater Lehigh Valley regularly makes available an updated, reliable, valid set of community indicators that inform and drive regional decision-making in key sectors related to the health and well-being of the region.  These indicators are supplemented by region-specific data and analysis generated by public, non-profit, and educational partners.  Region-specific information includes both quantitative and qualitative data and analysis.

Existing Initiatives:

  • Regional Data Collection (UWGLV, LVPC, LVEDC, Health Networks, School Districts, etc)
  • Local Knowledge collection: Social Impact Center, LocalWiki
  • LVRC State of the Lehigh Valley Reports

Data Platform(s)

By 2022, key stakeholders across public, private, non-profit, and educational sectors routinely share publicly available and regionally-generated data using data platforms that facilitate collaboration and collective decision-making.  Data platforms used by key stakeholders are chosen and implemented to support the region’s data eco-system.  The costs and responsibilities for maintaining data platforms that support the region’s data eco-system are well-understood, sustainable, and enjoy buy-in from all stakeholders.

Existing Initiatives:

  • Lehigh Valley Community Hub
  • LocalWiki

Data Policies and Governance

By 2022, the regional data eco-system is supported by data standards and policies that facilitate sustainable maintenance of data assets, efficient sharing of data across organizational stakeholders, broad understanding of the rights and responsibilities data partnerships, and well-understood guidelines for communication of data results.  Data standards and policies are maintained by a governance structure that ensures efficient decision-making, shared partnership in the region’s data eco-system, and transparent access for interested parties.

Existing Initiatives:

  • Data Players Group


By 2022, all stakeholders in the Greater Lehigh Valley understand the importance of data-driven decision-making and their own roles as data citizens.  Capacity-building resources are available for organizations and collectives that seek to improve their data gathering and analysis capacity.  Stakeholders embrace the need to strengthen their ability and commitment to sharing data in order to improve the well-being of all inhabitants of the region.

Existing Initiatives

  • LVRC Data Citizenship Workshops
  • Stone Soup Makers Initiative
  • Rider-Pool Collective Impact Fellows


  • Shared Platform(s) or regional data hub
  • Data Governance structure
  • Data standards committee

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