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AARP Partners with Social Explorer to Harness the Power of Data

MONDAY, JUL 01, 2024

Over 38 million members trust AARP to fight for their dignity and quality of life. AARP trusts Social Explorer to support that by transforming the efficiency and integrity of their Livability Index—the first neighborhood-level assessment tool of its kind.

AARP is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization with a growing network of over 38 million members over the age of 50. AARP’s members rely on AARP solutions to empower them to live their best life. AARP’s Public Policy Institute (PPI) develops creative solutions to address common needs for financial security, healthcare, and quality of life.

One of those solutions is AARP’s Livability Index (LI). Released in 2015, the Livability Index was designed as a guide to finding communities best suited for aging in place, and to assist community leaders to meet the needs of people at all ages.

Suleyman Bahceci is the Senior Methods Advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute and Project Manager for AARP’s Livability Index. Suleyman recognized the need to transform the team’s manual and resource-heavy data processes into a streamlined, automated system. He turned to Social Explorer for help.

“Organizations and companies like Social Explorer are playing a significant role in helping nonprofits like AARP further their important role.”

—Suleyman Bahceci, Project Manager, AARP Livability Index

Complex Data Requires Complex Data Management

Because it compares so many factors, the Livability Index requires complex data processing and data management. Housing costs, for example, are expressed as dollar amounts, while other important factors are expressed as percentages or other quantities.

AARP’s long-standing recipe for computing these diverse variables was effective but extremely time-consuming. To help figure out how to manage the data more efficiently, Suleyman turned to Social Explorer’s expert data team.

Social Explorer’s Data Tools Helped

Using Social Explorer’s data processing and data visualization tools, the team was able to wrangle a vast and varied set of indicators across a broad range of geographies to produce high-quality data in a reproducible and scalable way.

Now AARP can more effectively produce their scoring criteria across seven categories, 40 metrics, and 21 policy points, meeting the objective of “a complete picture of the community.”

Automated Data Processing with Social Explorer

The process of acquiring data for AARP’s Livability Index was complicated. AARP needed to transform their data processes into a streamlined, automated system, including:

  • Data Research
  • Data Acquisition
  • Data-munging

The goals were to significantly reduce manual intervention, minimize errors, and enhance overall efficiency in data collection, ingestion, and scoring. Suleyman and his team have been very pleased with Social Explorer’s data processing.

“By introducing automation, Social Explorer helped AARP optimize resource utilization, accelerate data processing, and improve the overall reliability and accuracy of the data workflow. The shift toward an automated system achieved a more agile and responsive approach to management, saving time and resources.”

—Suleyman Bahceci, Project Manager for AARP’s Livability Index

Building A Data Pipeline

To simplify the process, the Social Explorer team worked with AARP to produce the Livability Index Back-End Data Pipeline Platform. The BDPP solves a number of problems during the production of each Livability Index Release. Specifically, the platform serves three major purposes:

  • It supports project management by tracking all activities and centralizing communication for a release, using a project management page enriched with data and communication tools.
  • It maintains the 80 data pipelines used to produce the Livability Index. The platform also enables admin users to monitor and edit pipelines as data sources and methodologies change. This allows for continuous, automatic data production.
  • It enables detailed statistical analysis by Subject Matter Experts for each data metric, using a rich set of plots, charts, tables, and a sophisticated side-by-side exploration of the map.

An Easy Interface for Managing Data

SMEs can easily access the dashboard view from the project management page.

The map is intuitive for SMEs who are experts on particular subjects such as housing, but not necessarily well versed in technical tools. It enables:

  • Data comparisons
  • Data analysis
  • Juxtaposing with other data sources
  • Geo search
  • Pinpointing data outliers

Back-end visualizations powered by Social Explorer.

“With Social Explorer. . . the benefits are many. With Social Explorer’s talented team members and engineers, now we have a modern, streamlined and efficient process for ingesting, transforming, validating, and scoring the Livability Index. The benefits are many,” said Suleyman.

“We’re comfortable with the data integrity now, and it already has reduced a lot of time and effort, which strengthens our capacity to do other research activities and analysis. The team is feeling very positive about the platform.”

An Added Benefit: Data Literacy

In a world where data reigns supreme, the ability to understand, analyze, and harness its power is becoming increasingly crucial. Forbes ranked Data Literacy as the #2 most important professional skill for the next decade, and for good reason.

However, some organizations don't necessarily have access to trained data scientists. This is where the magic of expanding data literacy comes into play, especially in the nonprofit sector. Social Explorer brought a new level of data literacy to the partnership.

“Often nonprofit organizations are trying to solve a problem for a community, such as food insecurity. And while that may not initially present as a data-driven investigation, the data sources behind soup kitchen locations, for example, demonstrate the value of data literacy in this sector,” states Dzejla Medjedovic-Tahirovic, VP at Social Explorer’s Data Team, and Suleyman’s partner on the Livability Index project.

Suleyman agrees, “Whether assessing the accessibility of public services, spaces or understanding resources, data literacy is key to unlocking the wealth of information embedded in the Livability Index. AARP fosters informed decision-making and, hopefully, positive community transformation.”

Empowering Organizations to make Informed Decisions

Social Explorer is on a mission to democratize data literacy. “Our platform isn't just about crunching numbers; it's about empowering organizations to make informed decisions and drive meaningful change,” explains Dzejla.

AARP faced a common challenge shared by many nonprofits: harnessing the power of data without the luxury of a team of data scientists. With vast amounts of information at their fingertips, AARP needed a solution to quickly enhance their data processing and deliver deeper actionable insights to the community they served.

Data Literacy Education and Support for Nonprofits

But it’s not just about providing a software solution. Social Explorer recognizes the importance of education and support in building data literacy within nonprofit organizations. Through tailored training sessions and ongoing assistance, AARP staff members enjoy the full benefits of their enterprise partnership.

As more and more organizations’ initiatives rely on quality data management, the importance of data literacy rises. By equipping organizations like AARP with the tools and knowledge they need to harness the power of data, Social Explorer isn’t just unlocking success — they’re helping to drive meaningful change.

Embracing and Capitalizing on Data

According to Suleyman, “data is everything” and it’s growing exponentially. The technology is rapidly evolving. Many commercial and for-profit entities successfully leverage data and capitalize on it.

“But what about organizations like us that seek to serve the public good?” asks Suleyman. “Keeping up is a challenge for many organizations for a variety of reasons, including lack of adequate info, technology, and resources; number of stakeholders, and regulatory policy. The benefit of this work is not always easily translatable into a number, such as revenue or impact, etc.”

Unique Partnerships to Improve Lives

“We learned in our work for the Livability Index platform, there are no trusted formulas or tried and true roadmaps on how to use big data and new technologies to solve large complex social problems,” said Suleyman. “Which is why organizations and companies like Social Explorer are playing a significant role in helping nonprofits like AARP further their important role.”

For Suleyman and Social Explorer, the Livability Index is not only about data management for nonprofit organizations, but also about making it easier for everyday people to better understand the world they live in.

The vision is for the Livability Index to grow into a transformative force that not only assesses the livability of communities, but actively catalyzes positive change. Thanks to Suleyman and Social Explorer, that vision appears to be coming true.

Data insights are waiting to be uncovered
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