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Local Knowledge Builds Bridges

bridge builders resource mapKnowledge is power, but local knowledge paired with the latest web-based mapping technology is empowerment. The Bridge Builders Community Partnership Initiative (BBCPI) and the MAS Planning Center partnered this summer to create a spatial inventory of neighborhood resources in South-West Bronx, with direct participation of the people who would ultimately use the maps. BBCPI’s initiative set out to demonstrate that family well-being and child welfare will improve through collaborative networking among neighbors, parents, and neighborhood-based service providers. That collaboration, in turn, effectively connects people to the social services they need. Up-to-date maps showing detailed information on where to access and how to reach community resources, ranging from educational institutions, community-based organizations, and religious centers, to food resources and outdoor amenities for outdoor and athletic recreation, among other amenities, are now available to those who depend on these resources. Before reaching out to MAS, this group had already succeeded in creating a systematic inventory of community resources in the Highbridge neighborhood, but they were seeking for the best way to categorize this information and prepare it for publication. Three months into the process, the success of the project led BBCPI and their supporters to expand the project’s scope to the entirety of Bronx Community District 4, with an eye toward ultimately mapping the same amenities in neighboring community districts of the borough. Through the use of an online map created to show local amenities, and a website designed to enter additional information about those amenities, the observations collected by volunteers in the field are at the heart of this inventory — building on existing local capacity. This information has been organized in nine categories that are searchable via Google Maps, and will also be available through a series of printed maps. In other words, this approach combines the opportunity to share spatial information through the Internet, while providing direct access to printed copies of this information in order to address the needs of its different types of users—expanding on local capacity. This community-driven use of technology maximizes the effectiveness of neighborhood resources by linking them directly to the people who use them. The innovative partnering of technology and local knowledge to produce a useful community resource can become a model for other groups willing to take on the challenge.