Chicago STEW-MAP



The Chicago STEW-MAP project was conducted in 2011 by researchers from the USDA Forest Service, The Field Museum, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Chicago’s project extended beyond the city of Chicago to the entire Chicago Wilderness region which includes over 500 municipalities around Lake Michigan in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. This huge geography was chosen in order to recognize the extended network of organizations and informal groups that have been actively taking care of the environment across the region in many different ways for decades.

The Chicago STEW-MAP project built on the pioneering work done by researchers at the New York City Urban Field Station. Chicago adapted New York’s questionnaire and methodologies to collect information about when stewardship groups were founded, number of paid staff and volunteers, the kinds of sites they worked on, and what they did besides environmental stewardship. One section of the online survey asked each group to map its sites and ‘territories’ -- in other words exactly where they worked. Another section of the survey asked about other groups and organizations they worked with so that we could conduct a network analysis to map out the connections between organizations.

Over 400 environmental stewardship groups and organizations filled out the Chicago STEW-MAP survey. This included 189 not-for-profit organizations, 72 local government agencies, and 63 community groups. The types of sites where they were most likely to work included (in this order): prairies, forest/woodlands, wetlands, community gardens, trails/bike paths, and parks. As with other STEW-MAP projects, the research team made a special effort to collect information from groups and organizations whose primary focus was something other than environmental stewardship (such as education, community improvement, or youth development) but who were doing some form of stewardship work on a regular basis.

Many organizations helped disseminate information about STEW-MAP  across the region to invite others to participate in the project. GIS experts from The Field Museum provided substantial mapping support for the data analysis phase of the project. Results from the study were shared both through an online, interactive map and also through a series of easy to understand and synthesized infographics and narratives, see “What we Learned”.

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Last modified: March 17, 2017