As I mentioned on the blog a little while back, I’m working in California this summer for the Hewlett Foundation. Though my internship started last week, I’ve refrained from blogging explicitly about work thus far because I didn’t want to violate any understandings of confidentiality. Nevertheless, I’m thankful that the staff has graciously and generously given me the green light to post aspects of my experience at Hewlett here on Createquity.

My major project for the summer is a cultural asset map of the Bay Area, for which I am currently in the research phase. The plan is for me to eventually complete a pilot version of the mapping project that the Foundation can subsequently use as a guide for the whole shebang, which is likely to be an ongoing effort. I’ve spent the last week and a half or so just gathering information about comparable projects across a range of disciplines, everything from a community-generated atlas of the Mayan people to a network of “Green Maps” showing where one can find various amenities like farmer’s markets and organic food stores in communities all around the world.

To be honest, I thought that this stage of the project would be relatively easy, but it’s not at all. The difficulty stems from two factors: 1) the sheer volume of information that is out there; and 2) the fact that it’s really hard to find if you don’t already know what you’re looking for. It seems like every time I think I’m ready to settle down and start writing up the summary of my findings, I stumble upon some new website that opens up an entirely new avenue of inquiry that I hadn’t even considered before. It also strikes me that these websites and studies often represent months or years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of investment, yet even I–pretty much the target audience defined for many of these projects–didn’t know about them before last week. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the more amazing work that I’ve come across so far that you should know about if you don’t already.

  • The Center for Creative Community Development. Check out the Case Studies, particularly the amazingly extensive one for MASS MoCA, my favorite Western Massachusetts institution. You can overlay Census demographics while viewing a social network map of the area, or check out where visitors to the museum are coming from (hint: zoom out for the full effect). There’s also an economic impact calculator where you can not only view the actual numbers from the study, but also put in your own hypothetical ones and see how things change. Really fascinating stuff.
  • The San Francisco Green Map. This thing is INSANE. If you live in or around San Francisco and consider yourself at all environmentally conscious, you need to get your hands on one of these.
  • Westchester County GIS. Westchester, for whatever reason, seems to have hired an extensive in-house team of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programmers to make online interactive maps for the county. And boy, have they kept themselves busy, with a “Mapping Westchester County” gadget that combines a breathtaking array of information in one place. Click on “Layers” and expand the trees to see what data is available.
  • Dataplace. If you ever wanted to know anything about anything, Dataplace is the place. You can even upload your own data sets and it will make a map for you.
  • The Social Impact of the Arts Project at the University of Pennsylvania. There are 30 studies, policy briefs, reports, and working papers at this site, examining the impact of the arts on society in remarkable depth (based on what I’ve been able to get through so far, which is only a small fraction). Mark Stern and Susan Seifert are the heroes of this one, and it looks like they’ve been at it for nearly 15 years.

That should be enough to whet your appetite, but there’s much more to come. I’ll continue sharing resources as I find them.