PolicyMap has data across so many sectors. It’s an easy solution to be able to understand emerging, evolving needs, to look at communities and the data related to them. Katie Murray, Director of Evaluation and Learning
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The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest philanthropic funder in the state, and there’s widespread need for community capital. The Foundation needs to be grounded in data, not only to assess grant applications but to proactively understand the needs of communities it serves, and make the best use of additional available resources, such as the federal Opportunity Zone program. It also needs to look at data from a wide variety of domains, like public health, school performance, and community development, without making a commitment to complicated GIS software and deep dives into government statistical websites.


When the federal government designated 25 Opportunity Zones in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation saw an opportunity to attract private investment to low income communities. It was important that the investment lead to inclusive economic growth, helping improve lives for the people in those communities. The Foundation held conversations throughout the state with community members, government officials, and other non-profits to discuss how best to take advantage of the program. Before each meeting, the Foundation looked in PolicyMap at data for these communities to ground themselves and understand what unique problems the communities faced. For example, in the former mill town of Woonsocket, it stood out that a disproportionate share of the low-income population lacked access to transportation and food stores. This helped them ask informed questions of community leaders and residents.