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Best of 2013

The SAVI team wishes you all a very Happy New Year!

2013 was a busy year for all of us at SAVI. As 2014 launches, we wanted to take a moment to look back and celebrate a few highlights. From unleashing new trends in poverty in Indiana to sharing insightful tips on strategic planning for nonprofits, here are a few of our proudest moments!


Thanks to the engagement of our SAVI community, our blog gained a significant momentum in 2013. We looked at comments and total number of views and social shares, and chose our most popular posts of the year. Take a look!

#3 Indy’s Mass Transit Bill: Debated with Data

In our third most popular blog, Jay Colbert shared data to help readers reach informed opinions regarding development of a regional transit system in Central Indiana.

#2 Good Planning + Good Data = Positive Community Impact

We all want to have a positive impact on our community. In this blog, Sharon Kandris describes how good planning and good data lead to successful program planning.

#1 Addressing Hunger in Central Indiana: Gaps and Opportunities

The number one blog of 2013 was Sharon Kandris’s informative report on the state of hunger in Central Indiana and what we can do to address it.

Trends in Poverty Report 

poverty reportI out of 5 people in Marion County are in poverty. Our Trends in Poverty report explored the 2012 poverty data to examine the disparities that exist in Marion county by age, race, gender, education levels, and neighborhoods – and how that has changed since 2000. This report gained lots of local attention. You can access the report here.

WTHR Coverage
WISH-TV’s Report

2013 Governor’s Conference on Service and Nonprofit Capacity Building

More than 200 people attended last year’s conference that was focused on building capacity of nonprofits in six core areas: Funding, Communications, Collaboration, Volunteerism, Strategic planning, and Governance. This year, we added a second day to feature the first statewide Human Needs Summit, a working session in which participants collaborated to share insights and discuss gaps and opportunities in education, health, hunger, and housing.

Logo Governors Conference (open text)

Save the date! The 2014 conference will be held at the IUPUI Campus Center on Oct. 1 and 2. We look forward to seeing you there!

What can SAVI can do for you? Whether you’re interested in a demonstration, hands-on training, or courses toward SAVI certification, we’re here to help!

Inspiring words from this year’s conference

By Laura Danielson, Communications Manager, The Polis Center

At the end of this year’s Governor’s Conference on Service and Nonprofit Capacity Building, we gave each attendee a blank sheet of paper and asked them to complete the following sentence.

When I leave this conference, I will _____________.

The responses range from personal commitments to pledges to challenge organizations to vows to raise awareness. They are as diverse as the attendees themselves. We hope that as you read these commitments, you’ll become as inspired and energized to advocate change as the people who wrote them. 

Tag from Conf


…not be afraid to ask why and why not in everything I do at my job AND in my personal life. I will be a part of the ongoing, ever-changing solution to making life better for the people I interact with every day. I will NOT just maintain the status quo.

…lobby my state representatives to encourage Indiana to accept Medicaid expansion.

…kiss my baby and try hard to make sure she is not one of the “others,” i.e. hungry, homeless, etc.

talk to any organization willing to listen to how hunger impacts their clients/employees.

…commit to introducing a holistic approach to pantries and SNAP outreach. We have to do more than supply “food;” we need to feed the WHOLE individual.

…look at the food pantry in my community center to determine if we are meeting the needs of the community.

…think outside the box to create a unique and holistic solution.

…use our community center as a one-stop shop with information on housing, medical help, food insecurity, and other needs.

…build a better Blackford County.

…strive to create quality programs based on teen and parent needs. These programs will serve as a means to provide educational opportunities that will level the playing field and move toward the eradication of under-education of parents and teenagers.

be innovative in my efforts and not rely on the way things have always been done.

…continue to advocate for older adults.

…personally change my blogging ratio, and up the posts on issues of social justice.

identify the key intervention points and direct resources to those places.

…further research the Clearinghouse Project to learn from the outcomes and see what we can utilize.

…attempt to make my career in the nonprofit industry after graduation, even though it means a smaller income.

