Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Goal of Maps Created by T/MC; A Bridge Too Far

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago. One strategy to accomplish this goal was to create map-stories that would show locations where news media had focused full or half-page attention to a negative news story. Below is an example from the 1990s.

We were using donated ESRI software at that time.  As you know, maps are layers of information, drawn from spreadsheet data.  In the graphic above, you can see the newspaper story we were focusing on, and you can see a map, color coded to show high poverty areas. You can also see what section of the city this was in.  

If you click on the image and enlarge it you can see that on the map we have icons showing known non school tutoring and/or mentoring programs in the map area, plus locations of poorly performing schools in the area, and assets (businesses, faith groups, hospitals).

Below is another example, showing how map stories can be created following news stories that focus on the tragedy, but seldom on strategies to prevent future occurrences of the same bad news.

On an interactive map you'd be able to look at these tables, but with maps created on a desk top set up, we needed to print the tables and post them with the maps, as shown here. View this slide show to see several other map-stories from 1990s, with data tables included.

To create these map required people with special GIS map making talent. I depended on volunteers to do this work between 1994-2008, except for a few intern hours I was able to fund in 1994-1995.  I could never find foundations who'd provide the funds to do this work.

It was not until 2008 that we found funds, via an anonymous donor who gave a one time gift of $50,000,  to re-create our desk top mapping as an interactive program locator that went live in 2009.  This map has the same layers of information as the one above.  You can zoom into different sections of the city and add layers of data to create map views, like shown below. You can mouse over icons and see who the organization is. You can double click on green stars and go directly to the web site of organizations on the map.

Unfortunately we ran out of money to finish developing this in 2009 and the financial crisis that started in 2007 ultimately caused the non profit that created the T/MC to discontinue support for this strategy. Not only was I not able to finish developing the platform, I've not been able to update it since 2011 and since 2013 several parts are no longer working.

Thus, I was never able to build in the features that would enable users to pull up data tables for the map areas shown, which is a common feature for sophisticated GIS map platforms. I was also not able to build layers showing Chicago political wards, or, police, library and fire stations.

Nor was I able to market this extensively and teach youth organizations, media, donors and policy-makers to use it.

At the peak of our service between 2008 and 2011 we were creating map stories using our desk-top ARC GIS software, donated by ESRI, and also creating map stories using the interactive map.  Visit this map gallery to see maps and stories created using the desk top. View this section of the Tutor/Mentor blog to see map stories created using the Interactive Program Locator.

However, this was still not the final goal. The graphic below shows what had been created, but also points to functions that are still on the drawing board.  The goal of the T/MC was to help programs grow, which meant helping them get the dollars needed to grow.

If you look at this page on the Tutor/Mentor Planning wiki, you can see a vision for using a map platform to attract donors to programs shown on the map, using map-stories and quarterly events to attract donor attention and point it to different neighborhoods.  Our goal was to have donations made via a special overlay, so that we could capture donation amounts per year, for each organization, and aggregate that data for each zip code or community area.  

Thus, we'd be able to show what neighborhoods were less funded than other neighborhoods and attempt to motivate additional funding by sharing this information.  In doing so, we could increase the flow of needed operating dollars to tutor/mentor and learning programs in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, meaning more kids would get the extra help they need to move through school and into jobs.

Furthermore, by not being able to get this model fully functioning in Chicago, we've not been able to share it, or lease it, to other cities, and we've not been able to create version that would focus on other supports needed in each high poverty neighborhood.

All of this is still possible. It just takes the commitment of one or two benefactors/investors/partners and the talent of one or two web developers.  When working, the model could apply to any city.


Tom Christoffel said...

The Providence Plan may be a model. The Center for Neighborhood Technology is something you may already know about - this group may partner. A library function is needed to relate information to a geographic point/place. In Providence, like other cities, organizations create data through their administrative records, but have no time or resources to analyze it, much less look at that in relationship to other datasets. Only a trusted intermediary can do this. Though students might do some of the research and be able to draw conclusions, understanding the bigger picture takes time.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Tom mentioned The Providence Plan. He provided me with this web link via our Twitter connection. http://provplan.org/dataspark I skimmed briefly through the site to this page which shows intended uses of data. http://provplan.org/dataspark I'm not sure if this is yet active.

Tom, I encourage you to view this concept map, where I point to various data platforms, including my own. Many of these provide extensive information, using maps, to help citizens and leaders understand issues. http://tinyurl.com/TMI-MappingData

However, there are two things that I've been doing that I don't see consistently on these sites.

a) inventory neighborhoods to locate organizations serving different issue areas. I focus on non-school tutor/mentor programs, so overlays on maps I create are programs operating in Chicago who I've identified since starting surveys in 1994

b) consistent map-stories serving as advertising and public education. Unless people are using the data visualizations to create map stories that show where a problem exist, why it exists, who's trying to solve the problem (or voids where no one is yet trying), and finishing with a "call to involvement with time, talent and/or dollars", there won't be a flow of resources into different neighborhoods to solve the problems the web site is talking about.

I'd love to be a consultant in conversations with others who have more resources, but may not have thought about this for as many years as I have. Please introduce me.