For discussion

February 2018

5 Years of North Dakota Compass!

The North Dakota Compass (ND Compass) website was launched in February 2013 to provide reliable, accurate, and unbiased data and information on a variety of topics associated with aspects of quality of life in North Dakota. ND Compass is made up of Ina Cernusca, research specialist, and Kendra Erickson-Dockter, project director, who take care of all the day to day business, data needs, outreach, and sustainability of the project. February 2018 marks the 5 year anniversary of the ND Compass project. To celebrate this milestone, Ina and Kendra share ND Compass project-level data and a few accomplishments as resulted from an evaluation that was funded by the Bush Foundation.

The North Dakota Compass (ND Compass) website was launched in February 2013 to provide reliable, accurate, and unbiased data and information on a variety of topics associated with aspects of quality of life in North Dakota. During these five years, we, at ND Compass have strived to serve specific needs of North Dakotans by adding more data, at a more local level; providing new tools and better access to data; getting the word out so more people could benefit from this valuable resource; and creating a community of data-minded people to encourage data-based decision making in North Dakota. All of these were driven by the vision that the data and information provided will increase the capacity of community members and leaders to advance their goals and positively impact their communities.

However, to what extent do data and information on ND Compass guide community decision making and help identify and act on issues that affect communities? Assessing and isolating the impact of ND Compass on organizations and communities is very challenging. Thanks to an external evaluation sponsored by the Bush Foundation we were happy to see that ND Compass is used and valued and has an impact on the results of organizations that use the data.

To celebrate ND Compass’ 5th anniversary, we share with you a few accomplishments as resulted from the evaluation. Many thanks to those who participated in the evaluation and to all our users, partners, and supporters.

According to Google Analytics, since the launch of the ND Compass website, 23,100 unique users have accessed data and resources in 44,500 sessions and viewed 184,000 pages on the website. The number of users and website usage increased from year to year, the website continually is attracting new visitors while maintaining a base of returning visitors.

Most accessed pages
The Topic areas are the most visible part of the website. As expected, topics such as Demographics, Economy, Aging, and Health ranked among the most accessed pages on the website. Users also appreciated the versatility of the Geographic Profiles and used them extensively. They ranked first among most used features on the website in a user survey and fifth in Google Analytics rankings for the 5-year period. In addition to providing data on the website, we try to make users’ voices heard through the monthly Featured Article. The article is written by users; provides an opportunity to share information about their research, organization, programs, or important issues impacting the state; and are of interest for the community at large and the research community. These articles were the most accessed pages during the 5-year timeframe. A user survey also identified Trends and Data Highlight as among the most used ND Compass features especially for the context they add to the data.

Who is using ND Compass?
Data on ND Compass is used by many people within a wide range entities and professions for a variety of needs. ND Compass users include: ND legislators, Non-profit organizations, Foundations, Local or state organizations, Businesses, Educators, Students, and Interested citizens.

The uses of ND Compass is extensive. The evaluation confirmed that ND Compass data and resources are used for community development; needs assessments; program development; project planning; strategic planning; election campaign and policy development; determining future funding initiatives, grant applications, and grant review; among others.

Here are just a few examples of how data and information on ND Compass is used:

  • “Data on ND Compass has been invaluable in the creation of a comprehensive health burden document for the state of North Dakota”.
  • “I use ND Compass for grant proposals. I use the demographics, a number of topics, and the population of people with disabilities. I use it because it is one source with up-to-date information”.
  • “It has given our foundation the information we need to plan future initiatives and focus areas”.
  • “We use ND Compass to develop regional plans. It has the data we need regarding county, business and quality of life”.

Why is ND Compass used?
Overall users appreciate ND Compass for being a credible, trustworthy, and nonbiased resource that provides curated, vetted, reliable, valid, and local data in a user-friendly format. ND Compass is seen as a one-stop source of information and a time saver. Users also prefer ND Compass because it contains understandable, simple, and straightforward statistics; statewide trends, charts, analysis and narrative; in addition to valuable tools and supplementary resources (e.g., library, Compass Points).

Hear why users utilize ND Compass from the users themselves…

  • “We use ND Compass because it is easy to use. It saves time. We are confident of its accuracy and it links to a variety of data elements”.
  • “ND Compass has a reputation for having solid, unbiased data”.
  • “I can’t imagine going back and not having this – beyond description. It saves time, energy”.

The data and resources that are available on ND Compass are not final results. Please keep in mind that social indicators and data are tools. Data and social indicators are meant to be used to drive decision and policy making, measure progress, and to inspire action. The real results are the people whose lives have been changed, because of the work that was accomplished with the help of the data and social indicators.

A number of North Dakota Legislators; United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area; and North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service are entities and people who are using ND Compass to help make an impact in North Dakota. Specifically…

  • Data on ND Compass and its Legislative District profiles informed campaign and policy decisions of ND legislators. One legislator indicated, “I used [ND Compass] and even referred to it every day of the legislative session to make sure that the policy decisions I made were consistent with the people who were in my district”.
  • Data on ND Compass helped United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area to focus and validate its strategy. The President/CEO pointed out, “Then we looked at the ND Compass data. It showed that we had the highest poverty rate of the four cities in North Dakota. That did it for us. Therefore, we were able to focus our work on poverty.”
  • NDSU Extension leaders use ND Compass data to identify needs, appoint extension agents, and validate programs. Extension leaders stated, “We used ND Compass to validate why we are doing programming in this area”. In addition, Extension leaders noted, “We do a number of strategic plans for organizations. When we do that, we pull in ND Compass to help people understand what is happening in their community”.

If you have used ND Compass to make impact in your project, program, organization, community, or state, please let us know. We at ND Compass are always looking at ways to showcase and celebrate your successes!

Connecting and reaching current and potential users is also a very important component to the project. To date ND Compass has 352 Facebook likes, 326 Twitter followers, and 754 newsletter subscribers.  We at ND Compass invite you to get involved and help us grow ND Compass even more.

  • Stay informed – sign up for the monthly newsletter on the homepage.
  • Spread the word – tell others about how ND Compass can impact them.
  • Volunteer to write a monthly featured article – remember the articles some of the most visited parts of the website and they are also very much needed and appreciated.
  • Interact with social media – Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

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