Community Engagement

Youth Helping Communities

June 2019 / 2 min read
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With the arrival of summer, Chicago South Side-based MAPSCorps, a William Blair community partner, has sent its youth teams out canvassing the city's neighborhoods to gather healthcare data on businesses and groups—valuable information that will improve their community and help residents.

Founded 11 years ago as a youth employment and research effort, MAPSCorps hires local youth each summer and teaches them STEM skills to collect and analyze data on businesses and organizations. Researchers, teachers, scientists and organizations such as the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Cook County Land Bank, and tech start-up NowPow use the data to provide better health and social services to residents living in high-poverty communities where vital resources are hard to find.

"Generating data that people across the city can use to make informed decisions about what works, what doesn't, where are the gaps, where are the assets, is fundamental to sustainable growth in our city," says Dr. Stacy Lindau, a physician scientist at the University of Chicago and founder of MAPSCorps.

The Cook County Land Bank, for example, partnered with MAPSCorps to track down information on nearly 7,000 abandoned properties in Chicago—essential data needed by the bank for its work.

MAPSCORP Volunteers
MAPSCorps youth mapping businesses, Summer 2018

MAPSCorps data also has been used to support the CDPH's Chicago Health Atlas, a website to search for healthcare services, and included in scientific peer-reviewed research on population health.

But it's also about the kids and the future of the city.

"The principle of engaging youth citizens of our city in efforts that are intended to increase the long-term health and economic vitality of our city is a very worthy principle and essential to the MAPSCorps model," adds Dr. Lindau.

This summer, MAPSCorps will expand its mapping to nine new areas, bringing its coverage to 60 of Chicago's 77 neighborhoods. Additionally, the group will expand into Detroit after previously spreading into New York City and two rural communities in North Carolina. Over the past decade MAPSCorps has mapped more than 34,000 businesses.