Policymakers, How Well Do You Know Your Community?

Government agencies across the country make public policy decisions every day — and most all public policy decisions involve issues that have a spatial component. As agencies strive to make more analytics-driven decisions, the decision makers rely more on the work of analysts. These analysts need to collect, manage, interpret, integrate, synthesize, analyze, and visualize spatial and non-spatial data, and then present it in a context that allows the decision makers to apply it to their decision. If these public policy decisions are to be their most effective, the better the decision-makers know their community, the better decisions they will make.

There is a significant amount of data from various sources available to assist with these decisions, but they are not always easy to find, obtain, integrate and keep updated. Luckily there is a clearinghouse that provides usable data as a service, which drastically increases the effectiveness of analysts, it is known as the Living Atlas from Esri, the global market leader in geographic information systems (GIS).

In addition to the Living Atlas, Esri has released a web site focused on allowing anyone to use the data to create interactive maps and apps to better understand their community and help solve common issues. The site is Esri Maps for Public Policy.

This site is available at no cost and is dedicated to raising the level of spatial and data literacy used in public policy. Anyone can explore curated content, get training, best practices information, and access datasets that can provide a baseline for research, analysis, and policy recommendations. You can explore the data and share your results with others. You can discover the work of others and gain inspiration from forward-thinking organizations and policy analysts tackling today’s community challenges like the opioid epidemic, crime, poverty, affordable housing, homelessness, etc. These policy maps clearly show where there are opportunities to intervene.

The data includes hundreds of variables and is available at varying scales: national, state, county, Census tract or block group. The data is organized by issues:

  • Social Equity and Health
  • Economic Opportunity
  • Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Resilience and Sustainability
  • Environment and Natural Resources
  • Public Safety

The site allows anyone to find data, add your own data, enrich it, analyze it, and present it in a spatial context that is easy to understand.

Here are some examples:

This is navigation for policy decision-making that will help raise your data literacy and find the populations that need to be targeted. Please try it today. You can learn more from this short video.

Adam Carnow is a community evangelist at Esri.

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