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Inventing the Future: Azavea 'Summer of Maps' program brings GIS power to local organizations

Azavea data map

Every day, city agencies from the Streets Department to the Office of Housing and Community Development collect data that details the current state of Philadelphia. Thanks to Azavea, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experts located in Callowhill, several civic-minded nonprofit groups can now "see" that information.

The company just wrapped up their Summer of Maps Fellowship, a stipend program that placed graduate-level GIS students with urban advocacy organizations. Recipients of the pro-bono services included The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, The Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and The Greater Philadelphia Coalition against Hunger.  

During the program, Tyler Dahlberg, who studies GIS for Development and Environment at Clark University, created web maps for the Bicycle Coalition that made use of raw data from the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Department of Transportation and the coalition's independent research. The resulting map illustrates where people ride, where accidents happen and how the risk of bike theft varies (according to time of week and the time of year).

"It's an advocacy tool for them," says Dahlberg. "They can continue with the data and do their own research as well."
The Bicycle Coalition hopes the new tool will help them lobby City Council and the Department of Transportation to protect cyclists in Philadelphia.
Dahlberg also worked with the Coalition Against Hunger to locate potential food stamp recipients, pinpointing subgroups including children, the elderly, disabled people and immigrants. The tool will help the organization maximize their budget by targeting their marketing and volunteer outreach at neighborhoods dense with potential clients.
"It really expands the toolset that nonprofits have available for their decision making process," explains Dahlberg. "These nonprofits have a lot of data, but it's hard to analyze it. Being able to see the data visualized on a map really opens up new avenues."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
Source: Tyler Dahlberg, Azavea
Writer: Dana Henry
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