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Thread: AIB Innovation in the Not-for-profit sector

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    AIB Innovation in the Not-for-profit sector

    An article in Cyburbia's list today:
    http://www.dailysouthtown.com/southt...th/161syt3.htm

    It is about green mapping of 14 counties in the Chicago region.

    A few quotes from the article:
    "The whole purpose is to preserve the natural function of the land, so we're not paying millions for flooding, or trying to re-create wetlands that are long gone, or reintroduce species that have disappeared," said Nancy Williamson, an ecosystem administrator for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
    This is exactly why I am pursuing an environmental studies degree as a basis for my future Master's in Planning.


    The map covers 14 counties in northern Illinois, southeast Wisconsin and northwest Indiana — an area rich with forest preserves, parks and wetlands.....

    Until recently, agencies in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin didn't have a map that showed wetlands, forest preserves, grasslands, agricultural land and protected property together in all three states.
    This is the innovation part: Most of the time, folks are so myopically focused on the built environment that they don't bother to map anything else.

    At a conference three years ago....
    "When I was trying to find maps for the work groups to use (during the conference) I had to paste together pages from different road atlases," ....
    "There were 60 different agencies doing their own thing, in their own jurisdiction, and no one was trying to pull it together."
    With a $200,000 grant from the Joyce Foundation, the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago was hired to develop a database ....
    Planning and GIS at its best: giving the bigger picture and trying to do something in context.

    "We have to begin to realize the land we're sitting on serves a function."
    My philosophy exactly: How can we effectively plan the built environment if we are largely ignorant of the natural environment which serves as its foundation?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Great news! Good luck in your studies!

    Couple of questions, not meant to put a negative spin on the developments noted in the news article, but could easily be interpreted as such:

    1) Great first start, to acknowledge the need to map environmentally important lands. Mapping costs money - what agency will lead this multi-agency effort and how will it get funded?

    2) Once all these important lands are mapped, then how will they be protected? In Michigan, I am of the opinion that public agencies that buy these lands outright for protection purposes is perhaps the most effective way to preserve them. Next are the non-profit land conservancies that scoop up the sensitive properties and place deed restrictions on them. Both tactics cost money. How will they be funded?

    I am inspired by efforts to preserve environmentally significant and sensitive lands, but it costs big bucks and the public will usually have to foot the bill. I don't mind paying higher taxes for that, but there are many others who have a problem doing that themselves.

    EDIT: Ooops, I see some mapping has already begun: www.greenmapping.org. That's a beautiful website!

  3. #3
    We use Department of the Interior Wetlands Inventory maps down here in southern Indiana. Lovely maps. USGS 7.5 min series, photocopied b/w, hand written regime notes that in many cases are barely visible or legible. GIS would be a giant leap forward, but I'm with Wanigas? for the harder questions -- how will they be paid for and how will the databases be maintained? And how will some backwood operation like mine be able to participate?
    Je suis Charlie

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    but I'm with Wanigas? for the harder questions -- how will they be paid for and how will the databases be maintained? And how will some backwood operation like mine be able to participate?
    Hey, I don't know any more about this particular project than what was in the article. They got a grant of $200,000 and it is my understanding that they mostly were gathering together existing data from dispersed sources. Data is 60% of the cost of a GIS. This seems very cost effective to me.

    BUT: using GIS doesn't have to cost a lot of money. There is free GIS software available on the Internet. The way I was taught project management and planning, the FIRST step should be to assess the computer and other organizational resources available which can do double-duty as components of the GIS. If you have anyone entering data into a database on a regular basis, that can be incorporated into the geographic information system. Whatever database software you have, data in that database, systems in place for gathering data on an ongoing basis, computer hardware and software and peripherals...it can all be used towards setting up a functional GIS. A good GIS is basically embedded into the structure of the organization. A lot of GIS programs are "map shops" and that isn't nearly as effective or efficient.

    I read an article some time ago about a small community that set up a GIS in order to show that they would qualify for more funds under the CDBG program if they applied independently than if they continued to participate as part of some larger program (at the county level or something). Very small communities can participate in GIS and I have read other articles about examples of that. I have a meeting tonight and prep work I must do before then. Maybe later I can find some time to dig up a few of the articles I have read over the years on that small communities or programs using GIS to leverage their resources.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Hey, I don't know any more about this particular project than what was in the article. They got a grant of $200,000 and it is my understanding that they mostly were gathering together existing data from dispersed sources. Data is 60% of the cost of a GIS. This seems very cost effective to me.
    And yet I can go to http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/mgdl/ and download National Wetlands Inventory ArcView shapefiles for any county within the State of Michigan and map them - it's free and it's public - but so what? I'm certainly not in the position to buy the lands that I have mapped. What really needs to happen, after the mapping is completed, is that foundations and State agencies should appropriate funds to organizations that can acquire and permanently protect those lands.

