The recent annual meeting of NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council) in Minneapolis, Minnesota provided us with an opportunity to outreach to other statewide geospatial coordination councils to obtain feedback about WIGICC’s path to permanency. NSGIC is a national organization of state GIS coordinators, federal agency employees, private sector representatives, and other geospatial professionals dedicated to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government through the use of geospatial technologies.
NSGIC has been the main national organization supporting the creation of statewide geospatial coordination councils. NSGIC’s Fifty States Initiative was launched in 2005 to bring public and private stakeholders together in statewide GIS coordination bodies to help eliminate duplication of effort and improve the efficiency of GIS activities in each state. Wisconsin is one of only a handful of states that does not have a coordination council that is officially recognized by executive order, legislation, or non-profit status. For additional background on coordination councils across the country visit the “Creation of WIGICC” section of the WIGICC Web site.
Our efforts at NSGIC follow on the heels of the recent publication of the WIGICC Report of Accomplishments and Recommendations which recommends a push for permanence through legislation but does not define a specific means of achieving this goal. At the Minneapolis meeting, we hosted an informal one-hour discussion session with representatives of other coordination councils, and asked them to share their views on key factors leading to council success and sustainability. Some states have had coordination councils in place for many years, and it is our view that leveraging this experience can help WIGICC build a strong foundation as it seeks sustainability, permanence, and legitimacy.
We also invited participants to fill out an online survey requesting information about the characteristics of their coordination council. The survey asks about council role (advocacy and policy formulation vs. working group), official status (legislation, executive order, or non-profit), funding requirements, budget sources, council composition and size, success factors, and factors promoting sustainability.
It is clear that no single recipe for council success applies uniformly to all states. Requirements vary depending on the state’s geospatial information needs, the existence of infrastructure to supply these needs, the role of state and local agencies in the geospatial community, and other factors. This helps explain the enormous diversity of council characteristics across the country. Some councils are independent non-profits, others are advisory bodies to state commissions or the state GIO, while others are entities created at the executive level to advise the governor. In addition, some councils are advisory groups while others are directly involved in statewide data development activities or maintenance of data clearinghouses.
NSGIC collects some information about geospatial coordination councils in its state summaries. In addition, council accomplishments factor prominently in the scorecard of the geospatial maturity model recently drafted by NSGIC’s Geospatial Maturity Assessment Work Group. Such efforts help document the characteristics and activities of councils nationwide, so that successful practices in one state can be adapted to conditions in another. It is our hope that through our efforts at NSGIC this year and into the future, we can gather information that will help guarantee the success and long-term sustainability of WIGICC and, in a reciprocal way, help improve the effectiveness of coordination councils in other states as well.