Data Used to Streamline Recreation Services

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) used data and maps provided by the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee (NPCM) to redistrict their recreation programming and save money on administrative costs associated with administering multiple districts. As a result of two successive years of budget cuts, MPS Recreation had to reduce the number of Recreation Districts, and therefore District Supervisors/Administrators from 11 to 7, in the summer of 2004, and from 7 to 6 in the summer of 2005.

School officials looked at data on the location of children, the age distribution of children in neighborhoods and other factors relevant to targeting their programs to children in need (such as socio-demographic and crime data) to determine where their recreation programs were most needed. They used this data in conjunction with their records about facilities’ capacities to determine where programs should be located. Specifically, they examined where children who most needed access to these programs were living relative to facility locations. Finally, transportation and other physical barriers such as rivers, rail lines and freeways were taken into account in determining the shapes of the final districts. In using this data-driven approach, the schools system was able to reduce the total number of recreation districts in the program, and save funds spent administering multiple districts. This process involved MPS Recreation directly in a GIS redistricting process, using their personal experience in addition to the numbers in interactively testing a variety of possible district boundaries.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Todd Clausen and Michael Barndt of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee. The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee was the Milwaukee partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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