Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Using maps to support growth of youth services in high needs areas

Map from 2008 
This blog was launched in 2008 to show maps the Tutor/Mentor Connection was building to draw attention and resources to non-school, volunteer-based, tutor, mentor and learning programs in the Chicago region. 

While we built this for Chicago I feel that every city in the world with a population of 1 million or more could use the Program Locator to help people living in areas of concentrated poverty.

We started creating maps showing program locations in 1994 using donated ESRI software and part time talent. We continued through mid 2000 with mostly volunteer talent and limited paid staff.

Then in late 2007 an anonymous donation of $50,000 enabled us to hire Mike Trakin as a part time map maker, using the donated ESRI software. 2008-2010 grants from HSBC helped us continue Mike's position on our staff until 2011.  Articles on this blog from 2008 to early 2011 were written by Mike, showing maps he created.  In many of these Mike pointed to my articles on the Tutor/Mentor blog, where I also showed the maps Mike was creating, along with other information.
Program Locator - built 2008


During the first part of 2008 Mike rebuilt our desk-top GIS mapping platform, using donated ESRI software.  Then, using half of the $50k grant, we hired a team from India, who had re-built our OHATS documentation system in 2007, to build an on-line version of what Mike had built on his office computer.

That Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator is still running, but due to the financial crisis that started in 2008, was never completed, and the platform has not been updated since 2010 and the data about programs since 2013.

The platform we built in 2008 was an extension of a Program Locator platform that was built in 2004 by an intern from India (via IIT). 

This was built in 2004 - click here to open
This platform was an upgrade to work we started in 1993 when we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection.  We launched the first Tutor/Mentor Chicago Programs survey in January 1994 asking providers to tell us what type of program they offered (pure tutoring, pure mentoring, mixed tutor/mentor); what age group they served (elementary, middle, high school); time of day service was provided; and location with zip code.

Tutor/Mentor Directory 
From spring 1994 till spring 2002 we published a printed directory each year, which we organized into four sections of Chicago (North, Central, South Central, Far South). We mailed this to about 400 people, including all of the organizations in the directory, all libraries, Chicago Public Schools and many foundations, the Mayor, and media.  Here's a link to the 1995 Directory from my Google Drive.

The Program Locator built in 2004 was an effort to

a) make the information available to more people;

b) searchable by type of program/age group/zip code, etc; and

c) make it easier for us to update the directory, using an on-line section of the program locator, which also enabled programs to log in and update their own information. 

That database fed the Program Locator built in 2004 and the Program Locator Interactive maps built in 2008.  I used it until 2013 when I lost access due to changes in my hosting company.

I've not had a source of funding since 2011 and thus have not been able to hire people to update or rebuild the platform. While a few volunteers have helped in small ways, no one stepped forward to take full control of rebuilding.  I never could find anyone, all the way back to 1994, who could build a realistic full-cost estimate of what it would take to build the Program Locator, thus, I was always guessing when I asked donors to help. (Ask me about conversation with tech millionaire from India, held in 2008.)

With all that in mind, I'm now looking for a team to rebuild the program locator, making it open source, so that what we build can be a template that others use to build their own versions in other cities.

I created the concept map shown below to show the layers of information needed in a new version (and which was built into the 2008 version).

Open this map and click on the links under each node. 
From left to right I show

a) boundary layers - city, zip code, community area, state and federal legislative districts, etc.

b) indicators layers - poverty, violence, poorly performing schools, etc.

c) programs - while I focus on tutor/mentor programs, this could also show arts/science, or other types of services which need to be located close to consumers, meaning many are needed throughout the city.  The programs layer can be sorted by age group served, type of program, time of day

sample map
d) this shows the goal of the program locator, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection/ Institute, LLC.  We want to help leaders use this to build support for existing programs and help new ones form where needed.  At the right is an example of a map view that can be created using the program locator, then adding additional annotation using Power Point

e) assets layers - in this section you can find sub sections for banks,  hospitals, universities, faith groups, drug stores, and insurance companies, with offices/branches in different locations throughout the city. 

sample map
Using this information a map of a small section of the city can be created that shows indicators of need, existing programs and assets who share the geography, and thus should be expected to support programs that help kids in that area.

Ideally an updated version of the Program Locator would find ways to pull data on assets from resource files on the Internet, making this a continually updated feature.

Two features were never built into the program locator.

a) I wanted to be able to connect data from indicators into a form that program leaders (or donors) could use to determine the need for tutor/mentor programs in specific neighborhoods.  Imagine clicking on a community area and getting a form showing number of kids; level of poverty, locations of existing programs, age group, type of program, etc. A program would just fill in their program information on the form and get a printed document to send to a donor.  View this PDF to see how a map might show the number of kids in a community area. 

b) I wanted to create another layer that could be used to raise money for programs shown on the map, and to track donations to do an analysis showing the different levels of funding going to different neighborhoods.  I describe what I have in mind on this page of my planning wiki.

Since we were building this just as the financial crisis hit we never were able to complete it, nor to teach programs and resource providers to use it as intended.  In 2011 the Board of Directors of the Cabrini Connections-Tutor/Mentor Connection, voted to discontinue support for the strategy, and I was given full ownership as part of a retirement agreement.

Since 2011 I've used my own funds, plus a small flow of contributions from supporters since then to keep this platform on line as a tool, and an example.  Now it's time to find help to rebuild it and find new champions to carry this forward.

I'm seeking three levels of help.

1) get the current Program Locator fully working, which means I'd have access to the database.

2) do a full review (see wiki page links below) and create a full-cost estimate of what it would cost to rebuild this;

3) completely rebuild;  adopt the T/MC strategy in your institution, and as you do the rebuild, also do the work of updating the database and teaching people to use it.  If you're adopting this in another city, you'd need to commit to doing this part of the work. That level of help is needed in Chicago, too.

Visit this page of the tutor/mentor planning wiki to learn more of the program locator and this page to learn about our intention to uses GIS maps.

If you'd like to help, connect with me on Twitter or Linkedin.

If you'd like to help pay the bills, visit this page and use PayPal to send a contribution.

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