The Polis Center

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Sharon Kandris, Associate Director

The Polis Center at IUPUI

The Polis Center, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is an applied research center within the IU School of Liberal Arts. The Greek word polis means city, and accordingly Polis concentrates on issues related to metropolitan Indianapolis and other mid-sized American cities. Polis is multidisciplinary, community-oriented, entrepreneurial, and creative in its approach to problem solving. Polis' strengths are in community-based research and analysis and in advanced information technologies, especially geographic information systems (GIS). Working in partnership with other organizations, Polis addresses issues of mutual concern, and with its network of relationships, strives to bring together disparate groups and interests to find common ground.

The Center's purpose is to build understanding of community issues from a variety of perspectives. With a preference for working collaboratively, The Center often serves as the managing partner for gathering and analyzing information, and making it available in a useful and understandable form. Polis aims to help others create a vision of common good and to realize this vision through the use of practical tools and methods. Polis has experience in community development, religion, government, social services, information management, arts and culture, and other areas. The Polis Center has a dedicated staff of 35 full-time employees and working relationships with many other talented and accomplished people, in Indianapolis and across the country. The Polis Center staff has particular experience in managing large complex projects involving a number of participating organizations, and in gathering, organizing and analyzing data collected from multiple sources.

SAVI Community Information System (SAVI)

The SAVI Community Information System ( began in 1995 as a joint project of The Polis Center at IUPUI and United Way of Central Indiana to support human services planning.  Its mission now is to help organizations and researchers make data-informed decisions by 1) providing reliable, geographically precise data about communities; 2) creating actionable information; 3) developing tools for data analysis; and 4) building capacity of nonprofit and community-based organizations (CBOs) to use data effectively.

SAVI (Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators) contains over 10,000 indicators on social, economic, and physical conditions of Central Indiana communities developed from over 30 data providers and makes the data freely available through a web site (  Users have the ability to view data profiles, search, map, and analyze over 20 years of data about 2,000 defined areas in the 11-county Indianapolis MSA, including but not limited to neighborhoods, school districts, ZIP codes, townships, and numerous other geographies.   SAVI also builds capacity of nonprofit and community based organizations to use data effectively for strategic planning, community assessments, program planning, evaluation, grant development, research, service area assessment, needs assessment, heath services evaluation, and so much more. 

SAVI is created and managed by The Polis Center, a center in the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, for the United Way of Central Indiana, as community trustee.


Kelly Davila
Sr. Research Analyst
Matt Nowlin
Research Analyst
Sharon Kandris
Sharon Kandris
Associate Director

United Way of Central Indiana

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For more than 90 years, United Way of Central Indiana has supported innovative, practical and efficient agencies and programs in order to address local needs. United Way of Central Indiana helps sustain vital human services for those who need help most while reducing such needs for future generations.

United Way of Central Indiana is focused on two priorities: Meeting the community's
human service needs; and helping kids start school ready to learn and graduate ready
to earn. United Way of Central Indiana operates in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties. Local volunteers identify, plan and carry out community-building and fundraising activities for health and human care solutions here in Central Indiana.

In support of its efforts, United Way of Central Indiana periodically conducts a community assessment. This in-depth study of the Central Indiana community and its current needs is designed to create a collective understanding of key community conditions, assets and concerns.


Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators (SAVI)

As the name implies, SAVI is an electronic database that includes data on community assets such as schools, churches and community centers, as well as information on community vulnerabilities such as crime, safety, poverty and health. SAVI, launched in 1993, is a joint database project of the United Way/Community Service Council of Central Indiana and the Polis Center. Building on the strengths of both organizations, the United Way/CSC handles SAVI training and community outreach, while Polis provides research assistance and collects, analyzes and maps the data. SAVI's mapped and tabular data covers the Indianapolis metropolitan area. SAVI is intended to help human service agencies, governments, community organizations, and individuals conduct research, as well as engage in planning, community development and policy making.


Polis and United Way/CSC are committed to making this valuable information on central Indiana available to many users. SAVI is available free of cost in many public libraries in Central Indiana, and enhanced access sites are also available for a fee. In recent years, Polis and United Way/CSC have made great strides in improving access to SAVI through interactive mapping and data delivery over the web.



April 8, 2015
The White House Domestic Policy Council, in collaboration with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are sponsoring a discussion titled "Technology... [read more]
December 31, 2013
Through a grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, the Polis Center is creating new data analysis and visualization tools for SAVI, such as the Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis tool, which... [read more]
December 31, 2013
The Polis Center is partnering with the Regenstrief Institute, the Fairbanks School of Public Health, and the School of Medicine to develop public ... [read more]


June 29, 2017
Report - By: Karen Frederickson Comer, Kelly Davila, Deb Hollon, Matt Nowlin

The Polis Center

Link to Report
May 18, 2017
Presentation - By: Sharon Kandris

The Polis Center

May 18, 2017
Meeting Materials - By: Peter Tatian, Sharon Kandris , Bob Gradeck

NeighborhoodInfo DC, University Center for Social and Urban Research, The Polis Center

NNIP Baltimore 2017_A World of Dashboards.docx
March 1, 2017
Website - By: Sharon Kandris

The Polis Center, United Way of Central Indiana

SAVI Community Assessment & Planning Tool, Read about how United Way and other organizations will use this tool
November 17, 2016
Presentation - By: Pamela Hinkle

The Polis Center


Partner Webinars

November 17, 2016 - 1:00pm

In 2014, we began holding virtual idea showcases after partners expressed the desire for more NNIP conversations between in-person meetings. Thanks to Idea Showcases, partners have shared their... [read more]

Presenters Diane Gavarkavich, Rania Ahmed, Sarah Marxer, Marcus Erridge, Pam Hinkle