NSGIC - State GIS Council Partnership

By Bert Granberg  |  June 7, 2017

A goal of mine, a few years back during my first year as AGRC's director was to facilitate increased 'enterprise GIS' interest and involvement of our state GIS association, the Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC), a standalone 501c3 nonprofit. 

One of the coolest things about professionals in the GIS field is that most of us value strategic problem solving approaches that reach beyond the domains of our individual assignments or agency responsibilities. GIS'ers have a strong tendency to look out for the 'whole' where others might not. While everybody in our field knows the vast degree to which the ‘enterprise of GIS’ in  Utah is dependent on data sharing -- especially local to state government -- it is largely undersung to decision makers. Getting UGIC more interested in telling this story well seemed like a natural fit. 

So for the goal of working more with UGIC, I didn't feel like anybody needed much persuasion. Rather, it was about making it easier to connect and participate. And to make that easier, we started by upgrading from individual-level NSGIC membership to the State Leaders 5-person membership package. By doing so, we added 4 Utah members, a mix of other state agency GIS managers and UGIC Board members who are elected to their positions specifically to represent the state, county, local, business, and academic sectors.  

After then-UGIC-Chair Kevin Sato made the first trip to NSGIC (Annapolis in 2013) the board made an informal policy to send a member to each NSGIC meeting. By my count, with Kasey Hansen attending the 2017 midyear the UGIC Board has made it to 9 NSGIC meetings in a row! 

The good news is that the post-attendance NSGIC report from UGIC has always been very positive and UGIC has even implemented some NSGIC meeting traditions (like roll call) as part of their annual Utah GIS conference. The bad news is -- a bit of a confession -- the heightened level of involvement put us in the position of cycling the UGIC folks through the NSGIC membership list which seemed to violate the spirit of things. As a smaller state, this plan felt 'ok' as an experiment, but at some point, we crossed the line and needed to own up. 

We fixed this last year, becoming the sixth state to move up to the State Council membership (joining AR,AZ,MD, MN and OH). This allowed us to add all interested professionals affiliated with UGIC or our internal state-government level coordination group to participate as full NSGIC members. As part of this process, AGRC and UGIC signed an MOU that loosely defines our collaboration and the co-investment of each other's time and other resources committed to our involvement with NSGIC. 

We've also seen our State Council membership as an investment in Utah's future returns from NSGIC, as an organization. It is not an exaggeration to say that almost every success Utah has had with GIS, has been inspired, enhanced, or even just-plain 'lifted' from the leadership, technology, and expertise exhibited across NSGIC's membership and events -- trying to give credit where due, of course. And for the AGRC-UGIC-NSGIC collaboration, a hearty 'hats off' goes to the Arizona delegation, that has had a similar initiative going back at least to my first real NSGIC meeting at Keystone in 2008. 

I just received our NSGIC membership renewal invoice today, together with some very insightful, bright observations from our executive director, Molly Schar, after her first year with us. NSGIC is on a great track as an organization and very fortunate to have her strategic, passionate leadership, btw. To wrap this up so I can smilingly go get our dues payment started, you should soon have your membership renewal in hand as well. I encourage you to reflect on how NSGIC has benefitted GIS in your state and how, starting with your state’s membership level, position yourselves to get even more return from NSGIC in the coming year. Maybe this is the year for your state to make a similar plan to step it up a notch or two?