The Rider-Pool Foundation

“Community Commons Hubs” Transition to “Engagement Network”

“The Engagement Network has grown, which has shifted the way we are using it.  With each step, we understand each other better, we understand the data better, and we see how we can partner differently for better outcomes on community issues.”

-Samantha Shaak, Ph.D.

Manager of Health Systems Research & Evaluation

Department of Community Health

Lehigh Valley Health Network


The Engagement Network is a national platform where you can find public and custom tools produced by the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) at the University of Missouri. The Engagement Network hosts:

  • A national Map Room with more than 15,000 data layers.
  • The premier Community Health Needs Assessment reporting tool with more than 80 health-related indicators.
  • A Hub Network with more than 30 partner organizations using CARES technology.

These data, tools, and hubs were known as Community Commons in the past. Community Commons is transitioning to a new platform and the Engagement Network has been created to ensure that communities, organizations, and agencies that rely on free access to the maps and tools can continue to get reliable data and visualization tools. To learn more about Hubs on the Engagement Network, visit the Hub Directory.

The Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) is a technology organization housed in Extension at the University of Missouri. CARES is comprised of a group of geographic information specialists, programmers, and data experts. The group is devoted to creating maps, developing new data visualizations, and helping individuals and organizations figure out ways to do their work better. While many projects are focused on health, over the past 25+ years, CARES has also collected, analyzed, and visualized data related to the environment, agriculture, safety, education, and the economy. CARES partners with like-minded organizations to build tools and find data that support positive community and regional change.

The Lehigh Valley Community Hub was established when Lehigh Valley Health Network and The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust partnered to collect and share data with a number of stakeholders in the Lehigh Valley area. The vision for this Hub is to support the work of cross-sector partnerships addressing complex social issues by providing a platform that enables data-driven decisions and collaborative communication.

The Lehigh Valley Community Hub provides a central repository for publicly available data and resources in Lehigh and Northampton Counties of Pennsylvania, as well as the rest of the counties in the state. In addition, The Hub provides private access to upload aggregated local data and share that with key partners. Any agency or entity that would like to join this hub can create an account and register at the site.

This critical tool that can help support leaders working toward community change with a focus on cross-sector data-driven collaboration. It encourages the sharing of data and the use of data to effect change throughout the lifespan of an initiative. The goal of The Hub is to expand the capacity of community partners in the Lehigh Valley to make data-informed and data-driven decisions using population-level health indicators – the primary means used to assess and measure of overall health and wellness of our communities.

Relationship building has been critical to this work. Relationships, which were first formed through The Rider-Pool Foundation Collective Impact Fellowship, have been deeply enriched through this work as it pertains to cross-sector partnerships to address social issues, including behavioral health, substance abuse, and community engagement. Conversations about The Lehigh Valley Community Hub have opened the door to a host of conversations around better data collection and ‘sense-making’ of the data we currently have available to us locally.