Letter to the Editor

AspireArkansas.org data can help improve Carroll Co.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We all want the best for our communities, our county. We aspire to have excellent schools, accessible healthcare, and satisfying job opportunities. To see these aspirations become reality, we need reliable data that shows us where we have been, where we are now, and what direction we should go to become a better place for everyone to work, live and learn.

This is exactly what you can find when you visit AspireArkansas.org – the new online tool that compiles county-by-county data to help us reach our community goals, a project of Arkansas Community Foundation and their local affiliate branches, which includes our own Carroll County Community Foundation.

Back in 2011, the first Aspire Arkansas report was published with county-by-county data on issues important to Arkansas communities. This data was updated in 2013 and an Aspire Actions report was added to inspire Arkansans to accomplish specific community goals.

Here at the Carroll County Community Foundation, we and other affiliates throughout the state have been able to make grants and build partnerships to address the areas identified through the Aspire Arkansas data and analysis that show the greatest need. Statewide organizations and government entities have used the combined statistics to better understand issues and provide smarter answers to those they serve. We believe better data leads to better solutions for all.

The data is accessible now through our expanded, free online site at www.aspirearkansas.org and focuses specifically on education, health care, families, and communities. There you will find additional commentary that interprets the information through maps, graphs, summaries and charts.

Key findings compiled on AspireArkansas.org come from previously published sources. But by seeing the information in one place, we’re provided with an in-depth story about the quality of life in our state and in our county.

Some local bright spots in Carroll County include:

1. Life expectancy in our county is increasing.

2. There are fewer elderly living in poverty here.

3. The food insecurity rate is decreasing.

Some hurdles we must overcome are:

1. The number of people living in poverty is increasing.

2. The incarceration rate is increasing.

3. Only 37 percent of third-graders statewide meet the reading readiness benchmark.

This type of eye-opening data is what inspired the Carroll County Community Foundation to create its inclusive CLIP Resource Guide in 2009. In early fall of 2008, Carroll County Community Foundation was an integral part of an earlier, cooperative quality-of-life assessment of Northwest Arkansas, researched by the University of Arkansas Community and Family Institute with support from the United Way. These social indicators pointed to a significant issue with children living in poverty, as well as the need for a database of important phone numbers and contact information — connecting Carroll County families to integrated systems and resources. Now called the Carroll County Essential Resource Guide, this free pamphlet from us here at your local Foundation offers residents in need everything from Government and Education services in the area to Medical Assistance, Food Pantries, Support Groups, as well as Statewide Assistance information. It is just an example of how the data can point to an issue and create an opportunity for a solution.

So, what good can come out of this free, updated, online report? The knowledge we gain from this new data can be a catalyst for choosing the important local issues to support, the problems to address, and the successes to celebrate. Join me in learning more about Carroll county, so that together, we can determine what course of action to take for a better Arkansas.

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Janell Robertson is executive director of the Carroll County Community Foundation.