On Friday, December 9, 2016, data professionals from across Connecticut gathered at the Lyceum in Hartford to spend a day learning, networking, and honing their skills at the Connecticut Data Collaborative’s winter conference, Counting What Matters: Better Data for Better Policy in Connecticut. Thanks to CT-N, you can watch a broadcast of many of the day's sessions here.

The theme of the conference, Counting What Matters, taps into a growing concern that as a society, we have entered a post-truth era where data are disregarded and where despite compelling evidence, our political leaders may make policy that is not data-informed or evidence based.

Executive Director, Michelle Riordan-Nold, opened the conference with a call to action: who we count and how we count matters and it is more important than ever. We need to understand the strengths and limitations of data collection methodologies and ensure we’re all critical consumers of data.

To reach that goal, we opened the day with an update on our exciting public education initiative, the CTData Academy. Since the pilot initiative was announced at our June conference, CTData staff, including Data Engagement Specialist, Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, have been working to develop the Data Academy’s offerings, solicit feedback on the proposed sessions, and plan for the rollout at the beginning of 2017. The Data Academy offerings are focused on developing data literacy, growing data capacity and enabling all to use data more effectively. So far the offerings include:

  • Data 101
  • Data In Depth
  • An expanded section of www.ctdata.org
  • Data In Person

Our first Data in Person event, the monthly open data call, is happening on Tuesday, December 20th from 3-4pm and you may sign up here. Our initial program, Data 101, is scheduled for February 8, 2017. Details about signing up may be found here.

Attendees spent the morning with a packed schedule, first in panel sessions centered on Education Equity, Migration and New Developments at the Connecticut Data Collaborative. Attendees engaged with state agency leaders and scholars around new data initiatives and projects, including the State Department of Education’s EdSight platform, the Office of Early Childhood’s Integrated Data System and migration research in progress.

Back by popular demand, we held Ignite presentations, showcasing research across the state focused on “Counting What Matters” from the Department of Labor, the State’s Population Center, the Department of Children and Families, the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project and the Open Communities Alliance. The presentations covered a range of topics from employment metrics to housing data, survey data to administrative data, data challenges and successes. This engaging style has proved popular with conference-goers who enjoy hearing “sound bytes” of research in progress.

Before we broke for lunch, we convened a panel discussing regionalism and existing opportunities and challenges when constructing regional services and relationships.

The slate of afternoon offerings was just as exciting as the morning. After a delicious lunch (with thanks to the amazing folks at the Kitchen at Billings Forge), attendees chose from sessions about data-driven advocacy for racial justice, homelessness and our pilot of CTData Academy’s Data 101 session.

The day ended with a keynote address from Dr. Jacob Hacker, Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. A regular media commentator and policy adviser, he is the author or co-author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a wide range of popular writings on American politics and public policy. His most recent book, written with Paul Pierson, is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper—a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice just named a best business book of 2016 by the management magazine Strategy+Business.

Dr. Hacker offered his thoughts on data and research in his talk entitled, “How to Measure and Improve Well-Being - And Why That’s More Essential than Ever.” He emphasized that, “measures matter, what we measure matters, and we need to move beyond the aggregate.” He encouraged all of us to continue doing our work, it’s more essential than ever, and we must speak loudly about the importance of data. We are emboldened by his charge that data matters.

We have posted the slides and presentations to the conference page on our website, www.ctdata.org, and have links to the CTData Academy offerings. Please subscribe to our mailing list to receive information about upcoming conferences.

Thank you again to our panelists and presenters:

  • Thomas Cooke, University of Connecticut
  • Patrick Gibson, CT School Finance Project
  • Ajit Gopalakrishnan, Connecticut State Department of Education
  • Jennifer Johnson, Office of Early Childhood
  • Bo Zhao, Senior Economist, New England Public Policy Center
  • Stewart "Chip" Beckett, Glastonbury Town Council
  • Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Representative of Westport
  • Scott Gaul, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
  • Susan Smith, Department of Children and Families
  • Lauren Ruth, Connecticut Voices for Children
  • Izzi Greenberg, Moderator
  • Beau Anderson, Data Analysis, Department of Housing
  • Jackie Janosko, CT Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Brian Roccapriore, CT Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Dr. Jacob Hacker, Yale University

Thank you to our sponsors:

  • Graustein Memorial Fund
  • Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
  • Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Inc.
  • Prometheus Research