Data Visualization for Community-based Organizations


COVID-19 misinformation, disinformation and data mischaracterization significantly contribute to vaccine hesitancy. COVID-19 infections and deaths have disproportionately impacted U.S. rural communities, where vaccination rates are lower and vaccine hesitancy remains high. As part of our commitment to empowering and enabling community-based organizations (CBOs) and modernizing data within public health, the CDC Foundation undertook an innovative project in March 2022 to expand CBOs’ use of data visualization tools.

CBOs that were eligible for this opportunity were leading COVID-19 vaccine acceptance projects in rural communities in the Midwest. Interested CBOs applied for additional grant funds to purchase Tableau data visualization software and attend a series of virtual hands-on learning workshops. After the CDC Foundation evaluated these applications to determine CBO needs, goals and uses for data visualization, six organizations and their nominated participants received grants. As CDC Foundation’s data visualization expert for this project, I led the workshops as the CBOs built and shared a data visualization dashboard to help their organizations deliver clear, accurate information about COVID-19 to their communities.

The initiative was a perfect match of needs and skills. The CDC Foundation knows the power of data visualization, and CBOs know their own communities and needs; providing a tool and training to help selected CBOs apply data visualization skills to their missions was a win for everyone.

SuccessLink, a CBO providing a range of services to residents in the Cedar Valley area of Black Hawk County in Iowa, used the skills they learned to create a dashboard to determine if there was any difference in virtual versus in-person school attendance. "These new skills will help us determine more effective ways to not only provide services but to understand what is working and what is not,” said Brad McCalla, executive director of SuccessLink. “It will help with every presentation to school personnel, school boards and community leaders.”

The six organizations agreed that their knowledge of Tableau data visualization software increased as a result of this opportunity and are now better equipped both to share data visually and to tell their organizations’ and communities’ stories visually with data.

Mikel Seidl
Mikel Seidl served on the Impacts and Evaluation Team with the Response Crisis and Preparedness Unit at the CDC Foundation.