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Using analytics to measure region’s social capital

Analytics – the process of reaching the best, most realistic decision based on an analysis of data – has been used in recent years to try to give sports teams, businesses and Web designers an edge on the competition.

What about communities?

That’s the logic James Quinn has brought into his volunteer internship with the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.

Quinn, 24, of the Town of Tonawanda, holds a bachelor’s of sociology from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and has put together a regional survey that looks to measure the health, neighborliness, civic engagement and personal beliefs of the Buffalo region. His goal is to break down the survey results by ZIP code to sift out the best practices when it comes to the region’s “social capital” – raising the awareness of what makes Buffalo tick best.

“If I can help Buffalo reach it’s potential, that would be great,” said Quinn, a Kenmore East alumnus who also works with data at his full-time job with Bureau Veritas, a consumer products testing company in Amherst.

If you live anywhere in Western New York, you can take the survey through Sept. 30 at surveymonkey.com/r/Connected716.

Q. What is social capital?

The features of social life, networks, norms and trusts that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives. When you talk about business, or democracy for that matter, it works better when people are engaged and having a dialogue.

Q. What are some of the key questions in the survey?

It is broken down into several parts. One of them is health. We’re looking at healthy behaviors: Are you getting the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables? Are you exercising on a daily basis or how many times a week? Do you have access to your doctor or a grocery store that has good food? Are you in the vicinity of parks. Does a community have walkable streets and sidewalks? Do you meet regularly with others? We are looking to see what communities need most.

Q. What have you taken so far from the data?

I haven’t done too much with the data but am finding it correlates with some themes, such as healthier communities have walkable sidewalks. They’re able to bike for their basic needs. They’re friendlier and trustworthy. And those folks tend to be healthier and more economically prosperous – and happier in general.

– Scott Scanlon

On the Web: Find out what top cities measured social capital and improved at refresh.buffalonews.com.