Using MapDash to Identify and Prioritize Vulnerable Neighborhoods and Populations

by The Rev. Ken Howard
Vulnerable Neighborhoods

This post is part of a blog series on
“Keeping Congregations Connected in the Face of COVID-19”
Click here for the previous post

Okay. You’re a pastor of a congregation in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, economic meltdown, and now a societal upheaval in the aftermath of the murder of yet another unarmed black man by police, all the while trying keep your congregation connected virtually, and planning for the reopening of your building and the recovery of your neighborhood.

Not much on your plate, right? WRONG!!! 

Seriously, it’s nearly impossible for you to give equal time and attention to every person in your congregation, let alone attend to the needs of the vulnerable neighborhoods you service.

So how do you prioritize your time and attention? One way is to identify and prioritize the most vulnerable people in your congregation and the most vulnerable neighborhoods around your congregation. And you can do that relatively quickly through data-grounded discernment using MapDash for COVID-19 or MapDash for Faith Communities.

Here’s how we did it with the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

We overlaid a map of the neighborhoods they serve with the CDC Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) map, which assesses neighborhood vulnerability to a pandemic (or any catastrophic event) according to four indicators: 

  1. Socioeconomic Status. Lower income neighborhoods.
  2. Household Composition/Disability. Households with disabilities, single parents, etc. 
  3. Minority/Language. African-American, Latinx, and non-English speakers. 
  4. Housing/Transportation. Lower access to housing or transportation.

Next we overlay the SVI map with the locations of all member households, in order to identify which member households will require more attention because they live in neighborhoods that are more socially vulnerable.

This tells us that the pastor will have to give greater attention to member households in the highly socially vulnerable neighborhoods closest to the church.

And perhaps less attention to those households in less socially vulnerable neighborhoods farther out.

We also overlaid the map of their neighborhoods with a Population Density map, which shows that the pastor may want to pay special attention to households in high density neighborhoods closer to the church, because COVID-19 is more likely to spread quickly in areas of higher density.

These are just some of the ways to identify vulnerable populations and neighborhoods. 

There are a number of other map layers available in MapDash for Faith Communities that would be useful in identifying vulnerable populations. To name a few:

  • 65 and Older.
  • Poverty.
  • Unemployment. 
  • Health Insurance Coverage.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you identify and prioritize vulnerable populations in your neighborhoods, contact us at

Want to help your congregation more effectively engage the neighborhoods it serves?

Click here to schedule a
no cost preliminary missional intelligence discussion
and receive a sample Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report
for your location

Those who engage a full Neighborhood Missional Assessment or other consultative program from FaithX will receive a complete NMIR in interactive (dynamic HTML) format.

Important Note: A Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report can also be a useful tool for identifying the prevalence of at risk groups within your membership and ministry areasand a Neighborhood Missional Assessment can help you identify the neighborhoods where they are most prevalent.

We have reduced the cost of NMIRs and NMAs by 10% for the duration of the COVID19 pandemic.

Want to help your judicatory identify emerging missional opportunities and challenges within its boundaries?

Click here to schedule a demo/discussion
of MapDash for Faith Communities
for Strategic Missional Planning

Important Note: In the days ahead Datastory will be adding COVID-related data to MapDash to all current and future subscribers (including incidence of COVID-19, hospital locations and capacity, Twitter feeds, location of doctors).

FaithX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and Ken’s faith-based consulting practice at FaithX is carried out under an extension of ministry from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.