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Posted by Ian Adams on Apr 27, 2017

How Does Tree Coverage Relate to Built and Natural Environment?

This post comes from Ian Adams, our undergraduate Service Learning intern this semester.

In light of Arbor Day this week, let’s talk trees in Indianapolis. As a whole, one-third of Indianapolis’s total land area is covered by tree canopy. Out of the 99 neighborhood areas in the city, 20 of them are at least 50% tree-covered. Among the highest tree-populated neighborhood areas are Eagle Creek, Lawrence-Fort Ben-Oaklandon, and Traders Point. However, not all of the highly wooded neighborhoods are large. Many of them are densely forested, smaller neighborhood areas such as Ravenswood, Crows Nest, and Forest Manor.

IndyVitals.org provides data on 99 neighborhood areas around Indianapolis. We will compare tree coverage to other indicators of the built and natural environment, like park access and permeability. We divided neighborhood areas into urban and rural, based if they mostly contained US Census defined “rural” census tracts or “urban” census tracts.

Permeable Surface (Water Penetrable)

A permeable surface lets rainwater soak into the ground, as opposed to surfaces like asphalt or roofs. Neighborhood areas with a high percentage of permeable surface have less stormwater runoff. Rain soaks into the ground rather than carrying pollutants like lawn chemicals, vehicle fluids, and agricultural chemicals to streams. Permeable surfaces help prevent combined sewer overflows, when heavy rains send untreated sewage into streams and rivers.

For urban neighborhood areas, there seems to be a possible relationship between tree coverage and permeability. For rural areas, however, there is not much of a relationship. In urban areas, open land may be more likely to have trees, but in rural areas open land can range from forest to farm.

In the chart above, 16 rural neighborhood areas are indicated by red and 83 urban neighborhood areas are indicated by green.


A community’s walkability score indicates how easy it is for residents to travel around on foot from one place to another. The score is based on the presence of several elements: sidewalks, number of intersections, destinations, and public transportation. Noticeably, the most walkable area is Downtown. Other areas that score high are Broad Ripple, Near Eastside, and Forest Manor.

Walkability seems to have little relationship to tree coverage, even in urban neighborhood areas. This is an example of how the data driving the WalkScore may explain which areas are functional for pedestrians, but it cannot explain which areas are enjoyable for pedestrian. Because streets trees and other amenities can make walking more inviting and reduce the speed of traffic, it would be useful to have data that looks at the presence of trees, benches, and other amenities.

In the chart above, 16 rural neighborhood areas are indicated by red and 83 urban neighborhood areas are indicated by green.

Properties with Park Access

In rural neighborhood areas, those that rank high for park accessibility, such as Eagle Creek and Southeast Warren, have a dramatically higher percentage of trees than neighborhood areas with less accessibility to parks. For urban neighborhood areas there is no relationship between park access and tree coverage.

Why is the connection between trees and parks so strong in rural areas, but not in urban areas? The difference might be in what a park means in each context. Rural parks tend to be natural areas, and in Indiana that probably means forested areas. City parks can range from wooded parks to plazas. They even include facilities like White River Park and the Indianapolis Zoo, as well as all the parking at those sites. Rural parks may also tend to be larger than city parks, which means the characters of a city park would have less impact on the tree canopy of the neighborhood.


As Indianapolis continues to prosper from all corners of the city, it is important to keep the natural beauty that is already here in check. It is equally as important to keep trees in mind with future developments in every community. If you feel inclined to make a difference in cleaning up the city or polish up your planting skills, get in touch with organizations such as Keep Indy Beautiful (KIB). Teams of volunteers are constantly collaborating in countless projects to help Indianapolis thrive.  Check out the list of events that KIB has planned on their website in the near future and join the movement. KIB is also launching their Tree Canopy Planner and Mapping Tool on their website this Arbor Day. Check it out at http://www.kibi.org/. You can find out more about trees and other indicators in your community online at Indyvitals.org and SAVI.org.

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Posted by Anna Zanoni on Apr 7, 2017

Using the Community Assessment Tool

Quickly Learn About Your Community

Discover. Explore. Monitor. With SAVI’s new Community Assessment Tool, it’s a breeze to create a report about needs and assets for any scope your organization chooses. What resources does a community already have? What’s the poverty rate in a county? How many kids under 18 are food insecure in a township? With the SAVI Community Assessment Tool you can quickly gather answers to questions like these.

With the Community Assessment Tool, you are guided step by step through scope selection, needs analysis, cataloguing assets, and considering opportunities, all powered by the extensive SAVI dataset. These steps build into a customizable report that you can even download in Microsoft Word.

Key features of this tool:

  • Easily compare key indicators between different areas
  • 80+ indicators available about education, financial stability, health, and basic needs to learn about a community
  • Tool generates customizable charts
  • Automatically creates an editable community assessment report
  • Interactive maps to understand where resources are
  • Look at disparities across age, race, gender, and economic status

Our Mock Assessment

To give you an idea of how this new tool can help you make strategic decisions, we are going to walk through an assessment for a fictional organizations, called Funasium.

Funasium is an established community center in Wayne Township looking to develop a program to improve the quality of life for children in poverty.  For this report we are attempting to reveal key demographic data about who is reflected most in Wayne Township’s poverty rate and decide what specifically we can offer to reduce the impact of poverty.

Step 1. Define Scope

We chose Wayne Township for the scope of assessment, because our organization is based there and the program we are developing is intended to focus on this area. The topical focus of our assessment will be youth experiencing poverty.




