ArcNews Online

Summer 2006

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GreenInfo Network—Ten Years of Mapping the Public Interest

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GreenInfo Network Web site.
Nonprofit organizations are avid users of GIS. Land trusts, general environmental groups, public health organizations, social service providers, environmental justice campaigns, and many more such organizations have a wide range of needs for GIS. Founded in 1996, the nonprofit GreenInfo Network (San Francisco, California) is marking its 10th anniversary as one of just a few organizations solely dedicated to helping public interest groups use GIS. It has served almost 300 nonprofits in that time.

GreenInfo got its start in 1996 through the Conservation Technology Support Program (CTSP), an Esri and Hewlett-Packard partnership. "From 1995 to 2001, CTSP made pivotal grants to more than 250 land trusts and other conservation groups," says Esri's Conservation Program director Charles Convis. "Those grants helped save tens of thousands of acres of land and advanced environmental policies here in the United States and in other countries as well." Esri's Conservation Program continues to make software grants to domestic and international environmental groups.

With the CTSP grant and startup funding from the Surdna Foundation, GreenInfo Network began offering GIS support to a handful of organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Within five years, it had grown beyond initial expectations.

"In 1996, it seemed like we might be able to support two dozen groups annually and have a staff of two or three," says Larry Orman, GreenInfo's executive director. "But by 1998, we had grown to five staff members and were branching out to help groups working on social as well as environmental issues." Advancements in ArcView software greatly increased desktop computing capacity, and the wider availability of GIS data as the 1990s ended boosted the opportunities for nonprofits to apply GIS to their work.

Since the mid-1990s, GreenInfo has grown to nine staff members in two offices and works with 20 to 40 groups at a time. It continues to receive crucial support from Esri's Conservation Program for its work, relying on the capabilities of ArcGIS Desktop to fulfill its mission.

GreenInfo Network supports a wide range of nonprofits and agencies, including groups like the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, California Coastal Conservancy, Greenbelt Alliance, Land Trust Council of California and many of its members, Latino Issues Forum, Planning and Conservation League, Save the Redwoods League, and many more. While many of these groups are in California, GreenInfo works with almost any U.S.-based public interest group.

"The key for many nonprofits," says Orman, "is to ensure that GIS results are not only accurate but also communicate clearly." This has led GreenInfo Network to put a premium on effective visual design of its map products. The organization is also actively involved in improving protected lands data for California and will soon launch a public Web browser that allows users to find any type of park in the state.

For more information, contact Larry Orman, GreenInfo Network executive director (tel.: 415-979-0343, ext. 302; e-mail: For more examples of nonprofit GIS and nonprofit resources, visit GreenInfo at, or contact Charles Convis, Esri (tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1-2488; e-mail:

See also Conserving the Land of Napa County, California.

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