Literacy Instruction for Texas

We are publishing a collection of reports and documents prepared by bcANALYTICS to help nonprofit and community-based organizations serve their clients and communities through data-driven research and analysis. Check out more bcANALYTICS reports here.


Through research and analysis, [bc] has mapped and profiled Literacy Instruction for Texas’ (LIFT) current service delivery and identified key demographic factors commonly associated with low literacy populations. This report offers recommendations to guide LIFT’s potential expansion in Dallas County. 

Currently, LIFT, has 14 outreach locations around the Dallas/Fort Worth area that serve approximately 3,313 individuals, ages 18 to 90, through its various programs. LIFT has served the region for over 50 years.

While much research has been done on childhood literacy, low literacy among adults is largely unstudied. Indicators commonly associated with low literacy rates among adults include poverty, English proficiency, race, ethnicity, immigration, and unemployment. In this study, estimate data from the American Community Survey were used to identify geographies with a prevalence of adult literacy indicators and risk factors. In Dallas County, these include neighborhoods in South Oak Cliff, near Fair Park, and Pleasant Grove. It is recommended that explorations for service expansion start in these neighborhoods. 

Social service and ESL adult education providers in and near identified neighborhoods are located and listed. Examples of these include primary and secondary schools with higher prevalence of ESL students, workforce centers, churches, and libraries. It is also recommended that literacy outreach efforts begin at community centers already integrated and engaged within the community. Partnerships and alignment with other organizations should maximize impact in areas with the highest need. 

Below is an excerpt from the LIFT report. Read the full report here!

As the largest community foundation in Texas and one of the largest in the nation,
Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) works with families, companies and nonprofits to strengthen our community through a variety of charitable funds and strategic grantmaking initiatives. The foundation professionally manages more than 900 charitable funds and has awarded more than $1.3 billion in grants since its founding in 1953. Increasing financial stability of working families is one of the two key focus areas of CFT’s community impact funds. To support this area, CFT has launched the Data Driven Decision-Making (D3) Institute. The D3 Institute is designed to provide organizations that offer programs and services for low-income working families the power to accelerate their development of enduring solutions to the social and economic problems facing this population.

Data Ecosystem Project - Report Released

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Stakeholders from across North Texas identified opportunities and challenges at Data Ecosystem Lab #1 in January 2016. 

Stakeholders from across North Texas identified opportunities and challenges at Data Ecosystem Lab #1 in January 2016. 

bcANALYTICS recently wrapped up The Data Ecosystem Project, a two-year project to reimagine the way data is collected, shared, and used across Dallas and North Texas

Executive Summary

Read the full Data Ecosystem Project report and Appendices here!

North Texas faces a myriad of challenges as it moves through the second decade of the 21st Century. Affordable housing, rapid growth, aging infrastructure, poverty alleviation, children’s health, and urban blight are just some of the many complex, interconnected problems that require an unprecedented amount of long-term action, cross-sector coordination, and development of a common agenda to address. Cities across the world have recognized that data is central to both understanding and acting on these complex issues and that the importance of making data accessible to a greater population is key to reaching these goals. A number of different strategies for achieving these goals have been adopted across the country, with each offering unique strengths and benefits.

The Data Ecosystem Project, sponsored by Communities Foundation of Texas, has worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to identify a system that can revolutionize the ways we collect, share, access, and use data in Dallas. Through research on national best practices, the Dallas Data Ecosystem Survey, and local stakeholder engagement the Data Ecosystem Project has identified an approach that organizations in Dallas and North Texas can work towards to improve the health and vitality of the regional data ecosystem.

The wealth of motivated organizations and individuals already working in Dallas and North Texas lends itself to collaborative solutions that benefit from the existing skills and expertise of the data ecosystem. The single greatest need is a centralized data catalog, library, or portal - where data from a variety of organizations, topics, and scales can be accessed by anyone and everyone. To do this, a mix of ancillary activities must also occur, from the creation of a governing body and governance structure to the development of topic specific cohort groups that encourage collaboration and participation between and across different parts of the ecosystem. 

The Data Ecosystem Project has identified a data ecosystem model built around a number of primary and second functions. To implement these practices across the ecosystem, we recommend the following activities take place by Fall 2017

  1. Acquiring preliminary funding to carry out a set of initial work items with oversight from a preliminary advisory team.
  2. Recruiting advocates from a variety of sectors and backgrounds to act as champions of the data ecosystem.
  3. Forming an advisory team to help guide the development of the data ecosystem’s final structure. 
  4. Conducting a data inventory to better understand the extent of publicly available data in North Texas.
  5. Developing case studies that help demonstrate the value and potential of enhanced data accessibility.
  6. Creating a business plan and securing multi-year funding for implementation.

Moving forward with these steps will support the successful implementation of a more robust data ecosystem. Whether the advisory team recommends and builds the case for a collaborative effort or the development of a university-driven data hub, taking the steps to make data more accessible will better enable the region to tackle the problems it faces. By maintaining the status quo, organizations must work harder and less efficiently to understand themselves, their communities, and make well-informed decisions.

Geography of Food Security

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[Note: The data and report presented here are for informational purposes only. This report does not represent the current strategy and operations of CCS.]

Crossroads Community Services (CCS) works to ensure that all people in Dallas County have ready access to nourishing foods and to provide life-skills education to help reduce obesity in impoverished areas. To help serve those in need, CCS participated in the 2013 - 2014 class of the Data Driven Decision-Making (D3) Institute hosted by the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT). The D3 Institute works to give organizations the skills and tools necessary to incorporate data into their work serving low-income working families.

