The data are in your hands.
The Greater Louisville Project was founded in 2003 as a consortium of philanthropic foundations, organized by the Community Foundation of Louisville, who sought to underwrite an ambitious “research and development” project for the newly consolidated city-county government. In the wake of Merger (promoted to make Louisville more competitive on a national scale), the Project solicited both internal experience and outside expertise to develop a set of “Deep Drivers” that would measure progress for cities like Louisville, always using data to measure our competitiveness against a set of Peer Cities. Success would be measured by objective metrics and rankings in all Deep Drivers, with the idea that a city that could dramatically improve education outcomes, quality of life, and access to economic opportunity would enter the top tier of American cities.
For two decades, the Greater Louisville Project served as an independent, non-partisan civic initiative acting as a catalyst for civic action, providing research, data, and analytic tools in support of the agenda for long-term progress. When we were created, the idea to use data as the basis for community-wide conversations about our city’s progress was an innovation. This collective embrace of reliable data was a welcome departure from internal competition and subjective boosterism, and this approach allowed us to measure progress in ways that were undeniable. Today, thankfully, data is woven throughout the civic landscape. Organizations large and small measure their progress through data to hold themselves accountable and to share results with one another. Metro Government has received national accolades for its integration of data into its decision-making. Over the years, our data supported meaningful collective action to ensure more young people can earn college degrees, collaboration to reduce health disparities across the city, conversations to make philanthropic investments more equitable and impactful, and advocacy to ensure all young people enter kindergarten ready to learn. And yet, Louisville has not generally improved its standing when compared to our Peer Cities, nor has it grown at the necessary pace to earn a spot in the top tier of American cities.
Twenty years later, it is clear that we have more than enough data about our city’s problems. It is time to focus on solutions in ways that bring together the many stakeholders who play a part in creating a great Louisville. As a consortium of philanthropists, we humbly step aside to make room for a new community framework for a Greater Louisville to emerge. In the words of author Octavia Butler, “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” We have no idea what they might be, but we can be mindful that with this change will come exciting new possibilities for innovation and impact. We are hopeful that the space we leave behind will make way for new organizations and initiatives that operate from the understanding that our collective civic intelligence will always point us to better answers than the ideas of any one of us.