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Community Mapping: How To Make It Work For You

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Posted August 16, 2012 by felicialavette in Biz & Money
Nexus Research Group
Non-Profit Capacity CornerVolume 16: May 2012

In order for non-profit organizations to be effective, it is critical that they have a firm understanding of what is happening on-the-ground within the communities, or among the constituencies they serve.  What are the pressing issues and challenges? How have specific social problems improved or worsened? Are there certain segments of the community that are affected more than others?Often times non-profits, particularly those that provide service delivery, are able to answer such questions anecdotally. Unfortunately, anecdotes are rarely sufficient in getting external partners or stakeholders to understand a broader phenomenon.  For this reason, data is critical.Data comes in all packages, but one of the more powerful means of communicating data is community mapping.  Through community mapping non-profits are able to link information to place through the use of geographic information technology.  Like any form of technology, mapping can get pretty complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. There are numerous free online sites that are powerful, yet easy to navigate. Here are just a few to get you started.

Community Commons – This is probably one of the more comprehensive free mapping applications available. In addition to producing really neat maps, the site allows you to link your advocacy initiative with other similar efforts around the country.

Neighborhood Nexus – If you’re looking for an Atlanta specific site, you’ll likely find the most detailed battery of data indicators here.  In addition to maps, the site provides region-wide data in other useful formats.

Policy Map – Much like Community Commons, this site provides data on a range of areas from real estate, to education to neighborhood indicators. While certain maps require a paid subscription, there are a lot of maps that can be produced at no cost.

Health County Calculator – No sector has done more around community mapping than public health. This tool in particular is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The information is fascinating and the tool is so interactive, it’s almost (dare I say it…) FUN!

Mapping America – This phenomenal resource is made available by the New York Times. In addition to being powerful, it’s incredibly easy to use and allows you to look at very small areas of geography across an array of topic areas including demographics, income, housing and education.

If you’re interested in learning more about Community Mapping, click HEREto visit PolicyLink’s Community Mapping page. It provides a great introduction.

Happy Mapping!

Capacity Building Tip of the MonthNon-profit work is hard, but there are certain perks.  For instance, did you know that as a 501(c)(3), your organization is eligible for free or reduced hardware products (both new and refurbished) through TechSoup.org?   TechSoup works to connect non-profits with 52 donating partners (including Oracle, Microsoft and CISCO) to reduce technology costs and enhance overall operations. As part of this, they collect donated hardware items including desktop computers, printers and other office equipment, which they in turn sell at little or no cost.  So, if you’re in need of a technology upgrade, check out TechSoup.org.  You’ll be glad you did.
Nexus Research Group is a full service research consulting firm committed to connecting local communities to strategic program and policy solutions through applied research and training. We work in partnership with governmental, philanthropic and grass-roots organizations, providing an array of research services intended to not only educate and inform, but to be catalytic in helping our clients and their constituencies accomplish their desired goals.

To learn more about Nexus Research Group and our service offerings, visit our website at www.nexusresearchonline.com.


About the Author

felicialavette

I cringe at the thought of writing my bio, because how can I truly explain how multidimensional I am in just a few short sentences. First, I am a child of God. Next, I am a wife and a mother. My passion is Sister Girl News and educating others. The way to my heart is chocolate, barbeque chicken, and Dr. Pepper soda. My daily goal is to ensure that everyone who meets me always walks away laughing.

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