  6. #6
    MZ, I agree with your post. In fact, we are using a GIS system quite inexpensively now. It's called the PMGIS (Paper Map Geographic Information System).

    The problem faced by many communities like mine is transiting from the paper system to the electronic system. It is made especially difficult when the County and/or Township maintain the property tax records and refuse to move to an electronic parcel-based system to "preserve patronage jobs". There are lots of ways around this and lots of apps that don't require the parcel/polygon -- but from a land use and zoning standpoint, it is essential IMO. And I just don't know how all these small communities can overcome this initial cost hurdle.
    Je suis Charlie

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    And yet I can go to http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/mgdl/ and download National Wetlands Inventory ArcView shapefiles for any county within the State of Michigan and map them - it's free and it's public - but so what? I'm certainly not in the position to buy the lands that I have mapped. What really needs to happen, after the mapping is completed, is that foundations and State agencies should appropriate funds to organizations that can acquire and permanently protect those lands.
    I think part of the point of the article is that a lot of these lands are already protected and mapping it has the potential to keep them protected.

    Yes, some data is available for free on the internet. I had one class devoted entirely to "GIS Data Sources on the Internet" -- how to find the free stuff. But a) if it is mainly compatible with ArcView, the need to purchase that software is a financial barrier b) the most commonly available type of file is only readily converted by the most expensive version of ArcView, something that even the professors who teach how to use the software generally consider to be unethical on the part of ESRI c) that means that a lot of folks have a financial barrier to using a lot of the free data on the internet. If you do not have the high end stuff, you wind up dowloading data that is no longer "smart" -- you might wind up with just an image without any coordinates, which has limited usefulness for a GIS. (There are cheaper tools which can do a partial conversion. And I did recently sign up for the GRASS users list. So I am going to learn what its capabilities are in those areas. It is a free GIS.)

    Furthermore, the geographic component is only ONE type of data in a GIS. I know you do GIS so I know you know that a GIS software is, essentially, a specialized database which allows for the mapping of the data. Most data is associated with a spatial component (such as demographic data being associated with home addresses). So anyone who has a database of original data generated by their own internal procedures has a valuable resource they can mine. The non-map components of the database can be exported and manipulated in Oracle, Excel, etc. and then re-imported. Or imported to begin with from an existing database that isn't map-capable.

    Gedunker you described a POLITICAL barrier -- lack of cooperation due to ulterior motives -- and then spoke of a 'cost barrier'. I know there are both of those but I think it is important to be clear which one you are concerned about. Again, when I have time, I will see what I can come up with that might answer some of your questions. Feel free to PM me or e-mail me. I could help you do a quick and dirty assessment of what resources you already have that can be used in a GIS.

    I think GIS is very cost-effective stuff. I believe that being able to make more informed decisions saves money, time and effort, and avoids problems. Problems get expensive to have. A lot of people don't believe you can resolve the problems. The belief that something cannot be addressed effectively becomes a "self-fulfilling prophecy": if you don't bother to try to resolve it, it probably won't ever go away. One way to get to 'yes' is to do the planning beforehand and have the facts in place to convince folks that this can be done, it has x,y,& z advantages, etc.

    When I wanted to suggest that the homeless shelter where I volunteer should do something with a website, I did the research on what domain names cost, which ones were available for the executive director to choose from (and had one to suggest), what benefits they could get out of having a website, etc. They already had a website that is impossible to find. They happily wrote a check for the cost of a domain name when I showed up with samples of redesigned pages on my laptop and a full explanation of how it could be done, what it would cost, etc. I had no problem getting a green light and was handed a folder full of material to put up on the website as I get to it

    And, no, I didn't originally have that kind of cooperation up there. I originally assisted existing staff and tutored homeless kids, in spite of all the computer skills that I listed on my resume. I did the research and convinced them to let me repair the dressers and later offered to help with specific things on the computers. I sold them on one small project after another, built up "good will" and confidence that my suggestions were do-able and were NOT just some additional burden on them, with no real benefit to them. I made it very clear that what I needed from them was small and the benefit to them was substantial. At first, I had to diplomatically address a lot of criticism. They didn't have any faith in my ideas -- until I proved that they worked. I got the chance to prove myself by seeing it from their point of view, addressing their concerns, having an answer for every criticism, and remaining positive and supportive. If they had an objection, I ignored the negative attitude and ONLY dealt with their legitimate concern and why they felt it could not be done. I refused to take any of it personally and I avoided attributing anything to "ill will" or "bad motives".

