Community Data Clinic

Jorge Rojas-Alvarez showing Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement plaque. In the picture, other students and community members commited with community engagement.

Rojas-Alvarez receives Campus Public Engagement Award

URBANA, IL. Jorge Rojas-Alvarez, a doctoral student at Community Data Clinic and the Institute of Communications Research in the College of Media, was honored with the 2022 Campus Excellence in Public Engagement Award for Graduate/Professional Students. The Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement are given to individuals at the University of Illinois who engage the communities to address critical societal issues.

Since Fall 2019, Rojas-Alvarez have co-led the project Champaign County Resources (CCR) with local organizations. This is a community partnership between the Community Data Clinic (CDC) and social service organizations in Champaign County. The partnership is intended to improve the 2-1-1 directory service for individuals and communities in crises. 2-1-1 is essentially one of the first and largest information resources to bridge low income, marginalized and housing precarious communities with organizations that serve them. As a community partner of this project explained to CDC: “if you have ever been homeless or in need of a shelter, you have most probably encountered 2-1-1.”

The project that leading social service organizations in Champaign suggested – including the Champaign County Mental Health Board, Champaign County Developmental Disabilities Board, Cunningham Township Supervisor’s Office, and United Way of Champaign, sought to increase the public literacy, visibility, and create new means to ensure that data archived within the system could be as up to date and reliable as possible.

This project is transforming 2-1-1 in a collaboration and active hub of resources for communities. Rojas-Alvarez explains that CCR guidelines of the user experience shows “how we encourage connection between users and the service, reinforce their capabilities to find resources, and foster internal motivations to take control of their crisis.” CCR shows practical elements to find resources, categories to make visible more information and testimonials to encourage participation.

CDC organized an interdisciplinary team among user interface designers, social justice data researchers, social workers, and communication scholars. Rojas-Alvarez argues that “CDC serves as a community hub, which assists researchers in building sustainable connections with communities. Through monthly meetings we hold participatory design sessions and decision making processes. CDC provides such infrastructure to create and maintain strong connections with local communities. CDC’s mission makes possible this kinds of recognition like the Campus Excellence in Public Engagement Award.”