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Racing the clock: How we helped Blane Canada create a coronavirus dashboard to measure coronavirus economic impact

Blane Canada needed assistance building a dashboard to provide government leaders data needed to evaluate the economic conditions of their communities, and they needed it fast.

Challenge

 

During the summer of 2020, government leaders needed to continually evaluate the economic conditions of their communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They needed to make strategic decisions about how to help businesses, which ones should reopen, what part of the workforce should continue to remain remote, how long that should continue, and so forth. But there was a lack of data on which to base these decisions.

Illinois-based Blane Canada, Ltd., an economic development services firm, and the volunteer, grassroots BR|E (business retention/expansion) COVID-19 Response Network envisioned a way to quickly provide that data.

They created a benchmark survey and follow-up questionnaire to measure the level and severity of the impact and to learn the needs of businesses. The carefully selected questions revolve around the workforce, finances, supply chain, and the future.

However, they needed to gather and deliver this benchmark data, and that would be quite a challenge.

Getting the right technology in place

The COVID-19 Response Network wanted a tool that would allow them to analyze and distribute data on a large scale and free to the public. The group needed a technology partner who would take time to understand the problem, ask the right questions, and build a technology solution against a tight timeline.

Eric Canada, CEO of Blane Canada, was confident that Fusion Alliance, his company’s technology partner of two years, would be the right fit.

He asked if Fusion could build a tool for economic developers to learn the impact of the virus on their business communities. Within two weeks, we had a solution and dashboards up and running, available to the public.

Solution

Our team began by evaluating survey platforms to choose the right one for the task. We conducted proof-of-concept testing to see which platforms met all requirements, and then selected a tool. Next, we determined how to standardize and unify data collection. Then we built the survey, sent it out, and enabled other entities to send the survey, as well. That all happened within five days of being approached.

After that, the focus was on how to display the results. Our team suggested something similar to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus dashboard, and Canada was on board. A dashboard would allow users to see the story in a visual format and interact with the data.

Working against the clock, we built the dashboard and demoed it a few days later to more than 100 organizations in the growing grass-roots volunteer network.

Two days after the survey was sent, the data began pouring in, and it was aggregated and put into the analytics toolset. The group continues to send surveys and follow-up monitoring questionnaires all over the nation, and the dashboard is constantly updated as more results come in.

Some companies have participated and submitted up to four monitoring surveys, providing more data points.

Fusion Alliance is essential to making a difference for our clients, and, more importantly, for economic developers and communities across the country and beyond.

Eric Canada, CEO, Blane Canada, Ltd.

Outcomes

The key to the success and expansion of this grassroots organization is getting the word out to have more businesses participate in the survey and make more economic decision makers aware of the existence of this data.

The network has grown to more than 360 members and continues to expand. Members are using their personal networks and personal funds to share out this data for the betterment of communities all over the country as we reconstruct economically. The next step will be to tell this story on a national level.

On an international front, interest has grown organically through word of mouth, with survey results from Mexico, Argentina, Canada, and New Zealand. The UN Economic Commissions for Europe, Latin America/Caribbean, Africa, and South Africa have also received the survey, with plans to distribute it worldwide. Already Australia, France, and Germany have also expressed interest.

Meanwhile, from a technology standpoint, the dashboards are being honed and improved as needs are identified. While the raw data is not yet available for downloading, Eric Canada said that is in the works.

At press time, the surveys keep coming in, with more than 6,000 submissions, which Canada said is already a representative sample. He is eager to hit the 10,000+ mark as awareness expands.

“We are a small client. Fusion Alliance didn’t have to pay attention to us or to this special project. But your team responded immediately, throwing support behind us. Fusion is essential to making a difference for our clients and, more importantly, for economic developers and communities across the country and beyond,” Canada reflected.

For now, members of the COVID-19 Response Network continue their hard work, hoping they will one day look back and know that their efforts helped Americans as our country began reconstructing from the economic fallout of this pandemic.

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Two week turnaround from concept to delivered solution
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Dashboards help decision-makers benchmark against other similar communities
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Scalable solution sets Blane Canada up for future success

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