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Good Planning + Good Data = Positive Community Impact

By Sharon Kandris, Director, Community Informatics, The Polis Center at IUPUI

All of us hope to have a positive impact on our community. It’s why we do what we do. Nonprofits exist to help make the world a better place. But how do we make sure our programs and organizations make the greatest impact they can?

It starts with good planning and good data…planning that focuses on your end goal and data that informs your decisions.



Plan backwards, implement forward. Confusing? When you are planning your program, focus first on what’s important – what do you hope to change as a result of your work? What impact do you hope to make on individuals, families, policy? Once you establish your vision, then you need build a plan that ensures your program will have the impact (or outcomes) you desire. This is what many refer to as an outcomes-based approach. Then, of course, when you implement your plan, you start at the beginning and work toward that end goal.


Having good data can help you focus your priorities. I have worked many times with organizations who think they know the situation based on their experience or what they think they know about their community. Once I start presenting data, tangible facts about their service area or their target population, there are a lot of “aha” moments.

a) Look at the data geographically – map it! The findings may surprise you. It’s possible that your program or service could have a much bigger impact by focusing on a smaller area with concentrated need, than serving a larger area with people in need dispersed about.

b) Collect People Data (otherwise known as qualitative data). Sometimes, the statistics just aren’t available. I have come to appreciate the value of “people data.” Talk to people in the community. Talk to other service providers. Ask their experience – what challenges or barriers do they see? What gaps are there?


Using a logic model provides a framework for thinking through the problem and how we are going to solve it. When laid out properly, the logic model tells you the reasoning behind your program through a chain of events: If we have these resources and use them do these activities, it will result in these outcomes, which ultimately will have this impact.


  1. Conduct a needs assessment to understand the situation and set priorities: This is THE most important part of the process and is the part that often takes the longest. If you do not clearly understand the need, you may not be providing the right solution! Take the time to collect and analyze data about your service area, your target audience, and the subject matter. What resources already exist in the community to address the problem? What is or where are the gaps?
  2. Establish your end goal: What do you hope will improve as a result of your program or service? What is your desired impact? (this is your long-term goal)
  3. Set short- and medium-term goals: Transformation takes a long time, sometimes years. What short-term and medium-term goals do you need to set to reach your desired impact?
  4. Determine your activities: Now that you’ve set your goals, determine what activities your program or organization needs to do in order to accomplish those goals?
  5. Identify necessary resources: What resources will it take to do those activities? Examples: staff, volunteers, time, money, office space, computers, training lab, etc.

This of course is just the beginning, the plan. Now you must go forth and do. And collect data along the way to monitor what works and what doesn’t. And come back and revisit the plan periodically.



  1. It helps you create your vision and mission — or add clarity and fine-tune them.
  2. It provides a clear roadmap for how you will accomplish your mission.
  3. It helps you understand the value of each component of your program. The logic model helps us connect the dots to see the importance of all the activities and services and how they must work together to reach our goals and to have the impact we desire.
  4. In a word, funding. You will have two very important communication tools to approach funders: 1) justification for your program – if you’ve done your situation analysis well, then you will have good data to demonstrate the need for your program and 2) a well thought-out plan that demonstrates how your work will contribute to addressing the need and making a positive change in the community.
  5. It provides great information for evaluating your program.
  6. It reminds you to keep your eye on the prize, that positive change you want to make in the community – the reason you set out on this mission in the first place.



New SAVI data reveals interesting crime and health trends in central Indiana

By Jay Colbert, GIS Project Manager, The Polis Center

2011 vitals and juvenile justice data are now available in SAVI! Vitals data include birth and death records, and juvenile justice data include arrests as opposed to reported crimes.

Here are just a few of the categories of vitals and juvenile justice data. Within each category of data, SAVI provides a number of more specific indicators. For example, the category “Prenatal Care” includes seven indicators such as “Births where prenatal care began in the first trimester,” and “Births where there was no prenatal care.”

                                            VITALS                                                                JUVENILE JUSTICE
                                          – Birth Data                                                           – Age of accused
                                          – Age of Parent                                                     – Race/ethnicity and gender of accused
                                          – Race/ethnicity of parent                                     – Substance abuse of accused
                                          – Prenatal care                                                     – Juvenile felony charges
                                          – Birth Risk Factors                                              – Juvenile misdemeanor charges
                                          – Marital Status of Parents                                   – Type of crime
                                          – Death data
                                          – Youth deaths
                                          – Cause of deaths


I’ve selected five of the most interesting trends to share with you. Let me know what you think.

1.Perry Township has seen a sharp increase in births to Asian mothers – much more so than the number of Asian births in neighboring townships.

WHY? This is primarily driven by a large Burmese refugee population that has settled in Perry Township.



2. Deaths by accident in Warren Township increased by 45%, continuing to be a rising trend for about a decade.

The statistics alone don’t explain why this trend continues to rise. What are your thoughts?


