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Expanding how we measure urban vibrancy

There is a growing interest in using GIS technology to visualize successful transformation of our cities. What can expanding the formal indicators we use to measure the health/vibrancy of our cities can teach us?

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1. GIS helps us visualize the status of our cities and how they are changing over time. Communicating about problems and solutions in this way could be a powerful way to engage the general public. There is a lot of room for innovation here! Take a look at this UN initiative.

2. We have limited data to use when trying to evaluate the impact of an intervention on the social and economic health of our cities. Expanding the indicators we are using beyond what is traditionally measured by the census or local/state government department to get at concepts like quality of life, social equity, and degree of community engagement. Instead of trying to extrapolate conclusions about vibrancy from data on mortality rates and percent of the population living in poverty, why don't we dream up indicators to more closely measure the components of urban vibrancy/success? This could be initiated by a non-profit community-based organization in partnership with a local health department. Here's a presentation from social epidemiologist, Ryan Petteway, that makes a compelling case for why expanded health indicators are necessary in Baltimore.


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