We worked with the New America Foundation to develop their State of State Health website, a comprehensive data browser that maps and charts health indicators in all 50 states. The timing for the project was awesome. In the lead up to the 2008 U.S. elections, we were able to work with one of the most crucial public policy data sets - data related to health care coverage and funding - to make it more useful to the public in an online, easy to use format. The goal for the project was to essentially take a huge spreadsheet with 30 years of information in it and turn it into an engaging website that would facilitate meaningful analysis for policy makers, press, and other users.
The New America Foundation has some of the most comprehensive public policy data sets available, and their information provides essential support to help policy makers make sound decisions. For the data to be leveraged to its full potential, their team realized that it needs to be available for public consumption in a way that anyone could analyze the data and draw conclusions on their own. This is an increasingly common situation for large NGO's: they have decades of data that contribute essential information to policy debates, but no good way to display it online or to communicate the stories that the data tells. Making data useful to the public means identifying users' interests and then showing them exactly how the data line up to describe the issues that are important to them. Recognizing that users (particularly policy makers) would likely be interested in the data for their own state first, we helped the New America team develop a strategy for presenting the state healthcare data using a combination of custom maps and graphs centered around comparisons between states.
At the state level, all the data is displayed along with small graphs that help convey how a given state compares to the rest of the country. Since we knew some indicators would be particularly relevant at a given time based on current events, we made sure that any indicator could be featured on the site to help the New America team quickly direct users to timely information. We also recognized that some researchers would want to take the data and work with it on their own. We built a toolset for creating custom comparisons among any set of states a user chooses, and all the data is available for easy download so users can run custom equations for even more nuanced analysis needs.
In addition to this work, we worked closely with other departments at New America, building smart applications focused on serious data visualizations that are easy for the staff to keep up-to-date by simply uploading Excel spreadsheets to their sites.