Our Work

Blue Raster helps you tell your story through interactive
mapping technology. Make your message clear, exciting,
and user-friendly for both mobile and web platforms.

Tag: Smart Communities

Using GIS to Inform Workforce Development


We recently worked with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to produce a national-level work-based learning map. Built using ArcGIS Online and the Esri JavaScript API, the map can be custom-tailored to specific state or local agency leadership teams. Using these customized maps, teams can better contextualize their workforce development initiatives and refine their understanding of resources and socioeconomic distribution across their region.

Workforce Development with GIS

Nearly five decades of research has demonstrated that the places where individuals live and learn have a dramatic impact on their opportunities and life outcomes. These place effects—the advantages and disadvantages that one inherits by simply living in a particular location—have a particularly strong impact on one’s access to high-quality education, workforce training, and employment, which are the key ingredients to upward economic mobility. It is vital that leaders in state and local education agencies are mindful of place effects as they help districts and schools to develop work-based learning (WBL) systems across diverse contexts.

Through this application, AIR can more easily identify areas of improved workplace development and analyze the factors that lead to this outcome. This could include factors such as education opportunities, health benefits, or a variety of social factors.

How do I use it?

Users are able to activate different layers that fall under categories such as Education, Health, and Social Factors. By looking across states and the country as a whole, we are able to understand which communities are at a disadvantage when it comes to these factors. As we explained earlier, these factors are vital to spark upward economic mobility. When viewing these different layers, we can have a higher understanding of where these lacking communities are located, and where resources need to be more readily available.

Here is a demo of the application in action.

You can view and use the application here.

Make Meaningful Policy Maps For Your Community

As one of the largest collections of spatial data in the world, the Living Atlas website by Esri houses a tremendous amount of content. Over the past few years, Esri has increased their focus on incorporating maps for data-driven policy. But with over 7,000 datasets on the site, their policy map content was getting lost in the shuffle. When Esri came to Blue Raster, they wanted to broaden the reach of their policy content through a focused website. Esri saw an opportunity to create a new resource where audiences could explore what’s going on in their community, gain insight, and learn how to better apply maps and analysis to their decisions.

Esri Policy Maps

User Research

Esri’s target audience already believed issues like affordable housing, crime, and workforce development were important, but they found it hard to turn their belief into tangible solutions. Our team worked with Esri to identify main hurdles users faced. We discovered three common obstacles:

  1. “If we make a policy change, where are the areas we would make the change first?”

2. “We want to use maps and analysis to inform our decisions, but where do we start?”

3. “Is there information about the community already? What webmaps, applications, and story maps already exist?

Our job was to ensure the new website within the Living Atlas helped users break through these questions.

User Experience

Our team reviewed more than 200 policy maps within the Living Atlas to inform the website’s layout and user interface. After defining the hierarchy and topics of interest, we designed a workflow that tapped into existing Esri code logic to use `category` tags to bucket the maps. This enabled rapid development, where the project went from design to deployment within two weeks. The end result was a site that allows users to explore maps on topics like “Social Equity and Health,” and then save and share their map collection with peers. For example, check out this collection of policy maps for Baltimore, Maryland.

Wireframes to Visual Design

Connecting users to resources explaining how to get started with using maps for policy making was also important. We worked with Esri to identify the types of resources that would maximize a user’s experience. The result was a sub-page on the site containing in-depth trainings, actionable tips, and inspiring stories to equip users to tackle today’s community challenges.

Make sure to explore this free, Policy Mapping resource today!

Video of Esri Policy Maps