Using Research & GIS Strategically to Shape Action and Response Issues

2010 ESRI Southeast Regional User Group Conference

Tim Mulrooney and Mike Carmichael

“The Winston-Salem State University “Transforming Communities Research Lab” at the Center for Community Safety is a practical, community-based research engine to inform community and agency decision-making and a means through which individuals can glean and use information in ways that enhance their knowledge and power. GIS is at the heart of this endeavor. TCRL has provided “basic training” in using GIS to students, faculty staff. TCRL is making these tools available to the public and sharing them with human service and community development agencies, which fulfills one of CCS’s original goals to be a local resource center for community safety. One of the (if not the only) full service GIS labs that is available to not only students and faculty, TCRL is made available to every segment of the community to utilize the power of GIS in their own ways. TCRL has developed free workshops for learning the basics of GIS. Students from WSSU, WFU, Salem College, Forsyth Technical Community College, Elon University and UNCG have come to enhance their normal curriculum with GIS. Neighborhood Associations, Faith Based Organizations and other community leadership organizations have attended workshops. Community agencies such as school system social workers, city and county government personnel have also attended our workshops. TCRL invites people to learn what GIS is and experience hands on learning with ArcGIS software. After each workshop, they are invited to come back and use the software and the over 900 layers of data that is available. With TCRL staff assistance, they are taught to use GIS to use their research strategically to shape action and response to community safety issues. Our definition of community safety is a very holistic approach. As a result, we try to develop crime, demographic, infrastructure, business and environmental data to help accomplish this endeavor. This paper and presentation details the TCRL history and gives examples of participant works in community prisoner re-entry, crime analysis, health disparity, health sciences windshield surveys, community historic preservation, neighborhood & community communication and non-profit funding applications. It is important to note that even if a workshop participant does not come back to utilize the software at TCRL, the staff are available by phone and e-mail to assist with their data needs and other services. The participant may now go to a planning board or other public forum where maps and data are presented and they will know how to ask questions of the data presented or be able to ascertain what is actually being communicated.”

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