screenshot of data dashboard

Facilitating a Transparent Future for Data

New interactive dashboard makes big data user friendly


There's no doubt that the shift from physical to virtual operations over the past year has been a challenge, but it has also enabled our services to become more accessible and inclusive.

UC Davis Human Services' Evaluation team has supported California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) for many years. Research services such as evaluation and data analysis help to reveal critical insights into how well DDS’s services are providing for Californians with developmental disabilities. 

Following the wave of increasing virtual accessibility, UC Davis Human Services has reimagined the presentation of our data to the benefit of the human services professionals we serve. For the first time in the Evaluation team’s collaboration with DDS, the data has been transformed into an interactive dashboard that is user friendly and easy to understand.

“The dashboards alleviate the challenge of big data,” explains Human Services research specialist Greyson Harris. “They provide for the three critical elements of data usefulness: they facilitate people being able to discover, access and understand the data.”

The dashboards help people discover the data, Harris explains, through the DDS website and/or any powerful search engine; they provide a website to access the data—a simple but important improvement over the dense spreadsheets and hundred-page print reports of the past; and lastly, through visualization and interactive exploration, they help users to more easily understand the information that they’re seeing.

How does the dashboard work?

The data displayed on the new dashboard is collected from thousands of Californians with developmental disabilities and their families who have been surveyed using a tool known as National Core Indicators (NCI).

“The NCI is an overview to get a window into the experiences of some 330,000 individuals that receive developmental services in California,” says Harris. These surveys assess the quality of assistance that people are receiving, as well as various population statistics. They produce vast amounts of data that, though very valuable, are challenging to navigate. The new interactive dashboard optimizes the survey data, making it easier for services professionals to use and improve their systems.

screenshot of data dashboard

The NCI dashboard organizes data into several categories that breaks the information down into digestible pieces. Each category of the dashboard provides an interactive map of California that allows users to find a location visually and see geographic patterns. Though the target audience for this dashboard is the staff that work with populations receiving developmental services, it is also useful for transparency purposes providing information to policy makers, families, and members of the public who may need access to this data.

Moving forward

The Evaluation team is currently working on a more comprehensive version of the dashboards. The updated dashboards will cover three times as many topics, provide a wider range of visualization styles, and offer options to drill down into results along demographic characteristics such as age, ethnicity and diagnosis.

The Human Services Evaluation team aims to make public data more user friendly and accessible. We encourage you to contact us if you would like to explore the many possibilities for your organization’s data.

If you would like to learn more about our Evaluation team's recent work on developing easily accessible evaluation tools, check out our Oct. 8 article: New Visual Tool Shows Student Ratings from Human Services Virtual Trainings.

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