Brookings interviews John Fantuzzo and Dennis Culhane about big data

January 21, 2016

John Fantuzzo and Dennis Culhane founded Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy to help governments use big data to better understand their communities and provide social services.

AISP is now partnered with school systems, cities, municipal governments, and states around the country.

Fantuzzo, a professor of education policy at Penn GSE, and Culhane, a professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, were recently interviewed by Stuart M. Butler, Senior Fellow of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, as part of a series on building better neighborhoods.

Butler asked Fantuzzo and Culhane about the challenges of creating an integrated data system, the possibilities for improving social services, and what city and state leaders will be doing with data in coming months and years.

Q: Why are integrated data systems so valuable in enabling government agencies to do this? 

A: Virtually every agency spends disproportionate resources on a relatively small number of people or families, often with complex needs.  These same people are also often users of multiple systems.  So, one primary, common interest among agencies is to identify these subpopulations and to figure out how they can be better and more efficiently served.   And because of their heavy service use, the potential for cost savings is also greatest among these groups.  Agencies can also use these data to inform potential interventions, and, ultimately, to test these interventions in real time, while watching the impact on agency program utilization and related outcomes.  Recent enthusiasm in improved evidence-based policymaking has also piqued interest in using linked administrative data to enable higher speed and lower cost randomized controlled trials to test social program innovations.

Read the complete Q&A here

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