NiJeL will be at the International Network of Crisismapping conference in DC this Friday and over the weekend. Nancy Jones will be representing NiJeL and will be there to discuss NiJeL's role in addressing chronic crisis through technology. Nancy has been conducting research on the chronic crisis of home foreclosures and how this impacts the long-term resiliency of communities. She is working with the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at the Jacob France Institute, University of Baltimore. Come see her at the Friday Tech Fair where she will be discussing this and NiJeL's work in detail! Nancy's abstract and Ignite talk slides are below:
The Foreclosure Crisis as a threat to community resiliency
The Great Recession saw an increase in residential foreclosures that significantly impacted neighborhood stabilization. The resulting loss of residents and their investment left decayed portions of urban areas unable to snap back after the economy began to improve. As a result, new areas of blight put pressure on city resources while reducing property values and increasing crime. Meanwhile, children remain in these blighted neighborhoods, or are forced to move to other communities. These factors all threaten community resiliency to deal with future natural and economic crises. Communities that may have once had strong cultural institutions and resilient cores that would make them strong in the face of sudden crisis are now more vulnerable since they have been hollowed out by vacancy and blight. Support services such as police and fire may also no longer be available. While economists have deemed the recession technically over, the foreclosure crisis is continuing to destabilize communities and neighborhoods and will continue to erode resilience. Some of these communities may never recover and may not survive after a catastrophic sudden disaster.
NiJeL is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Desert Initiative, a facilitator of shared, independent research on desert cultures and environments. The Desert Initiative just launched their first major collaborative effort, Desert Initiative: Desert One (DI:D1), a distributed showcase of transdisciplinary studies, exhibitions, lectures and other events focused on the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave and Great Basin Deserts for the 30+ museums, cultural centers, universities, public agencies and other organizations that comprise the Desert Initiative. A major goal of DI:D1 is to engage local and global communities in contemplation of the cultural underpinnings of living in the desert in conjunction with the unique social issues the desert presents.
To begin, the Desert Initiative aims to widely disseminate and promote events associated with DI:D1 that their collaborative partners host. On the DI:D1 website, visitors can now view a slick-looking map showing all the venues and events across all four deserts. NiJeL built this map using Leaflet, PostgreSQL and Geoserver, based on the amazing design work of Eeko Studio. NiJeL also added a calendar, so web visitors can find out when events are happening at a glance. On the map or calendar, visitors can search for any venue or event by keyword, date, location, or event type.
From the map or calendar, visitors can drill down to see specifics for each venue or event on their own page, and check-in to any event with their DI:D1 Passport. We added the ability for visitors to any of the 31 venues to check in by text message, tweet, mobile web or online using a unique passport number located on the inside front cover of the passport.
In our ongoing work with the Desert Initiative, over the coming weeks we will roll out enhancements to the website, and the ability for venues to add new events or update their current offerings. We will also be providing a full analytics suite for administrators, as well as a public map and graphics showing the current data on check-ins across all the venues and events. Stay tuned for another post on these updates as we roll them out. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your feedback on the site. Thanks!
On this day, five years ago, NiJeL co-founders (Nancy, JD, and Lela) officially brought NiJeL into existence by registering the brand new entity with the IRS and the Arizona Corporation Commission. This was after a semester of rigorous training from Arizona State University Technopolis’ Launch Pad program and a year of thinking and planning in the Phoenix desert. Our Launch Pad coach Dan O’Neil taught us business skills to go with our academic backgrounds and helped us think through our concept. We knew we wanted to have an organization directed towards a “triple-bottom line”, and Dan helped us think through a sustainability model for our organization that made NiJeL viable, while prioritizing people and planet as much as profit. We were inspired by the “for-profit” models of the brand new Google.org philanthropy, social entreprenureship projects being to be supprted through organizations like Kiva.org, concept of the B-corporation, an idea that was just starting to be accepted. We wanted to get off the ground quickly and start working with our new open source toolkit to help organizations tell their stories through maps.
Our preparations for NiJeL started under our working name “Mapping For Change” (I later met our UK-based alter-egos who currently work under the same name and do amazing work.) We ultimately changed the name to NiJeL combining the first initial of our names. “NiJeL” emphasizes the collaborative and personal approach we wanted the organization to have and the way our backgrounds create a unique, interdisciplinary foundation. We bring expertise in geology and geophysics, urban planning, and public policy to our work, and we wanted our name to embody that idea of collaboration.
In the last five years we have partnered with a range of inspiring organizations who are working to change and improve our world, from elder care support, to access to clean water, to ending sexual harassment. The common thread through our work has been that all these efforts create data that can be used to shed light on slow-onset crises, visualize change as it happens, and make the hard-work accomplished by these organizations more efficient. Organizations working to improve the world are often strapped for funds - staff and volunteers pour their hearts into their work. We see a strong need for these organizations to have access to cutting-edge technology.
At NiJeL we define operating at the “cutting-edge” as being able choose and design the most appropriate and relevant tools for the people who will use them. This is why we emphasis applying solutions that least disrupt the current work process, utilizing open source software and technology whenever possible. While open source is low cost, price is not the ultimate reason to use open source, as it does require maintenance like any software. Our experience in the last five years has taught us that open source and “low-impact” technology encourages people within an organization to better understand their relationship to their data. This enables those beyond the IT department who are directly engaging in the work of the organization to think about the way they use technology to make an impact. In our experience, the introduction of open source technology expands the way everyone in an organization thinks about their relationship to data. Even without knowing a bit of programming.
In the last five years, we have learned a world of knowledge from our partners and from our colleagues, particularly in the Crisismapping and technology in NGO space. We now work from Brooklyn and Baltimore, in addition to Phoenix, and have an awesome new addition to the NiJeL core group - Lyzette Bullock. We have had wonderful interns work with us from the University of Washington and Arizona State University. We have also been lucky enough to keep our work at NiJeL connected to our academic backgrounds so that our work continues to informed by research and scientific theory. It has been amazing to watch the pace of technology and the growth of open source since we began. We hope that the next five years will continue to bring meaningful advances on the “cutting-edge” of technology that will continue to allow social change organizations, communities, and activists to tell their stories and better serve people in need around the world.
Thank you to our community for five exciting, inspiring years!
NiJeL and the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence Launch the New AZ Afterschool Program Directory
The Directory really has a two-fold purpose. First, parents will be able to have unprecedented access to listings for all types of out-of-school time programs and be able to search for them in an intuitive, straightforward way. The video above demonstrates the main features available in the public search, which have never before been available to Arizona's parents in such a detailed manner. They include:
Both Spanish and English versions of the directory,
A location-based search allowing parents to search by address, city, or zip code
The ability to set your search radius around your location
Individual pages for each program showing their contact information, activities, ages served, hours of operation and other information
Public transit directions from Google and Valley Metro
Advanced search options that allow parents to search for programs based on program activities, ages served or other special features
Next, the Directory also serves as a curated wiki of sorts, collecting information for afterschool providers across Arizona about their locations and programs and promoting those programs in the Directory. Our system allows administrators at AzCASE to verify newly added or edited programs to ensure that only appropriate data are added to the system, and the Directory is designed to automatically remove any data that has not been updated recently. This way parents can be sure that the program they searched for has the most up to date contact information, hours, and other data that are useful in making a decision about where to send their child.
If you are an afterschool program provider in Arizona, we encourage you to sign up for an account and start adding your program information. To get started, take a few minutes and watch our provider tutorial video, and feel free to use the contact us form if you have any questions. Thanks!