Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 - Thoughts about Maps

I'll be at my computer on Thanksgiving 2020, just as I am today. I'm making an effort to connect people who can help with information and ideas they can use to help bridge the divides in America, to create greater opportunity for all. 

During the past year as Covid19 and the continued killings of Black men and women by police in America have exposed long-standing inequities, it's more important than ever to mobilize people's time, talent, dollars, votes and commitment to bringing solutions to every place where maps show inequality. 

In January 2019 I attended the Chicago Opportunity Zones event held at the new Malcolm X College in Chicago. I joined with a few others using Twitter to share what I was hearing, so visit  #LiveatUrban and scroll through the Tweets to learn more about the Opportunity Zones (Called "O-Zones" by one speaker. A term I use often below.)

The final speaker was the new President of The Chicago Community Trust, who in the Tweet I've posted below said “Now is the time of action. We can't let perfect be the enemy of good.”

To me, part of those actions is doing the research and learning, to identify places where people need help, and to offer time, talent, dollars and other types of support to organizations and businesses in those areas.

One panel was moderated by Derek R.B. Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago. In his remarks, he said, “The biggest thing we have to do when we leave this room is form the partnerships and connections to get to work.”

Since 1993 I've been trying using maps to help people form those "partnerships and connections". Maps can be used to focus attention on places where people in Chicago need extra help, so the first thing that came to my mind was “What neighborhoods are affected?” And, “What indicators were used to show these areas need this government supported capital investment?”

Below are some examples of how maps can be used. In this case I'm focusing on the Opportunity Zones announced in January 2019. 

The Opportunity Zone map is shown at the right in the following graphics. In the first map I've used a demographics mapping site  to show Chicago. The green color shows areas with a high density of African Americans. By comparing the O-Zone map with the one on the right, you can see that the Opportunity Zones are targeted to help this sector more than others.

This next map shows the Chicago Tribuneshootings tracker” site, which shows locations of Chicago shootings for past 365 days. There's a definite overlap with O-zones but there are other areas which also need investment.

The next map comes from the Casey Foundation's Community Opportunity Map which shows poverty levels in Chicago (and other parts of the country). Using the interactive map you can focus in on specific parts of the city, and generate tables of information. For instance, I created a view focused on the North Lawndale area.

This next set of maps shows non-school youth tutor and/or mentor programs in Chicago, based on a list I've been maintaining since 1994. While most of these are not-profit centers that would attract Opportunity Zone investment, they are part of the mix of youth and family support organizations needed to help bring a neighborhood out of deep poverty.

View Tutor/Mentor Programs map here

A closer inspection of my map would show the wide range of programs on the map, and the lack of these programs in many of the O-Zone areas.

So who are some of the potential stakeholders and resources already in these neighborhoods?

On the graphic below I've zoomed into the O-Zone map to focus on the North Lawndale area of Chicago's West side. Then, I used the Chicago Health Atlas Map to focus on North Lawndale, and show hospitals serving this area.

Hospitals can be employers, can be customers for products and services produced locally, can provide needed health services, and can be conveners who bring stakeholders together. They can also be leaders who help comprehensive youth tutor/mentor programs grow in the area. Using the Chicago Health Atlas you can also create maps showing health disparities, which are indicators of investments needed in different areas of Chicago.

There were only a few maps shown the January 2019 Opportunity Zones presentation. One showed investment flows in the Chicago region. That map is shown in this tweet. Notice how the areas with the greatest investment, are just the opposite of those the O-Zone focuses on, which  have the least investments flowing into them.

In the concept map below I point to the platforms I used to create the maps I've shown. These are just a few of the growing number of data mapping resources becoming available over the past few years.

Open map at this link

Creating, maintaining, and motivating others to use these platforms offer many challenges. Among these are:

a) Motivating and teaching people to use the various platforms to create maps that focus a story on specific places. That's what I did in the above maps.

b) Locating the different platforms with needed information can also be a challenge, at least from a time perspective. In many cases the data-maps are no longer on-line, so when I open a link it is a dead end. Unless people are really motivated, most won't do the digging needed to put together an effective map story.

c) Building public awareness so more people look at the maps, use them in planning and action steps that bring people together and drive needed resources to non profits and growing businesses in specific areas is also a challenge. People creating the map platforms usually don't have advertising dollars to do the communications needed to attract people to the maps, or to teach others to use the platforms to create on-gong map stories.

These data resources are not profit centers. Thus, they don't qualify for investment zone capital. One role of philanthropy, or other government resources, could be to support the development, constant maintenance and updating, and long-term use of platforms like this.

During the event one speaker said there are already community planning resources. Why not use them to guide investment? I Tweeted out LISC Chicago as an example of this.

Below is a screenshot is from one of 27 quality of life community plans developed under the lead of LISC Chicago. It shows the Austin Community area. All 27 can be downloaded at this link.

Download at this link.

I don't include it on my data map because it's in a PDF, and not an interactive, on-line map (according to LISC Chicago). Thus while it's a great map, it's only useful to those who have access to it. You can't add layers, or zoom in, to focus on specific areas, or turn it into stories. There may be other map platforms like this in Chicago, or in other cities. I'm always adding to my library and this concept map. Send me links if you have them.

In my own efforts between 1994 and 2011 I tried to build one platform that would provide many layers of information that could be used to support neighborhood based planning intended to make more and better youth serving programs available in high poverty neighborhoods.

Example of map view created using
Tutor/MentorProgram Locator

The map of the left was created using  the Interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator's Asset Map section.

It's no longer functioning properly, although still can be seen on-line.

While I've been collecting and mapping data since 1994, for most of those years I was dependent on volunteers and donated software. In 2007 a $50k anonymous gift, combined with a grant from HSBC North America, enabled me to re-build our in house mapping platform, and to build the on-line interactive platform.

Using ARC GIS software we could create maps showing layers of information and using the interactive platform, we enabled others to create similar maps. Below are two examples. You can see more like this in the MapGallery created in late 2010.

Unfortunately, the recession, starting in 2008, dried up funding for this by mid 2010.  I've not had funds to update this or create these maps since 2011, and it would take a significant investment to rebuild my capacity.

Yet, I feel it is needed because I don't find any other mapping platforms combining all the layers I was trying to combine, and building it into blogs and on-going communications, so community planners could show the need, show existing service providers (and/or businesses) and show assets in, and around, the community who should be involved in any planning process.

I wrote an article earlier this year showing the layers of information needed on a platform like the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator - read it here

I also added an interesting article about building relationship networks to support philanthropy. You can read it here.  Such networks could be using the mapping ideas I've been sharing.

Thus, if part of your Thanksgiving weekend involves researching places where you can make a difference, perhaps you can read some of the articles on my blogs then share them with others who might want to become the investor, partner or benefactor who rebuilds the Tutor/Mentor Connection and its on-line mapping, and makes it freely available for others to use in Chicago and cities around the world.  

Or, you might be a creative social entrepreneur who can figure out how to generate revenue and profit from this, so we could seek capital investors from programs like the Opportunity Zones program.

Maybe you can help me be part of some of those "partnerships and connections" Derek Douglas talked about or that you will read about in the philanthropy article I pointed to above.

Or maybe you'll make a contribution to my 74th birthday campaign or my annual fund the T/MI campaign.

I'm on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN. I'll look forward to connecting with you.

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