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The MAPSCorps Story (WIP)

MAPS Corp is a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Stacey Lindau on Chicago’s south side. The organization aims to boost community vitality and visibility by going into communities to gather data on the assets available. To accomplish their vision of engaging youth in meaningful, active and productive science, they have partnered with After School Matters to employ teenagers and give them the opportunity to gain work experience while also learning how to apply data to solve problems that affect them.      

In the summer of 2016, I got the chance to work at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) site with a team of fifteen other data scientist and four field coordinators. We walked through neighborhoods in the Auburn Gresham and West Englewood area to collect data on businesses, asking residents what they thought the south side could be. The answers we received were inspiring, using words such as united, progressive, and home.

That year, we also collected data on vacancies for the Cook County Land Bank. At first, it was confusing. What was the purpose of keeping track of empty space and decrepit buildings? It seemed more like part of the scenery than something usable. However, one of our field coordinators challenged us to redefine the word asset. We began to see an asset as an opportunity, something that had potential. Just as we had asked the residents what they thought the south side community could be, we had to ask ourselves what these vacancies could be. This led us to develop the question, how can we use community assets to connect us to our dreams.

               To explore our research topic we came up with an open ended survey, which included questions, such as what health resources they’d like to see in their community and their overall satisfaction with where they live, which added nuance to the data we were collecting.  We found that most people were somewhat satisfied with where they lived, but desired more residences, schools, and more healthy resources. We took the data we collected from the survey and applied four out of the eight pillars, developed by Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation’s task force, education, health, socioeconomics, and real estate.

               Using these four pillars, we analyzed how they were affected by factors like, the unemployment rate, the percentage of vacancies, the median property value, and the poverty level. Many of the resources needed to create a healthy community were lacking, and it was no coincidence that these areas were poverty stricken. In order to revitalize these communities, money need to be brought into and circulated around the neighborhood, somehow.

               From there we created a listed of recommended courses of action for the community, as well as, policy makers. Some of our recommendations were to increase the percentage of lottery tax allocated to schools and early childhood centers, but also limit the amount of money that can be cut from the education budget. For the organization, we recommended the continue to grow the tasks force as well as find ways to connect the youth to healthy assets, and work with the Cook County Land Bank to help those in the community get information on properties available to purchase. On an individual basis, we urged people to get educated about assets that are already available, and to go to the Greater Auburn Gresham to get information on the resources.

               Communities are meant to be a place to nurture growth and give us the support needed to follow our dreams. Though the media does not focus on the good done in the Southside, that it doesn’t mean it does not exist, it just means we have to continue to push it until is impossible to ignore. The Southside of Chicago is already great, the people here are great, but if we all come together it can become even greater.

Keywords: business development, business services, Community Development, Tech, Youth Activism

Posted in Business News, Apprenticeship, Community Highlights, Digital Media and Technology Resources, Healthcare/Health Resources, Housing/Real Estate, Workforce and Career Development