The Communities Speak Survey

Help local leaders and policymakers address the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 that are not seen in data that has been collected during the pandemic. The Communities Speak Survey collects this missing data to ensure those who can solve challenges have the data to know what needs to be done.

The more New Yorkers we get to take this survey, the more solutions we can find as we rebuild in a post-COVID-19 New York City.

The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous, and cannot be traced to any one person.

About the Communities Speak Survey

The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed significant gaps in the available data cities need to effectively respond to both the health emergency and to the devastating secondary social and economic impacts of the crisis. This failure has been especially devastating for low-income families, the elderly, and small businesses. Without publicly available and detailed data, policymakers cannot efficiently and effectively target recovery efforts to the communities most in need or plan for future crises.

The Solution

There have been some efforts at collecting data throughout the pandemic, few have collected microdata through regular, repeated surveys of individuals, small businesses, and vulnerable groups so that changing conditions can be tracked and policy is informed by the data. Through regular surveys that are developed in collaboration with community organizations, Communities Speak is collecting micro-level data over time for targeted policy intervention. This microdata is key to designing and evaluating public policies, programs, and targeted interventions.

What is the Communities Speak Individual Survey?

The Communities Speak survey is the foundation of the project and provides researchers with critical data and information. While data is publicly available about the spread of COVID-19, local leaders lack the data on the secondary impacts of the pandemic, particularly in terms of low-income families, small businesses, and minorities, thus hindering their ability to identify actionable insights. Without accurate data, policymakers cannot effectively address the socioeconomic impacts or plan for the inevitable long-term negative impacts of the pandemic and consequent economic recession on New York’s families, businesses, and fiscal health. The Communities Speak Individual Survey gathers key data points to help city officials and local leaders plan for a resilient and equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why is this Survey Important?

Once the survey closes, the Communities Speak team will analyze the responses by demographic and make policy recommendations that ensure individuals and communities are getting the targeted support that they need. While there have been efforts to collect data on COVID-19 effects in New York City and around the world, there has not yet been a systematic survey design or microdata collection program that captures the specificity of the Communities Speak Individual Survey. Getting enough responses from each New York City demographic is critical to the validity of the data and our analysis.

What does this survey measure?

The survey collects information concerning the secondary effects of COVID-19 on various aspects of individuals' lives, including employment, financial security, access to resources, education, health, and security.

It also asks basic demographic and socioeconomic questions in order for us to draw meaningful conclusions about how COVID-19 impacted individuals and communities differently. The survey and its questions were designed in consultation with our community partners to help us better understand the complex issues all New York City residents face.

About Communities Speak

Communities Speak is a collaboration among the Urban and Social Policy Program at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Department of Biomedical Informatics, CUIMC at Columbia University with a city-wide network of community organizations and not-for-profit partners.

We aim to expand community data collection in cities, in order to increase government’s capacity to develop policy in response to unanticipated economic and social shocks. In turn, our goal is to improve government’s responsiveness to the needs of low-income and minority populations as well as small businesses, who tend to experience the greatest adverse impacts from these shocks.

Click here to view a handout with more information about Communities Speak and the survey.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Survey

What is Communities Speak?

Communities Speak is a collaborative project led by Columbia University researchers and key community partners that will empower New York City officials to plan for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Through surveys and analysis, Communities Speak will enable local leaders to define needs, identify vulnerable communities, assess the best method to deploy resources, and measure the satisfaction of residents.. Grounded in community involvement, Communities Speak will enable policy-making through data collection and analysis and provide evidence-based policy recommendations grounded in community involvement.

What is the survey and why is it important?

The Communities Speak survey is the foundation of the project. Specifically, the survey will provide researchers with critical data and information needed to plan for a resilient and equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While data is publicly available to the research community about the spread of COVID-19, local leaders lack knowledge on the secondary impacts of the pandemic, particularly in terms of low-income families, small businesses, and minorities, thus hindering their ability to identify actionable insights. Without accurate data, policymakers cannot effectively address the socioeconomic impacts or plan for the inevitable long-term negative impacts of the pandemic and consequent economic recession on New York’s families, businesses, and fiscal health.

Who is on the Communities Speak team?

The Communities Speak team is made up of researchers at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and researchers at the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University.

How is Communities Speak different from CovidWatcher?

CovidWatcher, also housed within Columbia University, is a project that tracked health and medical symptoms. With the roll-out of vaccines and the socioeconomic fall-out of the pandemic becoming more apparent, CovidWatcher evolved into a research, advocacy, and policy platform, from which Communities Speak emerged. While CovidWatcher continues to exist, the Communities Speak team seeks more direct involvement with the community to empower residents to participate in New York City’s recovery.

With whom does Communities Speak work?

Communities Speak works with several key organizations throughout New York City, including New York City Small Business Services, Department of Planning, Partnership for NYC, NYC Hospitality Alliance, and Older Adult Technology Services.

How safe are my survey responses and the information I provide?

Respondent privacy is our priority. We keep all identifiable information separate from the collected data. All data will be aggregated, so we never see or display any data from an individual respondent.

All collected data are kept on highly secure servers, and our research team has specific training to keep your information safe. All data collection and analysis has been reviewed and approved by the Columbia University Institutional Review Board (Protocol #AAAT6849)

What will you do with survey responses?

The information gathered through surveys will be analyzed by researchers at Columbia University. They will be able to generate maps and other analyses that reveal which neighborhoods, communities, and demographic groups are in most need of various resources. The government, non-profits, and other community-based organizations can then use these maps to direct resources to these neighborhoods and communities.

Who will see the results of this survey and what will they see?

Only researchers at Columbia will have access to the raw data from this survey. We keep all identifiable information separate from the collected data. All data will be aggregated, so we never see or display any data from an individual respondent.

When will survey results be available, and how can I access them?

Our analyses will be available to the public through an online dashboard and in reports. We expect reports and analysis to be made available 1-2 months after the close of a survey.

Whom can I contact with questions about the survey?

You can email the team at communitiesspeak@columbia.edu.

How long will it take to complete the survey?

Less than 10 minutes.

Information on this page is provided by the Communities Speaks Project.