Today, we live in a society of constant change. The ebbs and flows of culture, demographics, risks, and challenges are often hard to keep up with. We see influxes and effluxes of all kinds of different people into and out of our city, and with the privatisation of many formerly state-run services, we see a dispersion of people in care, in recovery, needing shelter, and seeking help, throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands. How can the church keep up with this constantly changing environment, and more importantly, how can mapping these changes help the church to engage more effectively in the community?
The Finding Common Ground project at the University of Birmingham is tackling these questions head-on by producing an open-source, comprehensive database of churches. This database can be mapped on top of various social and environmental vulnerability factors such as locations of homeless shelters, flood risk areas, and deprivation scores, allowing the user to see their local community under the spectral spotlights of these issues. We see these maps as a resource which can be used for a range of church projects, from plotting church-planting into unchurched and deprived areas, to informing community outreach projects, or environmental campaigns.
But why does mapping matter? We believe that in a city of such change as ours, it is vital to keep our finger on the pulse of our local society. Seeing how communities are changing, and being aware of what is going on around us can be hard, but by mapping these changes we can have a more rounded, and extensive view of the needs and wants of the people around us, all at the touch of a button.
We invite local and national church and community leaders to join us in testing our prototype maps, and contributing to the improvement of the project, on our Finding Common Ground Lab Day, taking place in the Autumn term. Come and see how we can help to give you the information you need to see your community in a new light, and serve your community in new ways.
- For more information on the Finding Common Ground project, please contact Dr Jeremy Kidwell.