3. In late 2012, Indiana Black Expo released its State of Our Black Youth report, available in our Reports section, which revealed a number of disproportionate trends among African American youth and youth of other races. The new juvenile justice data showed consistency in this trend. The following chart illustrates the number of juvenile arrests by race compared to the total juvenile population by race.

Interpretation: African American youth are over-represented in juvenile arrest data. African Americans make up two-thirds of juvenile arrests but only one-third of the total youth population.

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4. One of the most significant and troubling trends is an increase in gun crimes charges among juveniles. The following chart shows the trend in Marion County since 2008.

Significance: In the past couple of years, Marion County has seen close to (or exceeding) 200 gun charges per year.

45. Here’s one about births to unmarried parents.  It was up and up and up but has moved back
down recently.  The total number of births and the number of births to unmarried parents are also on the way down.


A number of these juvenile justice and vitals data trends are consistent with national trends. For example, teenage birth rates have been decreasing over the past 10 years. In Indiana, the teenage birth rate decreased from 42.9 in 2007 to 37.3 births per 1,000 females 15-19 in 2010, a decrease of 13%.

Do you know how these trends compare in your neighborhood?

How well do you know your neighborhood?

By Michelle Jones, GIS Analyst, The Polis Center

How familiar are you with the resources in your neighborhood? School corporation? Service area? Our SAVI team recently published 2012 community resources data to help you explore these questions and more!!

There are a few ways to access the resources in your community. One is by using SAVI’s community profiles. These help you to quickly visualize resources by neighborhood, county, township, and more.

For example, imagine your organization wants to start a new employment services program, but you want to be sure to target a location that meets the greatest need and fills an existing service gap. Using SAVI, you could first identify the areas with high unemployment rates. Here’s a map showing percentage of unemployed persons by Township. The darker the color, the higher the unemployment rate.


We can see high areas of unemployment in many of the SAVI counties, but let’s take a closer look at Madison County.  Let’s also identify where current employment programs are located in Madison County.


There are a handful of employment programs in Madison County in the area where unemployment rates are highest, but there appears to be an unmet need in Elwood and in the southwest corner of Anderson.   You now have a good starting point to inform your decision.  From here, you may want to explore the specific types of employment programs that exist; contact the existing providers to learn more about their capacity to serve (are they over capacity, are they only open certain hours, do they only serve particular populations); and use other sources to identify known challenges of the unemployed or under-employed population.  Data does not solve the problem for you, but it should inform your decision-making process.

This example shows how SAVI can assist with new program location, but other common uses of SAVI are:

  • Target audience identification
  • New program location
  • Identification of areas of need
  • Trend identification
  • Community assessment
  • Grant application development
  • Strategic planning
  • Membership/client mapping

SAVI can improve the way your organization or community makes decisions, giving you the data and tools and guiding you through a process to make more informed decisions. SAVI helps you turn data into action to improve your community.

Talent Alliance Helps Educators Make Data-Informed Decisions

The Central Indiana Talent Alliance recently released its third community report card, revealing an in-depth assessment of performance indicators and trends in education in Marion County.

To achieve its vision of elevating the local system of education, the Talent Alliance acknowledges the importance of collaboration among community partners. It convenes members of five implementation teams (each representing  a segment of the education continuum), a data management team, and other key council members to ensure that every child succeeds from cradle to career.

For example, the Talent Alliance, which is chaired by IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz, hopes the information helps high schools to see how many of their students remain in college—a measure of how well they were prepared by the high school. The data can also help high schools identify programs and services that correlate with higher rates of college attendance and use that information to improve college enrollment rates among their school’s graduates (Wall, 2011).

Talent Alliance of Central Indiana’s Data Management Team

Talent Alliance of Central Indiana’s Data Management Team

It is data-driven in its approach, taking into account data and evidenced-based research to inform decision-making
at every stage of the education pipeline. The Polis Center is one of 14 research-oriented organizations that comprise the Data Management Team and we take great pride in our partnership with Talent Alliance for this valuable initiative.  Using SAVI’s many socioeconomic indicators and tools to analyze and visualize education trends along with other data resources helps the Talent Alliance implementation teams establish priorities and make data-informed decisions about the education needs of our community.

For example, one of the long term goals of this initiative is to increase the percentage of children and youth participating in out-of-school-time (OST) programs. The OST Implementation Team  used community mapping based on indicators of poverty, education, health and public safety combined with existing OST programs to identify high-needs neighborhoods with service gaps in order to target special initiatives.

Talent Alliance uses SAVI data to map neighborhoods with high needs of out-of-school program sites.

Talent Alliance uses SAVI data to map neighborhoods with high needs of out-of-school program sites.

Read Talent Alliance’s 2012 report on Early Childhood to College & Career.

Visit to explore and drill down into detailed data about Central Indiana youth.



Wall, J.K. (2011, June 30). Talent Alliance to help high schools track graduates, Indianapolis Business Journal, Retrieved from


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