Step 2. Assess Needs

The dashboard is the heart of the needs assessment step. The far left column shows indicators like population, employment, and housing. For each indicator, we show a row of values. First, we show the value for the overall population, then we break that indicator down by demographics and socio-economic status. Numbers in red indicate the value has worsened since 2010, and blue means it has improved.

The Assessment Tool gives you a lot of data. To make it meaningful, we must focus on the indicators defined in our scope. Metrics on poverty can be found on the dashboard in step two under “Poverty” in the “Financial Stability” section.

We find from this dashboard that families with children under six have a higher rate of poverty than any other group. The top row shows that 26% of the entire population of this area is in poverty, while 41% of children under at 6 are in poverty.

If we dive more into that group (by looking across the row for the % Children Under 6 Years Old in Poverty), we see that more than half (56%) of Hispanic families with children under six are living in poverty.

Notice how all of these metrics have worsened between 2010 and 2014 (indicated by the red boxes), meaning poverty has increased during this time, but we want more specifics. To investigate in greater detail, click the button next to each indicator to view maps, graphs, and see the changes of this subject over time. It also compares data of other counties and the state.

The default graph shows your area of scope over time, compared to the county, region, and state. Wayne Township’s poverty rate is over 10 points higher than Indiana’s average overall and has been steadily rising by about 2 points a year from 2012-2014.

You can also drill down into particular populations in the line graph. We used a line graph here to show the percentage of children under six living in poverty. To make a graph based on gender, go to the dropdown menu in purple at the top of the screen and choose “gender”. This chart tells us that single-mother households experience poverty at a much higher rate than households headed by males.

If we drill down by race in the line chart, we see that 43% of Hispanic/Latino individuals are in poverty. That has been climbing since 2012.

Remember: Click “Add to Report”  on the upper right hand corner of the page to add graphs to your Assessment Report to view later.

Building Conclusions Based on Data

We found that:

  • Hispanics and females overall are disproportionately impacted by poverty compared to others.
  • Female-headed households experienced poverty at a higher rate than male-headed households (27% versus 39%). This difference was even more exaggerated for families with children under six (41% of male-headed households were in poverty, versus 64% of female-headed households).
  • Overall, the age range of 0-5 is the highest percent of the population, at 41%, in poverty.
  • Latinos make up 31 percent of the population in poverty, despite it being only 18% of the total population of Wayne Township.

This data helps us understand more specifically the needs facing the township where we serve. In a later blog entry we will explore what assets are available in our community, and use all this information to inform what kind of programming we undertake.

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Posted by Allegra East on Mar 10, 2017

Social Media Coordinator

The Polis Center at IUPUI is seeking a talented individual who wants to make a difference. In this role, you will be promoting the SAVI Community Information System (SAVI), a free online data resource which helps nonprofit organizations, academia, and government agencies improve strategic planning and programming efforts. Your primary goal is to increase the visibility and awareness of SAVI.

In short, SAVI engages organizations by:

  • Identifying their data and information needs
  • Providing reliable, up-to-date facts about social, economic, and physical conditions of communities in Central Indiana and the Indianapolis Metro Area
  • Helping organizations interpret this information and use it for more effective decision-making, proposal writing, storytelling, and identifying gaps in service

Learn more about SAVI at www.savi.org. Related digital tools powered by SAVI include: www.indyvitals.org (nominated for the 2017 Mira Awards Innovation of the Year) www.indianaimpact.org, and www.edalliance.iupui.edu.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Develop frequent content about the SAVI community information system and its related digital tools for various social media platforms to help expand digital visibility and reach, grow digital audiences and engage new followers, and contribute toward online community development. We have SAVI presence on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
  • Regularly monitor and engage in social media activity using dashboards like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer (for Twitter).
  • Prepare and present social media analytics reports monthly to measure results against objectives.
  • Assist in writing website blog posts as needed.
  • Participate in project and brainstorming sessions and other assignments as directed.


  • Writing, editing, and communication expertise. Students majoring in public relations, journalism, communications, marketing, or a related field preferred.
  • Basic understanding of communication and marketing practices
  • Knack for digital communications and social media platforms (including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram)
  • Curiosity and strong research aptitude
  • Good organizational skills
  • Creative, think “outside the box”
  • Working knowledge of search engine keywords and optimization
  • Take initiative while having the ability to work as part of a team
  • Competent in using MS Office applications, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • Proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite design application a plus

To Apply:  This is a paid position of 10-15 hours/week starting Summer 2017. Candidates available to continue working beyond the summer preferred but not required. Please submit a resume, cover letter, sample social media post, and one other writing sample to aleast@iupui.edu by April 1.  Please use the following identification in your email subject line: Social Media Coordinator.

The Polis Center at IUPUI offers free online data resources with the SAVI community information system and related digital tools to help nonprofits, academia, government, and health organizations assess trends and conditions, identify service gaps, and better target areas of concern based on the social, economic and other demographic realities in more than 2,000 Central Indiana communities. It is deeply committed to collaboration, partnerships, and the practical use of advanced technologies. Its entrepreneurial nature results in a unique and diverse range of projects. For more information, visit http://polis.iupui.edu/.

Indiana University is an equal employment and Affirmative Action Employer and a provider of ADA services. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, ethnicity, color, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or identity, marital status, national origin, disability status or protected veteran status.

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