…make sure I have the right people at the table.

use data to be more intentional in reaching groups that are not presently at the table but should be.

…get the parents more involved with their children’s growth.

…help parents to understand the importance of education.

engage more qualified volunteers to assist with the children and monitor their growth through education while also identifying weaknesses and strengths of our tutoring program.

…try to understand how my efforts now will affect my service area 20 years from now.

…commit to investing more resources to fully develop and utilize our volunteer program, so I can dedicate and maximize volunteer efforts in health and education initiatives.

…work harder and be more effective at finding strategic partnerships that benefit my community.

…look for ways to educate others on the programs. Greater awareness means more people can get involved.

…refocus on social enterprise.

…become more involved in hunger in the community and start the discussion to have a Food Fair.

…work on moving from a service-focus to an empowerment-focus in my nonprofit work.

…use the data/assessments I already have in more effective ways.

…advocate on behalf of clients and organizations doing amazing work to combat poverty in a frequent, intentional way.

…continue to be a change agent in the community.

…make an effort to be more collaborative in my life and work toward building relationships with neighbors that I do not know.

…build stronger strategic collaborations and make better use of social media.

…work housing into our health activities since housing can be a safe, healthy place to live or a very unhealthy, stressful place to live.

implement what I learned today while advocating for residents of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority.

…focus my intention on speaking to the right people and taking the correct steps towards the future of comprehensive sex education and awareness of sexual assault and rape.

…go back to my community and share what I learned so that we can make changes to improve in different areas.

…start by bringing my ideas to the table!

…question data.

be an advocate for change.

push myself and everyone around me to swim in the Blue Ocean and not get stuck in the Red Ocean.

…look for more collaborations that fill the needs of my program, my agency, and my community.

think about what we need to STOP doing.

…work with my center’s management team to move us into a Blue Ocean.

…read more and learn more about the complexity of education and its needs.

find new ways to collaborate with more community members for the benefit of my students’ education.

…work to create a more intentional system of data collection so we have a comprehensive picture of the outcomes and impact of our program.

…work toward a renewed focus on understanding best practices for after-school curriculum.

…continue to be a voice for the poor and under-privileged in the community.

…be a voice for those who are fearful of city administrators.

…work hard to make sure no one “learns” again.

become a networking superstar and put together amazing partnerships.

…think on a Blue Ocean level to transition from being service-minded to empowerment-minded.

…stay in touch with this conference.

make an intentional effort to collaborate with key stakeholders to provide services most beneficial for the success of students.

Your resource for nonprofit excellence

by Debbie Pidgeon

Whether here at the blog each week, on our social media pages every day or at our conference event each fall, the Governor’s Conference on Service and Nonprofit Capacity Building wants to help your organizations maximize impact and strengthen communities.

We’ll share with you opportunities for networking and collaboration. We’ll provide you access to tools and experts that will help you improve effectiveness and efficiency.


2012 Conference keynote session

As part of this commitment, we’re growing our annual Conference event to two days this year, October 3-4, 2013.

We’re also welcoming a new host agency, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, which joins the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and SAVI Community Information System as event organizers.

Now that we’ve opened event registration this week, I want to share with you more details on who can benefit from attending and what attendees can expect.

We strongly encourage attendance from nonprofit professionals who work at: social service agencies; faith-based organizations; neighborhood and community-based organizations; libraries; government agencies; consultants that work with nonprofits.


2012 Conference breakout session

On day one of the Conference (we’ll share more on day two in an upcoming post), we’ll help attendees build skills in these areas:

  • strategic planning
  • funding/finance
  • marketing/social media
  • governance
  • volunteerism
  • collaboration

You can view session descriptions at the Conference website, and we plan to include more networking opportunities this year, including an open luncheon format on day one.

The first day of Conference will wrap up with the Indiana Governor’s Service Awards (which accepts nominations until July 19). The awards, the highest honor for volunteer work in our state, will be distributed in eight categories at a ceremony inside the State House.

Take a closer look at the agenda of what we have planned and let us know what you’re looking forward to and why?

