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Executive Summary
Data is one of the most valuable tools for any social impact organization. Data-driven projects illustrate key insights, opportunities for impact, and strategies for resilience. However, without the organizational capacity to own and manage data, insight does not always translate to action. The Open Spatial Lab (OSL) at the University of Chicago’s Data Science Institute works to address this gap by co-building accessible, low-code or no-code tools that make spatial data science more accessible and affordable. From January through April 2023, OSL engaged 18 nonprofit and community-based organizations to meet with, learn from, and assess each organization’s data capacities. This report details common areas for growth and highlights the challenges and opportunities in building community capacity for data ownership. It also provides a comprehensive overview and key insights from our organizational data assessment process.  Finally, it highlights how the Open Spatial Lab is using these insights to directly inform our current collaborative data tool building program with a select group of organizational partners and our work ahead.


The Open Spatial Lab would like to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for supporting this research and engagement activities, as well as the Center for Spatial Data Science and the Data Science Institute at the University of Chicago for their ongoing support and collaboration.  Thank you also to the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership at the Urban Institute for connecting us with organizations and your network. Lastly but certainly not least, we thank the nonprofit and community organizations who shared their time and efforts with us in this process.

Cover image based on “Punched cards from a Jacquard loom” by pedrikFollow ( – CC BY 2.0

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Susan Paykin (she/her)

Program Lead, Open Spatial Lab & Associate Director, Community-Centered Data Science, Data Science Institute

Dylan Halpern

Technical Lead, Open Spatial Lab