Continuing Education

Extended Education GIS certificate gives nonprofits new ways to communicate

February 05, 2018 by Cindy O'Dell
Nancy Salzman

School of Extended Education Dean Nancy Salzman worked closely with Esri, as well as Professor Sheila Steinberg from Brandman's School of Arts and Sciences, to develop the Nonprofit Certificate program.

Food deserts, contaminated water, drug addiction. Those are among the community problems that are often the focus of nonprofits.

A new certificate program from Brandman University’s School of Extended Education could help them find solutions. The program, created in conjunction with Esri, will give people, who have no prior geographic information system (GIS) training, the tools to apply them to their concerns.

Like Brandman’s other collaboration with Esri, this program emphasizes students finding solutions to the problems they face in their jobs or as volunteers through spatial thinking. They’ll learn how to make the data they collect from clients understandable visually to their boards of directors, potential donors and even the clients, said Nancy Salzman, dean of the School of Extended Education.

The program is also a benefit to Esri. While the company works closely with very large nonprofits such as the Audubon Society, they also want to make their products available to medium and small nonprofits.

David Gadsen
David Gadsen, the leader of Esri's Nonprofit Sector, said the Nonprofit Certificate in GIS opens the door for small- and medium-sized nonprofits to take advantage of ArcGis tools by learning to think spatially first.

“Where we fell short were with organizations that are new to GIS,” said David Gadsen, who leads the Nonprofit Sector at Esri and was one of several people at Esri who provided Salzman and her team with feedback about the certificate program. While Esri has the training materials to help organizations learn to use the tools, the first step – applying these tools to their situations – wasn’t part of their programs.

That’s where the Extended Education Nonprofit Certificate in GIS comes in.

“They (Esri) gave us a lot of great feedback about what these medium and small organizations are facing and why this is a solution for them. That helps us craft our case studies to focus on the goals and obstacles for nonprofits. They’re all stretched very thin, staffwise,” said Salzman.

While they don’t need an IT professional to help set up the programs, it can still be daunting to organizations that are wary of technology or worried about how to implement it. “But the reason they’re opening the door to new software is it’s hard for them to efficiently identify where they find their constituents and put geospatial analysis using demographic data to use. All nonprofits answer to boards and have to answer to their concerns. They need to find ways to develop champions (for their causes), so they’re forever presenting. This (the knowledge gained in the certificate program) gives them a really great way to put together data-driven presentations,” said Salzman.

“Any time you can use a visual, you’re ahead. And these tools create such amazing visuals.”

Salzman said the aim is to create as many cohorts of 25 people as possible, putting them to work on their own challenges.

Esri Zika
Esri's Story Map tools have helped larger nonprofits explain the impact they've had globally.

“We’re very application, applied-practice oriented at Brandman,” she said.

“GIS allows to connect with people in our area and also all cross the world,” said Samantha Paniagua, a student in the Integrated Social Science program courses already using ArcGIS tools.

An additional benefit for the university is opening up a new channel of students. While Extended Education has worked with people in the business and education sectors to develop courses specific to their needs, not many have focused on nonprofits.

A free webinar introducing geospatial thinking and the certificate program will be Tuesday, March 6, from noon to 1 p.m. Members of the Dolores Huerta Foundation leadership team will show how they have implemented geospatial analysis to identify clients and donors, tell their stories and engage their champions. More information about the webinar is available here. Registration is available here

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