Teaching Spatial Data Analysis: A Case Study with Recommendations

Duncan J. Mayer and Robert L. Fischer, Mandel School
Dr. Robert L. Fischer

Dr. Robert L. Fischer
Grace Longwell Coyle Professor in Civil Society
Jack, Joseph, & Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Director, Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development
Case Western Reserve University

Dr. Duncan Mayer

Dr. Duncan J. Mayer
Social Scientist and Statistician

Teaching Spatial Data Analysis: A Case Study with Recommendations
Nonprofit Policy Forum, Volume 15, Issue 1 (2024)

Learning from data is a valuable skill for nonprofit professionals and researchers. Often, data have a spatial component, and data relevant to the nonprofit sector are no exception. Understanding spatial aspects of the nonprofit sector may provide immense value to social entrepreneurs, funders, and policy makers, by guiding programmatic decisions, facilitating resource allocation, and development policy. As a result, spatial thinking has become an essential component of critical thinking and decision making among nonprofit professionals. The goal of this case study is to support and encourage instruction of spatial data analysis and spatial thinking in nonprofit studies. The case study presents a local nonprofit data set, along with open data and code, to assist the instructors teaching spatial aspects of the nonprofit sector. Pedagogical approaches are discussed.

Robert L. Fischer joined the Mandel School in 2001 as a senior research associate, became an associate professor in the tenure track in 2017, tenured in 2020, and full professor in 2024. He has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed publications and generated more than $15 million in extramural grant funding as principal or co-principal investigator. Dr. Fischer has served as director of the MNO program since 2012 and teaches two courses in the program. He is the lead full-time faculty member teaching in the MNO degree program, and led the work to it being in the inaugural cohort of accredited nonprofit masters programs in 2019.

Additionally, Dr. Fischer served as co-director of the Center on Poverty and Community Development since 2005 and as director since 2022. He has also been an active member of the school’s steering committee, curriculum committee, budget committee, library committee and has served as chair of a standing committee on the faculty senate. He currently serves on the board of trustees of both the St. Lukes Foundation and the Woodruff Foundation in Cleveland. Dr. Fischer has been a generous institution-builder at the Mandel School and CWRU and a frequent contributor to the academy.

Dr. Duncan Mayer earned his Ph.D. in social welfare from the Mandel School in 2023. His dissertation is entitled, “Essays on Community-Organization Dynamics,” and Rob Fischer served as his dissertation chair.