NA TIG Week: Lisle Hites Using GIS in Your Needs Assessment

I’m Lisle Hites, Chair of the Needs Assessment TIG and Director of the Evaluation and Assessment Unit (EAU) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Today’s posting is about the use of data visualization to enhance your needs assessment.

Recently, my team worked with a state agency to help them identify potential sites for a pre-k development initiative. We used ArcGIS 10.2 Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to geocode and map all child care centers and grant applicants within the state. In turn, these data were displayed on an interactive, web-based map using ESRI’s ArcOnline platform. Supplemental data regarding percentage of people in poverty were added to the map to enhance the decision making process for policy makers (American Community Survey Census).

Displaying these multiple sets of data visually allowed state representatives to see the highest concentrations of four year olds in the state as well as potential gaps in service coverage by existing pre-k programs. In other words, these data were used to reduce the potential for duplication of services and to identify areas of greatest need.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Needs assessments can be conducted in a variety of ways using existing data in new and innovative ways.
  2. While state representatives had ideas of what they wanted to know, data visualization led them to refine their questions and identify additional sources of information to support their “data-driven” decision.
  3. Hardcopy paper maps of each county did not provide enough geographic detail of childcare facilities. To maximize the large amount of disparate data, an online interactive mapping platform was critical to the success of this project.

Rad Resources:

ArcGIS Online (n.d.). The mapping platform for your organization. ESRI.

ArcNews (2013, Summer). ArcGIS 10.2 brings transformational capabilities to users. ESRI.

Azzam, T., & Robinson, D. (2013). GIS in evaluation: Utilizing the power of geographic

information systems to represent evaluation data. American Journal of Evaluation, 34(2),

207-224. doi: 10.1177/1098214012461710

Evergreen, S. (2013). Presenting data effectively: Community your findings for maximum

impact. NY: Sage Publications.

United States Census Bureau (2015). American community census.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Needs Assessment Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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