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Can Baltimore’s city leaders better serve its youth with data? A stakeholder reflects on the steps ahead

A new youth data hub in Baltimore will generate reports, dashboards and maps that help community stakeholders support children and families in Baltimore.

What will programming for Baltimore's young people look like when the Baltimore City Youth Data Hub is fully functional? (Image created by Alanah Davis using DALL.E)

The question of whether Baltimore is a leading data city underscores a coalition of public agencies coming together with a nonprofit to build a platform that could assist youth educational attainment and economic mobility.

The group comprises the Baltimore City Health Department, the Mayor’s Office, Baltimore City Public Schools and Baltimore’s Promise (BP). The four entities are using a grant from Modernized Anti-Racist Data Ecosystems (MADE) for Health Justice to support the implementation of the Baltimore City Youth Data Hub.

The coalition has a primary objective of creating a locally-focused data ecosystem with a health emphasis, rooted in principles of anti-racism, equity, justice and community. Its work is connected to Maryland Senate bill SB0870, which was passed in 2022 and cross-filed in the General Assembly with HB1276; both bills established the Baltimore City Youth Data Hub’s existence. According to the website of the de Beaumont Foundation, of which MADE for Health Justice is a new initiative, the hub particularly focuses on the needs of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and immigrant youth.

The coalition hopes the data hub will provide valuable insights to city leaders and youth service providers in Baltimore through the consistent production of information that helps expand access to youth opportunities and services throughout the year.

Equipping city leaders with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions regarding funding, policies and strategies that support Baltimore’s youth and families is a top priority for coalition leaders like Baltimore’s Promise CEO Julia Baez. The leader of the organization, which focuses on supporting the city’s children and families, said that the money will be directly disbursed to people and groups involved in research and advisory roles.

“Through the funding we have now, we expect to provide direct compensation to community leaders and stakeholders who would serve as advisors on the soon-to-be-launched Community Research and Advisory Council,” Baez said via email. “We are also providing a grant to an equity organization that is leading the Hub through a process to continue to ensure that it is governed through a racial equity framework.”

Baez, who did not immediately specify the amount the coalition was granted nor the name of the aforementioned equity organization,  shared the link for a request for proposals (RFP) alongside her email comments.

“We expect to release future RFPs to identify partners as needed for the Hub,” she said. “We are currently working with our Executive Committee, Dr. Santelises and Mayor Scott, as well as advisors from Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) and the Casey Foundation, to set up those processes.”

Read the RFP for the Youth Data Hub Equity Consultant

The effort began with the Baltimore Summer Engagement Ecosystem, a tool designed to map out opportunities for Baltimore’s youth and monitor the accessibility of summer programs in low-income communities. 

“We expect to release the first use case of the system next spring, focusing on the long-term impact of summer learning investments for youth and young adults in Baltimore,” Baez said of the project’s timeline. 

She also shared her thoughts on the strategy, accessibility and confidence in Baltimore. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Does this portal fit within any other digitization plans or strategy for the city at large?

Yes, this is an aligned strategy of the Mayor, City Schools and Baltimore’s Promise and is the way that public systems will share individualized data moving forward.

How will the agencies involved with the Youth Data Hub make the portal accessible to people who may not be digitally fluent, especially given how much of the city doesn’t have wireline broadband at home?

This is part of the work of the [Community Research and Advisory Council], equity consultant and we will soon be hiring additional staff focused on capacity building, engagement and outreach specifically for the Hub itself. BP also works with many non-profits and other partners on issues around digital equity, especially as it [is] related to youth and young adults and their families. We are currently working with youth leaders through our Youth Grantmaking Initiative to provide funding for organizations in the City addressing the digital divide.

Companies: Baltimore's Promise / Baltimore City Health Department / Baltimore City Public Schools / City of Baltimore

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