Community Assets, Data, Featured SAVI User

Future Social Workers Learn Value of Data

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By Laura Danielson, Communications Manager, The Polis Center

We’re always excited to learn how our SAVI community is using our tools. Because that’s the whole draw of SAVI – it’s incredibly user-friendly! The IU School of Social Work at IUPUI even requires its graduate students to incorporate SAVI data into their final projects. Naturally, I felt compelled to see the results, so Jay Colbert (SAVI Project Manager) and I attended the school’s end-of-the-year poster presentation. And let me tell you, these students are talented! But there was one poster that really captured my attention. And after speaking to the students who created it, I wanted to learn more.

An interview with Suprena McKinney and Amelia Allen

Laura: Before we get into the details of your project, tell me a bit about yourselves. What’s your background? What are you studying?

Suprena: I’m a social work major, and I graduate this year. I’m going into child welfare.

Amelia: And I’m actually doing the same thing!

Laura: Wow, really? Exactly the same thing?

Amelia: Yep, we’re in the same program, I’m graduating, too, and we’ll both be working for the Department of Child Services.

Laura: Well, that’s coincidental. You had four team members, right?

Amelia: Yes, Rachel Harris and Sara Renneisen also contributed to our project. But they have different areas of research focus.

Laura: Ok, let’s talk about your project. Describe it for me.

Suprena: We had to identify a community that we were not familiar with, and then determine the needs and assets of that community. That helped to develop our research question. Is this community needs-based or assets-based? How can we recommend an opportunity to provide that community with empowering social change?

Laura: And which community did you choose?

Suprena: We chose the Eagledale community.

Laura: Any particular reason why you chose Eagledale?

Amelia: It has so much culture and diversity! It has a large Hispanic population and lots of international influences in the grocery stores, restaurants, etc.

Laura: What were the objectives and goals of your project?

Suprena: We wanted to implement the community practice skills we learned over the semester.

Amelia: Some of that meant going into the community itself and visually identify areas where the community was lacking or areas where it had strengths.

Laura: Can you give me an example?

Suprena: We went into the community thinking its population was Hispanic, White, and Black. But then we visited the Saraga International Grocery Store, and we really saw what a diverse community it caters to…African, Vietnamese, huge diversity of cultures. And it made me think, “Wouldn’t this neighborhood benefit from a cultural center?” So we proposed a cultural awareness center to allow community members to showcase their cultures and also learn about other cultures.

Amelia: Another thing we noticed in the community is that there weren’t a lot of facilities that could provide entertainment for the youth. There were no movie theaters or malls, or anything positive to attract young people. And we knew there was a large youth population because of the data we found in SAVI. There are four schools in Eagledale, so we thought we should also include an education component to the community center and recommend it as a youth community center to celebrate diversity. It could offer tutoring, mentoring, and physical activities and recreation.

Laura: What a great idea! You said you used SAVI to inform your recommendation. Can you talk a bit more about that process?

Suprena: Sure. We started with the demographics, employment, and education data to get an overview of the community. But when we looked at the education data, we noticed something disconcerting. Persons with a diploma and persons without were actually equal. So we thought, naturally, that one of our goals would be to cultivate an environment that encourages attainment of a diploma more than already exists.

Laura: That’s interesting. So you used the vulnerability indicators to determine the needs of the community. Data obviously played a significant role in your research project. Did it reveal any other surprising findings?

Amelia: I was surprised at how many single-parent households there were. Obviously, a single parent will have different challenges in raising their children, so I think a youth center could really be a benefit to the community.

Laura: Was this your first time using SAVI?

Amelia: Yes, it was for our whole team. I actually wish I would have learned about it sooner because it would have helped me in so many of my other projects!

Suprena: Agreed. It’s a really valuable resource – especially for social workers. I’ll continue to use it.

Amelia: It was also really user-friendly, and I love that it gave me the option to save my project so I didn’t have to recreate work each time I wanted to look up data.

Laura: That’s great to hear! Thanks to both of you for sitting down with me, and good luck in your new jobs!

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