Stoking Engagement with Community Mapping

As many of you know, SCOPE's mission is community engagement for positive community change.  We talk about this in terms of becoming "connected and inspired to create a better community."  One of the things we've grown to appreciate over the past ten years is that the community of Sarasota County is LARGE, with 370,000 people spanning 570 square miles.  So for enough engagement to be generated, in order to create change around any given issue, we need to be paying attention to where inspiration is manifesting.  Then we might be able to see how it could become more connected, in order to "catch and spread" throughout the county. 

To help our community notice and capitalize on opportunities for increased engagement, SCOPE is now incorporating mapping into events we sponsor.  The recent Winter Forum is a good example. 

Several hundred people came together at the Winter Forum for a day of discussion inspired by the possibilities of aging.  When we left the event at the end of the day, where were we returning to throughout Sarasota County and the surrounding region?  Where do we spend our days at work (if we are employed or volunteering), and where do we return home to as neighbors?  We ask these questions because workplace and neighborhood are two settings where each of us has tangible opportunities to connect, become inspired, and spread enthusiasm. 

Take a look at these maps created by SCOPE's GIS Mapper, Matt Roach.  They illustrate where the people who attended the Winter Forum live in Sarasota County and the surrounding area.  In areas with more dots, there is a higher concentration of people who might now be spreading ideas about vital involvement, aging well, and other topics we talked about at the Forum. 

These maps reveal that most people who attended the Winter Forum live in the north-west region of Sarasota County, with some folks coming from Manatee and Charlotte counties, and just a few from the Tampa Bay area.  When we zoom in to take a closer look at the City of Sarasota, we see that people who attended the Forum live in about 20 different neighborhoods throughout the city, and are most concentrated in downtown neighborhoods.  These are just a few of our preliminary observations --what other patterns do you see revealed in these maps? 

OK, so we've identified some patterns - now what?  Here are some of the questions that come to mind for us since considering these local patterns relating to Winter Forum attendance:

  • What could we be looking and listening for now, as evidence of continued inspiration relating to the possibilities of aging -- particularly in those areas of the county where there are relatively more people who recently participated in the Winter Forum?
  • What could we be doing now to help keep the conversation going around the possibilities of aging - especially in those areas of the county where there are relatively more people who recently participated in the Winter Forum?
  • What could we do in future years to draw a more geographically diverse group of people to the Winter Forum -- especially from those areas of the county with the highest proportion of older adult residents?

These are just a few questions that the maps inspire - what questions come to mind for you?

We are sharing these maps and reflections not only as a follow-up to the recent Winter Forum, but as an example of the ways in which GIS mapping can be used to support efforts to promote community engagement. 

Do you have ideas about other ways mapping could be used for engagement?  If so, we hope you'll share your ideas below.