Creating a Community Profile

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Whether you are serving in your home community or have relocated for your VISTA service, understanding what poverty looks like in your community is essential to your success. In fact, an important element of your Onsite Orientation and Training is exploring your community and making a mental inventory of assets, needs, and cultural practices.

Developing a Community Profile is another way to learn about the community in which you serve. It can help you understand the makeup of your community as well as the particular challenges people navigating poverty face. To create your own community profile, complete the following assignment.

  1. View the Poverty in Your Community VISTA Campus tutorial.
  2. When your Community Profile is complete, share it with your supervisor. Discuss how the profile might be used in grant applications, presentations, volunteer mobilization, community engagement efforts, and any other aspects of your VISTA assignment.

Additional tips and considerations for creating your Community Profile 

  • If you cannot find data for the community or communities you are serving, ask your supervisor for help identifying 1) a neighboring or nearby community that may be comparable and/or 2) additional or alternate sources of data on your community.

Community data sources may include:

  • Census Scope — Features a wide array of datasets, searchable by county, which can give you unique insights into your community including segregation indices, migration, household & family structure, and occupation. You may find tailored data and reports on your state and county.
  • USDA — Features county-level data that are searchable by poverty, population, unemployment and median household income, and education.
  • USDA Rural Poverty — Features resources on rural poverty and well-being.
  • Opportunity Nation’s Opportunity Index — Provides an annual composite measure at the state and county levels of economic, educational and civic factors that expand opportunity.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT data center — Is a source for data on child and family well-being in the U.S.
  • The United States National Library of Medicine American Indian Health Research & Data — Provides links to numerous data sources related to American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
  • The Social Science Research Council's Measure of America website incorporates data on health, education, and income in a searchable map.
  • Populations at Risk – Generates reports about at-risk populations based on geography.

If your community includes multiple census tracts, ask your supervisor for guidance on which part of your community to focus on. Make the community profile your own and feel free to make additions and adaptations that make the most sense for your specific service site.