“in the year of data, we have a tsunami of facts about who, when, where and what yet struggling to make sense of all of it….”
“census data has been the norm for understanding civic progress; we now are able to go beyond the simple facts to really see opportunity…”
Facts are facts. However, when you get deeper into the facts to understand why people do what they do, you start to see the magic.
For a great example, look at page 26 and 27 of the 2019 Springfield Business Journal’s “Book of Facts.” You should be able to access the flip-style book at this link (requires Flash).
The point is this: Communities are beginning to understand the value of identifying just exactly who chooses to live there, who chooses to visit, and who might bring a business along when they move there.
Don’t get me wrong. Communities have been big data users ever since the first city realized it could count its population. In fact, they are awash in data of all sorts, from how many students they have, to how much their average resident makes, to how many shoes are bought within the city limits. With 2019 being called the “Year of Data” in some circles, we’re all spending a lot of time organizing that data to figure out how it all ties together and what story it tells us. Whole companies have sprung up with the soul intent to help us get organized.
So, back to the Book of Facts. The Springfield Business Journal (SBJ) was one of four companies who invested early in understanding the Personas of their community. They wanted to go beyond a demographic understanding of the residents, and into motivations and behavior within a cultural context—what we call “the WHY.” It’s when you put what you know about the who, what, when, and where together with the why that you truly begin to understand what a community wants and needs.
The Book of Facts shows a snapshot of three of the Personas—a combined description of a group of people who are closely aligned in interests—found within the Springfield urban area. The information shows a profile that includes a fiercely independent community that has high expectations . . . an educated community that wants to give back . . . and a community that sees a future and needs technology resources to fulfill their dreams.
The residents did not have to respond, and this does not rely on reported behavior that, admit it or not, is often faulty. It’s observed behavior that meets and exceeds all the privacy laws to give you aggregated information that is in real time, with real people, and real behavior. These people are not all in the same subsets. They don’t all have the same interests. But for perhaps the first time, Springfieldians can see where they are alike and where they are different. They can see that others want some of the same things they do, and they can organize around getting there, together.
Along with SBJ, the other three companies, Associated Electric Cooperative, Central Bank & Trust, and KOLR-10, all stepped out and stepped up to take a good hard look at the area’s needs and try to figure out where to go with that information. It’s not easy being at the front of a movement, but they understood that demographic data alone doesn’t give you the reasons why people do what they do. Now, they are armed with this motivational data that gives them everything from why people buy cars, to how they want to invest, to how to provide the right message to reach the intended audience.
The Book of Facts tells it like it is. Now it’s up to the community, and the businesses within it, to work toward the right messages, to encourage healthy innovation, and to build on the data because we finally understand WHY the community acts the way it does. The technology and analysis is finally catching up to the community. Now is the time to find the intersections and develop ideas around them.
We’re all in.