Guest contributor: on poverty, and being informed

By Eliberto Mendoza, Board of Trustees, Community Foundation Boulder County, and Division Manager, Boulder County Community Action Programs, Community Services Department

Every other year, the Colorado Community Action Association – in partnership with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs – hosts the Colorado Conference on Poverty. This year, the conference was held in Crested Butte – an interesting place for a conference dedicated to the issue of poverty. 

The community is a quaint Colorado resort town that is pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. According to Zillow, the median cost of a home in Crested Butte is $1,197,500. The hotel where the conference was held was elegant with many amenities. You could almost say it was a conference about poverty in a place with no apparent poverty.
Of course, the reality is that there is no place in Colorado where poverty doesn’t exist in some form or fashion. At one of our first plenary sessions, our moderator commented that – while Crested Butte is a very beautiful place – many of the people serving us during our conference make less than $17K a year.
The theme for this year was data and its uses; the tagline was “louder than words: measuring success through data.” The majority of the workshops were focused on how to gather, analyze, and use data for the purpose of sharing stories of success or communicating the need to wider community. The workshops were all interesting and insightful, shedding light on how agencies, community nonprofits, and governments can improve their data-gathering to show the larger community the value of their work. 
Specifically, there were workshops on determining the social return on investments, measuring client growth in a variety of domains, measuring community change, and presenting data to clearly communicate growth or need. 
As a member of the foundation’s Board of Trustees, I know that data is essential to our work. I feel that our community is fortunate to rely on great tool like the Boulder County TRENDS Report, which is key to data-gathering and sharing in our county. For my organization, Boulder County Community Action Programs, TRENDS is an integral part of our Community Needs Assessment, along with other reports created countywide. 
The upcoming edition of TRENDS – which will soon be available online in its entirety for the first time – provides much-needed data on the current demographic and economic realities in our community, including those related to poverty in Boulder County. Indeed, the challenge the conference focused on was learning not only how to gather great data, but how to share it with the community to present a clear message – that’s a challenge that my organization and many other are constantly taking on. The TRENDS Report helps us share with our community how invaluable our work is because the need continues to grow. 
Data does speak louder than words, and the new TRENDS Report will show that – even as we move forward as a community – we continue to have neighbors who need the services of many of our agencies throughout the county.
Stay tuned for the October launch of the 2017-19 edition of our Boulder County TRENDS Report, filled with community insights and stories, data, and recommendations. Soon available on our website, we can’t wait to share with you our new searchable database of more than 150 indicators of our community’s social, economic and environmental health: because through informed decision-making, we inspire ideas, ignite action, and mobilize diverse resources to improve the quality of life for everyone in Boulder County. Together, we accomplish more than we do alone.