Society & Culture

UGA, ACC teams to conduct DIY community assessment

Athens, Ga. — More than 100 graduate students from UGA’s School of Social Work and the College of Public Health, as well as Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens neighborhood leaders, will administer surveys for eight weeks this fall.

Wearing distinctive T-shirts, they will work in teams of five to seven to collect data Sept. 19-Nov. 18 across Athens-Clarke County.

“This is our community’s opportunity to do something in a way that hasn’t been done-a DIY assessment that speaks to our assets and needs to shape our community’s future” said Delene Porter, president/CEO of the Athens Area Community Foundation and an advisory committee member for the Athens Wellbeing Project.

The project is supported by collaboration between the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, the Clarke County School District, the Athens Area Community Foundation, Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens, the United Way of Northeast Georgia, and UGA’s School of Social Work and College of Public Health.

“Our goal is to use the data collected to monitor community needs, target resources and track progress,” Porter said.

The mission of the AWP is to integrate planning efforts and improve outcomes achieved by local institutions, organizations and community stakeholders through the collection and sharing of an open-access, neighborhood-level, longitudinal dataset that is representative of the county’s

In its inaugural year, the AWP will include a 15- to 20-minute household survey designed by researchers at UGA. An interdisciplinary team facilitated by Grace Bagwell Adams in the College of Public Health includes Jerry Shannon from the geography department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Amanda Abraham from the School of Public and International Affairs; Rebecca Matthew, Y. Joon Choi and Lemuel LaRoche from the School of Social Work; and Celia Eicheldinger with Research Triangle Institute International.

“We’re asking basic questions, but the answers add up to a map-both literally and figuratively-of how to improve housing, transportation, lifelong learning, community safety, wealth and employment, civic vitality and health in Athens,” Bagwell Adams said.

Following data collection, information will be analyzed by Bagwell Adams and the team and then disseminated to the public in summer 2017. Data collection is completely anonymous; it will not include participants’ names or any identifying information.

“We want households to participate and to feel free to answer the questions honestly, so we designed a process that will not ask for names and will not report individual household information,” Bagwell Adams said. “Results will be reported at the neighborhood level, which we define as the elementary school attendance zone.”

Households will be randomly selected to complete the survey, and each participating household will have the chance to be entered into weekly drawings for prizes.

Each institutional partner has specific plans to use the data once it is available next year. For example, the Clarke County School District, in its transition to a charter system, plans to provide its new local school governance teams with data on each elementary attendance zone. The Athens-Clarke County Police Department also plans to use the data to strengthen its community policing strategy.

“We recognize that community safety is about more than law enforcement,” said police Chief Scott Freeman. “Sponsoring summer camps, health fairs and basketball tournaments may not be typical police department activities, but listening to our neighbors is how this police department builds relationships and strengthens neighborhoods from within.”