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Thursday, June 8 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Spatial Equity Tools: A roundtable discussion on data transparency, spatial equity, and community co-production

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Using data to reveal conditions and experiences of inequity can be a critical tool in the fight against socio-spatial inequalities (Williams, 2020). Although many cities house extensive collections of data that are freely available, much of it is not accessible to policy-makers and community representatives without having prior data literacy (D’Ignazio, 2017; Williams, 2020). Too often, individuals who want to use data are, instead, the subjects of data, and they are not able to harness its power to effect tangible change (D’Ignazio, 2017; Rosan et al. 2022). In seeking to address and reverse spatial inequity, data access, data transparency and data literacy are critically important to building knowledge convergence amongst urban decision-makers and citizens, and to empowering individuals to advocate for and enact policy-level solutions (D’Ignazio, 2017; Hagen et al. 2019; Williams, 2020; Rosan et al. 2022).

This roundtable invites participants to discuss the concept of spatial equity, as both a process and an outcome (Buhangin, 2013), and consider tools that have been deployed in identifying, measuring, and evaluating equity in the public realm (Kuruppuarachchi et al. 2017; Finio et al. 2020; Zrzavy et al. 2022). Participants will discuss current barriers to spatial equity tools (Zrzavy et al. 2022), reflect on a recently launched tool, Spatial Equity NYC, and discuss an in-progress tool for community knowledge building in Philadelphia, PREACT (Planning for Resilience and Equity through Accessible Community Technology). These will serve as case studies for the ‘critical making’ of community equity narratives developed through data-informed equity tools. The capacity for equity tools to inform and influence policy-making (Hagen et al. 2019), evaluating if and how socio-spatial inequalities exposed by spatial equity tools contribute, or could contribute, tangibly to advocacy and policy-level changes, will be a key discussion point for this roundtable. Additionally, the discussion will focus on the critical role of community participation in driving and directing the creation of data-informed equity narratives that have the ability to inform urban policy changes. Discussion will include the importance of inclusivity in participation, and the representation of diversity (race, class, gender, socio-economic status) in tool development. Roundtable participants will conclude with a discussion of the validity, applicability and scalability of action-oriented, knowledge-building equity tools, such as Spatial Equity NYC and PREACT, and collaboratively explore tool development best practices in building data transparency and citizen empowerment through community co-production, in the fight for spatial equity in the public realm.

The expertise of this roundtable in environmental justice, transportation advocacy, urban planning and design, data visualization, and community engagement and education will be invaluable to building a collaborative assessment of existing spatial equity tools, and a consensus on best practices for creating community-driven, data-informed equity narratives. The outcome of this roundtable will be the genesis of a practicable guidebook for community co-produced spatial equity tools.

Case study projects
Spatial Equity NYC, a publicly-accessible digital platform, seeks to foster data transparency and increase data literacy through visualizing open-access transportation, health and environment data in an easily navigable tool that both reveals spatial inequities and offers solutions for city council leaders and community board representatives across the city. Through Spatial Equity NYC, Transportation Alternatives (TA) and the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU) at MIT processed and visualized spatial equity metrics such as Park Access, Traffic Fatalities, Noise Pollution and Asthma Rates, to build a picture of the inequities evident across the city and how they interrelate to one another. Through mapping at various scales Spatial Equity NYC has offered council and community board leaders a clearer image of the specific challenges faced by their district, as well as how their district ranks across metrics in comparison to others. Revealing connections across the data has allowed council leaders and community representatives to recognize where investment is most critical, and where inequities have proliferated. As Spatial Equity NYC also proposes multi-scale spatial and policy-based solutions to these inequities, users are further able to advocate for and implement policy changes as a direct result of the spatial inequities exposed by the platform. With TA’s extensive outreach to partners all over New York City, including council district leaders as well as community advocates, the Spatial Equity NYC project was informed by TA’s deep knowledge of existing spatial equity metrics, influenced by community input and advocacy through years of activism in the transportation and public space sectors. Following a considered post-launch user analysis of Spatial Equity NYC, evidence has demonstrated that this tool supports efforts toward policy change by moving decision-makers, advocates, and residents in advocacy for spatial equity.

PREACT (Planning for Resilience and Equity through Accessible Community Technology) is a spatial equity project underway in Philadelphia that is working to develop a co-produced tool for community knowledge building on issues of spatial equity across Philadelphia, working closely with community partners in identifying inequities and then developing an informative and interactive tool to support policy change. PREACT will be a multipurpose and multi-scalar climate preparedness and neighborhood planning software application informed by community values, needs and assets. While most planning tools are designed and built in a top-down manner, centering software developers and planners, this project will articulate a framework for technology co-production that fully takes into account the needs and experiences of community members and allows for the integration of social and scientific data for more informed and equitable decision-making.

Roundtable Discussion Agenda (90 minutes)
15 minutes - What is spatial equity? A discussion (debate) on the concept and its relationship to public space; spatial equity tools and barriers to use
10 minutes- Reflecting on Spatial Equity NYC; data transparency and social equity
10 minutes - Planning for PREACT; community knowledge-building in Philadelphia
15 minutes- Spatial equity tools and policy change; If/how spatial equity tools influence tangible policy change; Why is this significant?
15 minutes- The critical role of community in building equitable data narratives; Community-informed data metrics for measuring equity; Co-production of data literacy tools; Reversing a top-down approach; Best practices in data transparency, data for empowerment, and community co-production
25 minutes- Discussion with attendees

Buhangin, J, “Spatial Equity: A Parameter for Sustainable Development in Indigenous Regions.” In The Sustainable City VIII, edited by S.S. Zubir, 1343–50. Putrajaya, Malaysia: WIT Press, 2013. https://doi.org/10.2495/SC131142.
D'Ignazio, Catherine. “Creative data literacy: Bridging the gap between the data-haves and data-have nots,” Information Design Journal 23 (2017): 6-18.. 10.1075/idj.23.1.03dig.
Hagen, Loni, Thomas E. Keller, Xiaoyi Yerden, and Luis Felipe Luna-Reyes. 2019. “Open Data Visualizations and Analytics as Tools for Policy-Making.” Government Information Quarterly 36: 101387. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2019.06.004.
Rosan, Christina D., Megan Heckert, Russell Zerbo, and Erykah Benitez Mercado. 2022. “Building a Vision for More Effective Equity Indices and Planning Tools.” Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 4 (September): 947452. https://doi.org/10.3389/frsc.2022.947452.
Williams, Sarah. Data Action; Using Data for Public Good. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020.
Zravy, Arianna et al. 2022 “Addressing Cu

avatar for Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams

Director of the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism, MIT
Sarah Williams is currently an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and the Director of the Civic Data Design Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) School of Architecture and Planning School. The Civic Data Design Lab works with data, maps, and mobile technologies... Read More →


Christina Rosan

Temple University
avatar for Jessie Singer

Jessie Singer

Staff Writer & Marketing Manager, Transportation Alternatives

Daniela Coray

Research Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Niko McGlashan

Research Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Pratt Institute

Alia Soomro

New York League of Conservation Voters

Thursday June 8, 2023 3:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
ARC E-02