    City building (or community building, rural or otherwise) is very much about dealing with the messiness of human lives and human interactions. If you assume bad motives and the like on the part of those individuals who are standing in the way of certain goals, you have probably already lost the battle. You must assume that they have legitimate concerns, which merit being addressed. Yes, some folks are just bad apples. But most folks are just human beings, warts and all, and looking kindly upon their frail humanity gets you listened to better than if you scream about how horrible their warts are. We all have our personal limitations -- things we can't imagine, don't understand, etc. Making it clear that you think someone is "stupid" doesn't help. It just makes sure that the closed-mind adds a padlock anytime you enter the room. Explaining to them that it is completely understandable they don't know this stuff, they are busy and important people who shouldn't have to know this stuff, and it is your job to know this stuff and explain it to them can start opening minds and getting you listened to. Then give them some time to think about it. I never expect to get a "yes" the day I broach a topic. I expect to open the topic that day, not settle it once and for all.

    Just some of my meanderings. God, please don't take that as a 'diatribe'. I am just really chatty sometimes.

  8. #8
    MZ, you are right. You are preaching to the choir with me -- I already know the benefits of an electronic GIS system and I proselytize (quietly, behind the scenes, which is my place in this community, but nonetheless relentlessly). The glimmer of hope I have is that the state will finally say -- ya'll have to go electronic by (date). Sadly, it has always been some higher authority around here swinging the big hammer -- EPA(sewers), DOJ(jail)(Americans with Disabilities Act), DNR(flood plain regulation). Hopefully, I'll live long enough to see the day.
    Je suis Charlie

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Er, didn't mean to "preach". (And I thought your PMGIS was funny. That is actually a GIS but ...it is along the lines of "Amish SimCity". )

    I had an awesome day AND managed to do 20 or 30 minutes of research for articles and online resources for small towns, et al. Here is what I found:

    I think this is the CDBG article I was thinking of:
    GIS Helps Laguna Niguel Use Federal Money More Effectively
    http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/laguna.html


    DELIVERY OF RESOURCE INFORMATION TO
    LOCAL ENTITIES IN RURAL AREAS AND SMALL TOWNS
    http://www.strom.clemson.edu/publica...ource-info.pdf


    Educating rural towns about GIS
    http://www.directionsmag.com/editori...article_id=183


    Integrating Transportation Modeling and “Desktop GIS”: A Practical and
    Affordable Analysis Tool for Small and Medium Sized Communities
    http://ntl.bts.gov/data/6_conference/00780104.pdf


    What's New at PeopleGIS: Introducing MapsOnline!
    For years, the costs associated with typical approaches for Internet GIS have been too high for small towns to justify.....until now. Over the eighteen months, PeopleGIS has created MapsOnline....
    http://users.rcn.com/kevinflanders/secondindex.htm (This is a company and they have a page of links and some other info -- you might find it very worthwhile to look over.)

    In an industry plagued by project failures, how did a small city in Oregon with limited resources manage to successfully complete a large-scale GIS/CAD/IMS integration project in six months?
    http://www.geospatial-online.com/geo...l.jsp?id=45311

    BERKSHIRE
    PLANNING TOOLS
    Small Town GIS
    http://www.berkshireplanning.org/dow...l_town_gis.pdf

    If you want to continue the search, I think I had my best search luck with "GIS small town government". If I had more time, my next try would have been "GIS small town government applications". But "small town GIS" was not a real helpful search.

    And, of course, coming soon: My own international GIS consortium, yadda yadda. But, first: a business license.
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 26 May 2004 at 12:57 AM.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I can speak for a couple of the states in question. In the early 1990's I was working with data from the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, which included all of the information you mentioned about wetlands, species, property ownership, etc. It was all available and in a GIS format. Much of the same is true of Southeastern Wisconsin, where the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has been assembling the same data in GIS for many years. I didn't read the article, but I think that perhaps the innovation here is the cross-border collaboration and sharing of data.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Thanks Cardinal. I was thinking something along the same lines. It is nice to hear it backed up by a local who is "in the know".

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