Guest post by Dan Ladd, Middlebury College ’14
One of the major projects the GIS team worked on for much of the early part of the summer was mapping community assets in Williamsport and Lycoming County. This project was requested by Professors Ben Marsh (Geography) and Carl Milofsky (Sociology). Chad Lawlis (Environmental Studies ’11) and I worked on putting together the information for this project.
The project involved understanding regional community needs in public health, sustainability, social services, homelessness, etc. We explored how community needs like these match, or don’t match, the assets landscape that residents have access to. GIS gives a sophisticated way to understand this match at the scale at which people actuallyinteract with the world.
Much contemporary discourse about community development considers ‘sustainability’ to be ageneralized measure of the capacity of a community to replicate itself into the future. This broader idea of community sustainability describes residents as living in a series of ‘environments’ – a food environment and an activity environment support nutritional well-being, a housing environment affects homelessness, lead-paint risk, community activity, commuting costs and impacts, etc.
Data was collected on different Community Asset Classes (Churches, Healthcare providers, Food store, schools etc.). This information ranged from street address, contact information and a classification of what services each asset provided. These assets were then combined and mapped to give an idea of the spacial distribution of these assets.
This project also serves as a template for future community asset data collection projects as the eventual goal is to expand this information to cover the Greater Central Susquehanna Valley. These proposed databases will serve as the foundation of a larger data project incorporating a ‘Community Platform’ that the university is contracting for from The Urban Institute and anascent regional ‘2-1-1’ social services phone line project.