University of Pittsburgh
December 3, 2008

Pitt to Present Research Findings on Neighborhood and Community Indicator Systems Dec. 8: "Strengthening the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments Communities Through Collaborative Data Systems"

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-Students from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) will present findings on their research of neighborhood and community indicator systems, at 9 a.m. Dec. 8 in Room 3431 Posvar Hall, 230 S. Bouquet St., Oakland. The findings are from research conducted as part of the students' capstone seminar, under faculty advisor Sabina Deitrick, associate professor of public and urban affairs and international development.

The research analyzed the feasibility of extending the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Community Indicator System (PNCIS) to the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and beyond. Neighborhood information systems such as PNCIS are part of an effort to "democratize" data-making it available to community stakeholders.

"Neighborhood Informations Systems create practical opportunities for residents and officials to engage in community building and policy making that will improve neighborhood conditions," says Deitrick. "Making public data more accessible through Web-based applications and mapping tools through geographic information systems (GIS), Neighborhood Information Systems can assist those attempting to revitalize distressed communities.

"In the Pittsburgh region, however, many of our municipalities do not have the capacity to establish good information systems. What can communities and officials do to expand existing neighborhood information systems to more users and more municipalities? This project investigates this question through a case study of the PNCIS and the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments. The study concludes that many of Allegheny County's smaller municipalities lack adequate information systems, Web-based public information, and internal planning capacity. Councils of Government can fill those capacity and technology gaps with financial assistance from the Commonwealth through the Department of Community and Economic Development."

The report, titled "Strengthening the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments Communities Through Collaborative Data Systems," analyzes the ways these systems can be adopted by the technologically savvy and those with less technology know-how. The researchers found that nearly half of the communities studied lacked the capacity to maintain records on computers and would not be able to dedicate enough trained personnel to use a program such as the PNCIS on an ongoing basis.

The researchers used the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments as a case study and hope their methods can be applied elsewhere. The project is intended to provide a framework that can be extended to other levels of government.

The researchers studied community indicator systems within the National Neighborhood Indicator Partnership, a consortium of neighborhood indicator systems from around the country based at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. From this review, they identified important issues within a community, such as education, housing, and economic development, and collected data relevant to those issues. They also analyzed the communities they studied in the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments to gauge their ability to use the data and their technological capacity to work with PNCIS.

For the full report, contact Amanda Leff.