From Data to Action: How Community Mapping Transforms Neighborhoods

From Data to Action: How Community Mapping Transforms Neighborhoods

Dr. Wansoo Im, a dedicated advocate for community engagement and empowerment, is making waves in the field of community mapping. His innovative approach harnesses the power of geographic information systems (GIS) to collect, analyze, and visualize data about a community. But Dr. Im's work goes far beyond simply creating maps. He emphasizes the importance of community participation in the data collection process. "People first need to know what's happening in their own community," he explains. "The best way to engage is to help communities collect the data themselves." This hands-on approach ensures that the resulting data is not only accurate but also relevant to the community's specific needs and challenges.

Driven by a passion for making meaningful impact, Dr. Im's work is rooted in purpose. "I found meaning in what I do," he says. "You could say it in a different way – I love what I do." Dr. Im's love for his work has fueled his dedication to develop tools and resources that make GIS accessible to communities, regardless of their technical expertise. From underserved youth in New Jersey to organizations tackling food insecurity in Nashville, Dr. Im's participatory approach has proven effective in empowering diverse communities to take charge of their own futures. His model of learning facilitates positive change and self-determination. 

When asked about what inspired his dedication to community care, Dr. Im shared a heartfelt story that traces back to his childhood in South Korea. Despite his impressive career, which included lucrative consulting work for major healthcare systems, and pharmaceutical companies his true passion lies in helping others—a value instilled in him by his mother. Growing up, Im witnessed his mother tirelessly assist relatives and those in need, even though their own means were limited. This upbringing taught him to empathize deeply with others and find joy in service. For Im, helping others is not a sacrifice but a source of profound meaning and happiness. His family legacy of compassion continues with his children, who also prioritize community service despite demanding careers. His daughter, for instance, dedicates her time and resources to helping people in need and she is graduating with her Ph.D. in Finance at MIT May 30, 2024.  Im firmly believes that true joy comes from giving, a sentiment that has shaped his life's work and continues to inspire those around him.

Dr. Im's work has garnered recognition from the New York Times and numerous organizations seeking to leverage data for community improvement. Most recently, Dr. Im was invited to present the benefits of community mapping to Nashville community leaders , including Mayor Freddie O'Connell, at the 2024 Community Needs Evaluation, The State of Economic & Social Wellbeing for Nashville-Davidson County.  He envisions a future where community mapping is widely accessible and used to drive positive change across the nation and the globe. He is actively seeking partners to help him secure funding, apply for grants, and expand the reach of his tools and resources. Dr. Im's goal is to establish a grant-funded center that would provide comprehensive community mapping resources and training to organizations nationwide.

Partnership Opportunities

If you are interested in learning more about community mapping or partnering with Dr. Im, he welcomes your collaboration. Together, we can empower communities to create a better future for themselves and their residents.

For further information, contact:

Dr. Wansoo Im, Associate Professor at Meharry Medical College and Director, National Center for Community Mapping Email:

Dr. Wansoo Im explains the value of community driven data gathering at the conference on The State of Economic & Social Wellbeing for Nashville-Davidson County.