Campus News Georgia Impact

UGA’s Carney creates virtual community to aid decision making in local counties

Michelle Carney

Athens, Ga. – Michelle Mohr Carney, professor and director of the Institute for Nonprofit Organizations in the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia, was awarded UGA’s Public Service and Outreach Fellowship this semester. Through the fellowship, Carney is developing a model for local counties to map their assets on top of census data, creating a virtual community for county leaders to use to make decisions and identify resources and services for citizens in their communities.

“You can lay maps side by side, but seeing them layered on top of one another is entirely different,” Carney said. “Assets are in every community, but you have to understand what the needs are to determine if the assets are sufficient. I came up with the idea of mapping the assets on top of selected census data, and I think it is going to be a very good tool for communities.”

The Public Service and Outreach Fellowship Program provides support for tenure-track and tenured professors to engage in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The program allows Fellows to enhance their courses, conduct research and participate in outreach initiatives in their PSO unit. Carney has paired up with the Archway Partnership.

Building off of the work of one of her former graduate students, James Graves, who mapped asset data for his graduate assistantship, Carney will continue to collect an assortment of data in Hart, Sumter and Washington counties to build the interactive maps.

“These are rural communities with lots of assets and potential. Just gathering all the asset information is so powerful because communities can then make decisions on how to maximize all those resources,” she explained.

Working with the Archway Partnership, Carney will implement the program in those counties by the end of the semester. Carney is working with Hillary DeJarnett and Natalie Okeson, two Master of Arts in Nonprofit Organizations graduate assistants, who are funded by the Archway Partnership.

“They are working on a project that could be embedded in a county for the rest of its existence,” Carney noted. “I think it will be very valuable. The hope is the process will be replicated in other communities across the state.”


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