Following their participation in the D3 Institute, D3 participants were eligible to submit letters of interest to receive an analytics package from bcANALYTICS sponsored by CFT. In their LOI, CCS sought to identify small areas of Dallas County most at risk of food insecurity for possible expansion of their network of Community Distribution Partners (CDPs). bcANALYTICS staff worked with CCS to refine the research needs into a data driven, actionable research question and a work plan to answer the question in three months.

The three month project was split between four main phases – Connect, Discover, Analyze, and Deliver -- in order to perform a literature review, data collection, analysis, and compilation of a final report sharing contextual information and recommendations for CCS’s expansion strategy. This project required a considerable amount of background research on food deserts, food insecurity, and CCS’ client base in order to understand the myriad issues relating to the food landscape in Dallas County.

Ultimately, the report produced estimates of food insecurity at the Census Tract level and used geospatial techniques to identify areas underserved by grocery stores and food pantries. The intersection of food insecurity and food deserts was the starting point in identifying specific neighborhoods in Dallas County where CCS could focus on expanding the CDP network. Five neighborhoods were selected and explored at a more fine-grained level: the Los Encinos and Westhaven neighborhoods in far west Dallas; and parts of Pleasant Grove, Pleasant Mound, and Pemberton Hills in southeast Dallas.

Selected findings from the report:

  • 34% of food distributed by CCS to CDP sites flows to southeastern Dallas County. 
  • Children under 19 make up 31% of the overall population in Dallas County, but this same age group makes up 46% of CCS clients between 2012 and 2014. 
  • Roughly ¼ of the food insecure population in Dallas County, 133,00 people, live in areas of concentrated food insecurity (Census Tracts with food insecurity rates greater than or equal to 20%).
  • Much of Dallas County’s food insecure population live in areas that have low accessibility to grocery stores and food pantries. 

Celebrating Local Heroes

Learn more about our MLK Day of Service projects here.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play in that effort. For our 2015 service project in his honor, [bc] set out to recognize some of those who serve their communities by releasing the Second Edition of buildingcommunityHEROES trading cards.  By creating a fun, tactile, and pocketable way to learn about those working to improve our communities, we hope to encourage those of all ages to honor their heroes and engage in the causes that speak to them.

We put out the call for local hero nominations at the beginning of January and received just over 100 nominations for those working tirelessly in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.  Nominations included selfless family members, state senators, founders of schools, advocacy group members and fearless neighborhood leaders.  It was not easy, but from here we researched and curated the nominations to get a final group of heroes with a diverse range of causes, ages, backgrounds and levels of impact.  After the final selections were made, the cards were printed, sorted, packaged and ready for a January 19 distribution.

We distributed the cards on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and throughout the week in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.  We hope that the stories of these 24 heroes will inspire people to be more active in their communities.  We also hope that the cards will encourage people to think about and honor their local heroes.  If you were not able to pick up a pack, check out all 24 heroes plus 2014's at


Who is your hero?  Share them on social media at #bcHEROES2015 and nominate them for the third edition of trading cards!

Announcing bcANALYTICS

Watch for future posts about bcANALYTICS here.

Overcoming the major economic and social issues in the city that affect the working poor - jobs, housing, health, child care, and more - requires coordinated data gathering and analysis. Currently, Dallas significantly trails behind its peer cities in this work. Access to reliable, intelligible, and current data can reveal, and help coordinate, the related work of local government, non-profit organizations, business, neighborhood groups, universities, and foundations to improve local decision-making for the advancement of social and physical change in the city. Facilitating the use of data by city and community leaders leads to more targeted and thoughtful response strategies to individual issues, in service to comprehensive strategies.

bcANALYTICS, in partnership with the Communities Foundation of Texas, continues to work with nonprofits of the Data Driven Decision-Making Institute (D3) to deliver tailored analytics reports to fit organizational needs. While these reports answer organization-specific questions, they also address issues shared throughout the region and help guide strategic decision-making for many organizations.

The bcANALYTICS team also works to develop a potential model and implementation proposal to guide Dallas’ incubation of a robust effort to use advanced and continuously updated data to target and inform urban issues affecting the working poor. Research on national best practices will inform this work and help situate Dallas within the national context of organizations using data for community benefit. The project will ultimately evaluate how municipal government, universities, non-profit organizations, consulting agencies, foundations, and others might contribute to a model, and will explore possibilities to advance data sharing and access to address key challenges facing the working poor.

bcANALYTICS also supports other research being undertaken at [bc].

Welcome Ryan Williams!

Ryan Taylor Williams, a native North Texan, is a geospatial researcher committed to the analysis and visualization of data for urban resilience, sustainability, conservation, and equitable and transparent community building. Before joining bcWorkshop, Ryan served as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow and Data Coordinator for Citizen Schools, and as a freelance planner, cartographer, and GIS consultant in New England for a variety of planning, international development, and municipal organizations. His past research experiences include projects with DesignTank, MassAdubon Society, and TerraCarbon, and has presented work at the American Geophysical Union, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and NASA. Ryan grew up in rural North Texas and received his Bachelor of Arts with honors in Urban Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and his Masters of Science degree in GIS for Development and the Environment from Clark University in Worcester, MA.