User-Centered Approach to Mapping Technology Enable Local Alliances to Better Plan Services

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

The Greater New Orleans Data Center worked to increase the effective use of data in decisionmaking among member agencies of the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans and the Greater New Orleans After-School Partnership. They did this in partnership with these two large collaboratives by conducting customized trainings, providing technical assistance, and creating web-based information.

 The Greater New Orleans Data Center partnered with the local Literacy Alliance to create a system for literacy providers with information on who else is offering adult literacy services, what types of programs they have, and where they are located within Orleans Parish. The web site mapped the location of adult literacy providers who registered their information with the Literacy Alliance. The web site was launched in April 2005 with information about 36 literacy programs in the Orleans Parish of New Orleans. The site was also used to help define the scope of need for literacy programming. With an estimated 150,000 adults in Orleans Parish functioning at the lowest literacy level, each program would have to serve over 4,000 people (many times more than they served at the time) to help all potential learners.

Although built for a very specific audience, GNOCDC created the technology to be easily adaptable for other audiences. In a short amount of time they created a system for mapping after-school and summer programs for the local After-School Partnership to support their planning.

These mapping systems aided the collaboratives in providing information to the public and referring clients to their services. The After-School partnership used the web site in their planning process to identify schools that did not have a program within half a mile. The City of New Orleans also consulted the site in distributing Community Development Block Grants. Post-Katrina, very few programs listed on the mapping web site were open (only 4 of 37 literacy programs were open after the storm). Nonetheless, the lessons learned in creating these web sites will help in the design of new information and referral systems for New Orleans.

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 Denise Warren and Allison Plyer of Greater New Orleans Nonprofit Knowledge Works. The Data Center (formerly the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center) is the New Orleans 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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