Community Research Tools

Ever wonder if a project your city is working on actually helps people in your city?

With this tool, you can create maps and reports using a meaningful and simple framework to help find relevant data to: evaluate project ideas, develop proposals that address the deepest needs in your community, and better understand what people in your city need and want.

To simplify local research done for participatory budgeting, the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) has starting using a public health framework. Why? The factors that lead to public health in communities are representative of social and economic forces that inform equity. When we understand public health, we understand needs and communities better.

We used this framework and its suggested data sets to prepare a Data for the People research report for PB volunteers in Greensboro, NC. Check out the report as a PDF here, and read on to learn how you can make your own report for your community.

Data for Delegates research for Greensboro, NC, using County Health Ranking frameworks.

Community Health research for Greensboro, NC, using County Health Ranking frameworks.



Who uses this framework, and what these research tools do:

Research tools help community volunteers — including steering committee members, budget delegates, idea generators, and community representatives — get better context for PB project proposals in your neighborhood and city.

Anyone who participate in PB (as a voter, nominating ideas, etc.) can use these tools to inform their engagement, and even inform other work they do in the community.

And, this resource is also for city staff and school officials who want to learn where PB and other initiatives can have high impact.

A Public Health Framework:
The County Health Rankings.

We focused on health factors drawn from social and economic factors and the physical environment in the County Health Rankings model to support Budget Delegates with using data to understand equity.The County Health Rankings allow community members to focus on data metrics related to equity factors.

Given that PB pertains to school, neighborhood, District, Ward, or City-wide improvements, we include only the broad categories of Social and Economic Factors and Physical Environment.

The metrics in these offer insight on:

  • Education 
  • Employment
  • Income
  • Family & Social Support
  • Community Safety
  • Air & water Quality
  • Housing & Transit

Get Started! How To Create a Data for the People Research Report:

First, set up your research plan by generating a list of what you’ll include in your report. We suggest starting with the following seven dimensions:

  • Air & Water Quality
  • Community Safety
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Family & Social Support
  • Housing & Transit
  • Income

You’re invited to use open, local data to guide your research by following these steps:

    1. Define what to look for. Start with the public health frameworks; focus on topic areas related to your committee’s list of projects. Then, find specific metrics related to your projects.
    2. For example a social services or education committee may be interested in projects that support workforce development. Employment is part of the public health framework, and metrics on unemployment help us understand how Employment is doing in this community. RESOURCE: try using this research template spreadsheet to get organized before you start.
      • Research using relevant data. See below for an organized catalog of open data that you may want to use. Use the search features to select the resource(s) that include(s) all the data you’ll need

      TIP 1: the Research Template spreadsheet points to the data sets the County Health Rankings uses, and can get you started quickly on your research.

      TIP 2: We’ve identified 10 reliable, large online resources to help you expand your local research. Check out the list:


To  view a tool, simply click on the tool directory and you will see a tool description, why we recommend the tool, limitations, and the tool’s web address.

        1. Prioritize needs and issues based on data about your community. As you develop projects, it can be helpful to compare the metrics you’re exploring in your district or city to those metrics in your state or in the United States as a whole. That’s why we compare values from the US, the State, the County, the City AND the District or Neighborhood (block-level or census tract)For example, does your neighborhood have poor transportation access or great water quality relative to your city or state? As in the example chart from Greensboro shown above, is your district more or less in line with income?It can also be helpful to visualize your research as charts or graphs to make it easier to understand and explore the information.

          Look for data on any of these indicators as they relate to your PB work.

          For example, if you’re on a committee to put together school improvement projects, you might want to look at indicators of Family and Social support, or Education to help you evaluate the need, and the potential impacts of these projects.

          Note: Not all of these indicators will be relevant to your work or to all committees; pick the most useful tools and indicators for your committees and projects.

Learn More About the County Health Rankings Indicators

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) states it simply in their report on A New Way to Talk About the Social Determinants of Health: there’s an “integral relationship between our health and where and how we live, learn, work and play.”

Public health provides a useful framework for thinking about equity, and especially so in this political moment. We’re appreciative of our partners at Civic Hall Labs for sharing their expertise, questions, and resources with our team at PBP, and we’re excited to share what we’ve learned and created with you!

        • The Boston Public Health Commission offers clear distinctions between health equity, health disparities or inequalities, health inequities, and other key concepts in the public health field that inform our understanding of the relationship between racism and health outcomes. The Commission presents critical information on racial and ethnic health disparities by highlighting the difference between genetics and experiences of racism: racism over a lifetime—rather than genetics—contributes to a variety of serious health threats.
        • The Healthy People 2020 report titled An Opportunity to Address Societal Determinants of Health in the United States lifts up key distinctions between the social and physical environment, explores the importance of focusing on health equity, and shares specific actions we can take to address social determinants of health. The overarching goals of Healthy People 2020 include creating social and physical environments that promote good health for all.


Please share your feedback

We would like to hear from you! Fill out this short form to let us know about your experience using the Data for Delegates portal.

Project thanks go to: Thank you to Civic Hall Labs, with whom we partnered as a civic health innovator in the Healthy Public Challenge. Thank you as well to the voters and participants in PBP’s internal participatory budgeting process, PB2 — learn more here about how our donors decide on our projects!

Give Feedback

Our staff will review all feedback and use your suggestions to make this tool even more useful for lifting up equity in PB and beyond.