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Charity Co-Op is a cooperative of anti-poverty and safety net programs working together to overcome poverty in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The Cooperative also serves as an IT training and work experience incubator for Serve Squad, a virtual internship program for young people between the ages of 16 and 19.  Serve Squad interns develop technical skills and gain project management experience while also helping to battle poverty in their community. Interns receive stipends, services, community service credits and, in some cases, college credits. They also have the opportunity to earn an international badge validating their project management skills.

Charity Co-Op requested support from GISCorps in integrating a mapping component into their Smartsheet project management application. Map integration with Smartsheet is a fairly new capability, so the GISCorps Core Committee set out to identify a volunteer with a knack for figuring out new technologies and developing novel solutions. Maggie Peng of British Columbia, Canada, was selected for that role. Maggie will also document the workflow she develops and create tutorials for the Serve Squad interns.

Final Project Report By Maggie Peng:

In April 2019, Charity Co-op decided to introduce visual elements to their platform. Serve Squad uses Smartsheet to capture a variety of data, such as program names, facility addresses, services provided by each program, and program restrictions. The purpose of this project was to develop an interactive, map-based tool that allows users to quickly find the program that suits their needs.

An intriguing feature of the project was that it provided an opportunity to experiment with various software programs that would work with Smartsheet. For example, the very first attempt was to use Smartsheet Labs (Fig.1), which was simple and efficient enough to allow users to see all community programs. However, this product did not allow for changes to be saved and therefore, the same map had to be reproduced repeatedly. 

Fig.1 Smartsheet Labs   

Google Maps was then introduced to the project. This solution was able to capture all the data points on a map and to save the map for future visits (Fig.2). In order to add more features to the map, I used the Google Map API, which enabled me to add features such as filters and directions to the Map. A website was then created that allowed the users to filter data points based on service restrictions. For example, users could find programs that only served women by using the filter function. A direction service was also added to the map, providing directions from one point to another (Fig.3). Users could use this webpage to find the program that suits their needs. 

Fig. 2  Google Maps (Sample Work)
Fig.3 Google API WebPage (see Sample here)

The Google Maps option proved inadequate as well because some of the functionality was unavailable for the free web hosting services. Results were also inconsistent in spite of using identical code on both ends. That meant that the web page did not work as expected. 

The search for another alternative continued and eventually resulted in the selection of Tableau (Fig. 4). The final product was published as a Tableau public dashboard. It contains the map with zip code boundaries, points, instructions, and filters. With all these features, users can view all the programs supported by Serve Squad. They can easily follow the instructions and filter the programs based on zip code, gender, and the type of service they are looking for (food, clothes, etc.).

Fig. 4 Tableau Work Sample

This was an especially challenging project due to the partner organization’s interest in integrating a free mapping system with Smartsheet. The project provided a great learning opportunity as I got to explore a lot of different software and exercise my code writing abilities. At the end of the project, I developed several tutorials to instruct participants on how to reproduce the Tableau Dashboard. 

“GISCorps is that rare organization that actually practices what they preach.  Their base of GIS experts, team and board members are extremely knowledgeable and hardworking and committed to the social impact mission. The level of commitment to accomplishing project objectives is admirable and inspiring.  Especially, when GIS developers are not receiving any monetary compensation! It has been a priceless Godsend to have discovered GISCorps.” 

Tené Logan, Charity Co-Op Program Director
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