Powering Community Participation in Planning for Indianapolis’ Future

Thomas Kingsley at the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP): “Thanks to IndyVitals – an award-winning online data tool – residents and organizations can actively contribute to continued planning to achieve Marion County’s vision for 2020. The NNIP Partner, the Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, leveraged their years of experience in providing actionable data through their Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators (SAVI) to create this new resource for the county.

IndyVitals supports Plan 2020: the initiative of the City of Indianapolis, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee and others to revitalize the city’s plans and planning processes in recognition of its 2020 bicentennial. These groups decided to give neighborhood data a considerably more pivotal role in their approach than it has typically played in local planning efforts in the past.

SAVI was one of the first comprehensive online and interactive neighborhood indicators systems ever developed for any city. But IndyVitals incorporates three notable changes to past practice. First is a new configuration of neighborhood geographies for the city. Indianapolis has nearly 500 self-defined neighborhood associations registered with the City, with many overlapping boundaries. Neighborhoods defined at that level would be too small and fragmented to motivate coherent action. Accordingly, the City defined a set of 99 larger “neighborhood areas” that all actors who influence neighborhood change – community groups, public agencies, nonprofit service providers, private businesses – could understand, build their own plans around, and use as a basis for coordinating with each other to achieve progress. The City intends to use the new neighborhood areas as building blocks for revising the boundaries of its police districts, public works areas and other internal administrative units.

The second change pertains to the indicators selected and the tools developed to make use of them. A set of over 50 indicators for IndyVitals was selected to be regularly updated and monitored in the future (drawn from the literally hundreds of possible indicators that could be created with SAVI data). SAVI staff suggested a list of candidates which was then vetted and modified by an advisory committee made up of representatives of community and other stakeholder organizations. The 50 include measures that help explain the forces causing neighborhood change as well as those considered to be markers of goal achievement. They include well known indicators on population characteristics, but also a number of metrics that have powerful implications: for example, percent of families with access to a quality preschool or percent of residents employed in their own neighborhood; percent of students graduating from high school on time, neighborhood “walkability” ratings, crimes committed by minors per 1,000 population, demolitions ordered due to hazardous building conditions….

The third, and probably most important change in practice, is the type of data-informed planning and implementation process envisaged….(More)”.