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Problem

Partners of Plan 2020–a collective-impact planning process that is defining Indianapolis’ next 100 years–found that organizations from multiple sectors faced the challenge of telling a common story about a particular neighborhood and making meaningful comparisons. Each entity saw a different version about a neighborhood from its perspective, which impacted the effectiveness of varied efforts to transform negative conditions into positive ones. In essence, apples were compared to oranges rather than apples to apples.

Solution

The Polis Center developed IndyVitals to offer a user-friendly digital solution to this problem. Launched in June 2016, the digital tool allows users to track change and compare neighborhoods on several health and sustainability measures. IndyVitals puts everyone on the same page, puts the data in a common framework, and simplifies access, revealing the areas of critical need and opportunity in Indianapolis neighborhood areas to guide more successful endeavors to develop and improve these communities. All organizations are able to see the same data and read the same story, responding with programs, resources, and initiatives that are relevant to the specific needs of every neighborhood.

Increasing Transparency and Coordination through Better Data Access

The IndyVitals tool was conceived as a means to measure the long-term health and sustainability of neighborhoods. A second goal was to help organizations by making comparative neighborhood-level data transparent. The true power of IndyVitals is its ability to coordinate actions of community partners by highlighting the strengths and challenges of diverse neighborhoods in Indianapolis.

As data can be very complex, IndyVitals offers a range of approaches to tell the story for each neighborhood area. Polis transforms raw, messy data from many administrative sources into a simple one-page dashboard that quickly tells residents and leaders how a neighborhood area has changed and how it compares to other areas or the metro. For those who want to dive deeper, such as policy analysts and decision-makers, the tool provides charts and maps that describe trends, comparisons, and disparities by race, age, income, and education levels.

For organizations involved in quality-of-life, social services, and economic development programming, the tool provides a common geographical approach that tells a single story. It helps measure progress and the success of efforts. It identifies a neighborhood’s greatest strengths and gaps in services, and targets the people and assets that can efficiently and effectively transform negatives into positives. The expectation is that multiple agencies will read the same story, resulting in greater synergy in making Indianapolis a great place to live and work.

IndyVitals was created for Plan 2020, a planning initiative led by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee and the City of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development, with funding from a US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant. IndyVitals is one of the four main elements of the city’s bicentennial plan.

In 2017, IndyVitals was the recipient of a prestigious national award for improving the delivery and quality of government services. The Urban and Regional Information System Association (URISA), a multi-disciplinary geospatial organization that fosters excellence in geographic information systems (GIS), recognized IndyVitals with the Exemplary Systems in Government Award.

For more information, contact Sharon Kandris.