BNIA-JFI was born in 2000 after a two-year planning process where several citywide nonprofit organizations, city government agencies, neighborhoods, and foundations were gathered together by the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Since that time, BNIA-JFI has grown to include many more groups and individuals, and more each day have come to consider themselves part of this growing Alliance – this movement toward well-informed decision making for change. BNIA-JFI designed its core functions based on the knowledge that Baltimore needed a common way of understanding how our neighborhoods and overall quality of life are changing over time. Baltimore needed a common threshold from which to have discussions about what is best for changing conditions. Baltimore needed a mechanism to hold itself and all others who work, live, play, and invest in its neighborhoods, accountable for moving in the right direction. BNIA-JFI works to fulfill these needs.

BNIA-JFI is a member of:

Community Indicators Consortium
International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS)
Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations
Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC)
National Civic League
National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP)
Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)

Brief History of Vital Signs

In the spring of 2002, BNIA-JFI organized a series of focus groups designed to engage a variety of views to develop the Vital Signs. The groups were challenged to think differently about the future of their neighborhoods, and come to consensus on long-term neighborhood goals and indicators relative to specific topic areas. The first set of focus groups consisted of neighborhood residents and leaders from across Baltimore. During the session, participants were assigned to specific groups, each group concentrating on a different topic area.

They were then asked to answer two major questions:

  • “If you knew you would leave your neighborhood and could come back in 10 years, what is the vision you want to see?”
  • “What will tell you we are successful in getting there? What are the indicators and measures that will tell us we are moving in the right direction?”

Later that year, additional focus groups were conducted with other stakeholders: those organizations working with, and on behalf of  neighborhoods, to improve and maintain the quality of life. Representatives and decision makers from a variety of non-profit organizations, city agencies, churches, and more were grouped by topic area and engaged in similar conversations.

Production of Vital Signs I began in July of 2002. BNIA-JFI’s data provider partners were engaged to process and provide the data needed for the report. Their initial work together to develop BNIA-JFI’s first product, the “One Stop Shop” for neighborhood data was an extremely important step in the Vital Signs process. BNIA-JFI’s data partners now had the data needed to build the indicators. The first Vital Signs for Baltimore Neighborhoods Report was released on November 18, 2002.  In 2014, BNIA-JFI released Vital Signs 12 with data through 2012.  BNIA-JFI will continue to update and provide the most current data as part of Vital Signs and expand on the data and indicators provided.