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Using data applications to document, reward community engagement

April 26, 2018 - How engaged are you in your community? How many neighbors do you know? What would have to change for you to become more engaged? We heard one solution from Union Capital Boston (UCB) on Thursday, April 26, at the Data + Creativity meetup.

Laura Ballek is the Chief of Networks for UCB. The organization is using technology to document when people participate in community-building events. Everything from parent-teacher association meetings to helping a next-door neighbor can earn points. When a member reaches a certain level of points, they receive a pre-paid debit card.

Laura Ballek with Union Capital Boston present the unique solution for improving quality of life in underserved neighborhoods.

UCB is in just a few neighborhoods, and hopes to expand slowly, aiming for quality civic engagement over quantity. Ballek noted the process gives people in low income areas support to be involved in the community, when otherwise the choice to attend events would compete with a need to work at one or more jobs.

Laura Ballek from UCB gives a demo of the app to Data + Creativity members (L to R) Enrique, Grady, and Jordan.

Another benefit to the community is the strength of weak ties. UCB rewards members for being involved by acting as a “guide, not a savior.” Members can use the UCB app to find out about events and make connections that build social capital. One statistic that points to the success of the solution: After a year in the app, unemployment levels drop about 15% among members.

Watch the full presentation from the Facebook Live broadcast here.

UCB's presentation inspired a lot of discussion.

Join Data + Creativity next month for another fascinating discussion. Dr. Bucky Dodd will explain a revolution taking place in the spaces and places where people learn.