Mapping 2.0

CCV’s ministry revolves around what we call Neighborhood Ministry. Every part of our church is focused on plugging people into their neighborhoods where they can build relationships and share the love of Christ. As a Information Technology Creative Technology department we work hard to help support this ministry with the best tools technology can provide. We’ve been focused recently with the latest GIS tools from ESRI. They have a new web based mapping product that allows us to project the maps that used to hang in our offices out to our neighborhood leaders. The server technology is built into their ArcGIS server product. You have several options on how to place it on a page. We decided to use their Flex API as it provided the best UX by far. You can see a short video demo here. Sorry, it’s not one of my best videos… I had a pretty bad headache… but really wanted to get it done to share.

The data presented on the various parcels is read real-time out of a SQL database. We refresh the database once a day. We do this so that we can de-normalize the data for speed.


Parcel Power

We’re in the process of taking our neighborhood small groups to the
next level. The outreach ideas that are being generated are very
exciting. To support these ministry objectives we’re taking our map
technology to the next level.

Today we can view our membership
using integrated maps in our membership system. The screenshot below
shows the current functionality though it doesn’t do it justice (you
can roll-over the pins for member info and dyamically turn off and on
different membership types).

This
current functionality is great and has been very helpful, but there are
a few limitations as we look to the future. The biggest is that it
shows neighborhoods only in terms of our members. What about all the
people that do not come to CCV? In many aspects (outreach) they are
more important than those coming.

To take this to the next
level we’ve worked with our county assessor’s office to purchase GIS
parcel maps of the neighborhoods in a 5 mile radius of the church.
These maps also come with information about each parcel (address,
owners name, etc). Using GIS tools from ESRI we’ve taken the parcel
shapefiles and integrated them with layers of streets (from the
department of transportation), school boundaries (from local school
districts), water features (again from MDOT), and a few other layers
from misc sources. We then matched our membership data to the parcel
info and created the map below.

The
image above is a screen shot out of ArcView. Shaded parcels represent
those of our members and attendees. Using the interface you can select
a parcel to get more information (owner, street address, membership
info if any). You can also select an area and export a group of parcels
for an instant mailing list.

A few quick lessons learned:

  • GIS data is fairly widely available for very reasonable rate (usually for the cost of duplication)
  • ESRI tools allow for some great integration with various datasources.  They also provide very nice non-profit discounts.
  • There are some great open-source tools for publishing interactive maps (think AJAX) to the web.
  • While all this is not necessarily easy, it actually isn’t as hard as it all might sound.