2131fc4 Blog author Debbie Pidgeon is the Chief Operating Officer at the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, where she overseas the office’s role as a Conference co-host.

State Geographic Information Officer describes importance of SAVI to Central Indiana

By Jim Sparks, Indiana Geographic Information Officer

In October 2007, I was appointed as Indiana’s first Geographic Information Officer with a statutory mission to facilitate the development, maintenance, and distribution of comprehensive statewide geographic data.  State statute also assigns two dozen or so responsibilities to the GIO which fall into five baskets: 1) coordinate GIS effort in Indiana with all levels of government, academia, and the private sector; 2) locate and integrate critical geospatial data around the state; 3) figure out how to create data sets that are needed but do not exist; 4) make sure that the data is widely and conveniently available; and 5) serve as the Geographic Information Officer for state government agencies.

Given this legislative directive, and understanding that SAVI is the nation’s largest spatially-enabled system of its type, it therefore makes perfect sense for the GIO to serve on SAVI’s board.  Beginning in 2008 as a board member, and more recently as vice chair, I help guide the efforts of the board and facilitate meetings in the absence of the chair.

As a GIS professional, I greatly appreciate what SAVI offers to its users.  The data are robust (there’s information about 2,000+ plus communities in Central Indiana) and have been collected and processed to work well in the creation of custom maps, graphs, and charts.  In addition, SAVI provides on-line tools to help me analyze the data in different ways, and the SAVI team is always available to provide additional training or even just answer a quick question if I need assistance.

I recently took a call from someone in the economic development sector who was looking for profiles for some Central Indiana neighborhoods.  While we were on the phone and in front of our computers, I was able to guide him to SAVI’s online tools to create several custom maps that contained exactly the information that he needed.

Finding and visualizing good data is a big win for the user and also for Indiana!  That makes SAVI an important resource for Central Indiana and is why the website link is in my favorites list.

You Asked, We Listened

By Deeksha Kapoor, PR & Social Media Coordinator, The Polis Center

We’ve been listening closely to your requests for information on SAVI webinars and training schedules. We are flattered by your interest and are excited to present a brief overview on what’s hot ‘n’ happening at SAVI.

Get To Know SAVI: We are excited to announce that the SAVI team will be giving a “Get to Know SAVI” presentation at the IU School of Nursing on Feb. 21 between 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM. If you’d like our team to make a presentation to introduce SAVI and its wealth of data to your class,  simply shoot an email to Jay Colbert at

The 24th Annual Joseph Taylor Symposium: Come, say hello to SAVI team at the Joseph Taylor Symposium on Feb. 27th 8:00 AM – 2:15 PM and get answers to all your data questions from SAVI experts.

SAVI Level II Webinar: This FREE webinar is scheduled for Thursday, February 28, 2013 from 11:00 AM (EST) – 12:00 PM (EST). This webinar will introduce you to SAVI’s reservoir of community data and will also provide detailed instruction on how to use your own data in SAVI. Come back next week on our blog to know the top five benefits of attending the SAVI Level II Webinar.  Click here to sign-up.

Wondering how can you stay updated with SAVI news and events? Well, you have several options. You can subscribe to our blog, follow us on Twitter (@SAVIonline), like us on Facebook, email us at and if that’s not enough, give us a call at (317) 278-9212. It’s that easy!

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Celebrating the Black History Month

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SAVI is celebrating Black History Month! Black history month offers us an incredible opportunity to emphasize the rich history and at the same time bring awareness of the notable achievements of the African American community that have contributed to making Indiana a better community.

From statistics to historic milestones to community contributions, we’ll delve into SAVI’s wealth of data to explore our rich and diverse community.

Come, join us as we celebrate black history month!

