The Polis Center

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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

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.


Rebecca Nannery
Senior Research Analyst
Matt Nowlin
Research Analyst
Jay Colbert
GIS Project Manager
Sharon Kandris
Sharon Kandris
Associate Director

United Way of Central Indiana

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Denise Luster, VP of Impact Research & Analytics

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.


Denise Luster
VP of Impact Research & Analytics


August 26, 2021
In 2015, the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health (FSPH) and The Polis Center published an issue brief,... [read more]
The Civic Switchboard program funded two NNIP Partners in 2020, DataWorks NC and The Polis Center. Learn more about their projects and... [read more]


April 1, 2021
Report - By: The Polis Center at IUPUI and SAVI, IU Public Policy Institute’s Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy, IU Center for Aging Research

The Polis Center

August 19, 2020
Blog post - By: Jeramy Townsley and Matt Nowlin

The Polis Center

July 1, 2020
Website - By: Polis Center

The Polis Center

October 10, 2019
Presentation - By: Sharon Kandris

The Polis Center


Partner Webinars

February 15, 2018 - 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 Matt Nowlin , Zafreen Jaffery , Steve Saylor
December 6, 2017 - 1:00pm

Sharon Kandris and Kevin Mickey explores potential roles for NNIP organizations in disaster mitigation... [read more]

Presenter Kevin Mickey