Past, Present, and Future of the U.S. Census & American Community Survey

Past, Present, and Future of the U.S. Census & American Community Survey

By Jay Colbert, GIS Project Manager

(This is a re-post of a post that originally appeared in Polis Center’s blog, posted May 18, 2012)

When you think of the U.S. Census, the word “fun” is probably not the first that comes to mind. But you’d be surprised at some of the fun facts that come from the history of the census. The first census, taken in 1790, was performed by the U.S. Marshalls and cost a total of $45,000 (about half a million in today’s dollars). Things turned into a quagmire in 1880, when it took eight years to completely tabulate results for all variables, but then improved by 1890 with the introduction of electric tabulation. The first partial sampling was used in 1940 and evolved into the long-form data which many were familiar with for decades.

The decennial census used to be the only game in town, so you had to wait once every ten years for it. The 2000 Census had a short form that 5 of 6 households filled out and had only a few basic questions. The other 1 in 6 households received a long form that asked the really interesting questions about employment, income, language, education, housing costs, etc.

But the 2010 Census is not your father’s census. It’s more like your grandfather’s census since there is no more long form. So now we get the answers to the interesting questions from the American Community Survey (ACS) which is the Census Bureau’s replacement for long form data. ACS questionnaires are sent out on a rolling basis, which is good since it leads to data that is published annually. The bad news is that the overall sample sizes are small, leading to estimates that come with margins-of-error and data that is released in different “flavors,” e.g. 1-year estimates, 3-year averages, and 5-year averages. Polis’s SAVI relies on 5-year averages since it’s the only way to get complete data for smaller areas such as census tracts and neighborhoods.

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate the American Community Survey as part of a larger budget. The bill is expected to die in the Senate. SAVI relies heavily on ACS data, and if small-area socio-economic data is important to you too, you may want to educate yourself on the status of the legislation and make your voice known to those in Congress casting the votes.

The Age of Mapping

By David J. Bodenhamer,David J. Bodenhamer Executive Director, The Polis Center

This is a re-post of the post that originally appeared on Polis Center’s Blog on April 27, 2012

Cartographer Dennis Wood once noted that maps “point to a world we might know,” as well as to a world we might have once known. It is part of the fascination and power of maps.  And, Wood argues, we live in an age of maps: more than 99.9 percent of all maps that have ever existed were made within the past 100 years. They have become so commonplace that we scarcely notice them: we see them continually on our mobile devices, on weather forecasts, or when we search for a business on Google or Bing, which asks whether we want directions to it. It is also increasingly easy to make maps.  For simple maps, we can use a variety of Web-based mapping tools or we can make quite complex maps with powerful software, such as we use at Polis.

But we often attribute to maps an objectivity they in fact do not have.  All maps represent reality, but whose reality do they represent?  Much of the data we map in fact reflects official efforts to keep track of events or conditions, and this information is important to good government. We need to know where potholes exist or where crime occurs or where schools and clinics exist.  But crime maps, to use one example, don’t tell us much, if anything, about whether residents perceive their neighborhood as safe.  A map of clinics and churches and schools doesn’t reveal whether the assets of an area in fact serve the needs of residents. Map-making means paying attention only to the thing being mapped.  This information may be essential but usually it isn’t sufficient to understand our world fully because the places where we live exist also in memories and perceptions and values that cannot easily be counted or even located with the precision demanded by the map’s symbology.

At Polis we work with maps every day, and we have developed the means by which people can create their own maps for their own purposes, as, for instance, in SAVI, the comprehensive community information system we manage. But we are aware that making maps from official data is not enough, so we are working on ways to allow anyone to add information that moves us beyond numbers to a more complete understanding of our communities.  Often called neogeography, this approach invites volunteered or user-generated information as a way of enhancing our understanding of places and events.  At times, this information may be more accurate and even more timely than official data, such as when cell phone reports and pictures of flooding in the Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina far outpaced the data sent by first responders.  We also are considering how to include this volunteered information in our work with federal and state emergency managers.  And we are exploring how to create dynamic “deep maps” that embody all the ways we know a place and that will let us see our communities in all their rich diversity and not simply as we capture them in our official records.  In all these ways, we are working to develop the information and collaborations that, in faithfulness to our word mark, help us “bring things into perspective.”


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