Welcome to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s new website. On these pages you will find the culmination of many months' effort on the part of our staff and web design team to provide the Charlotte region with an important new resource for data, research, news and commentary on public policy issues facing this dynamic and increasingly interconnected region.
From the beginning, we set out to move beyond the conventional “website as electronic brochure” about the Institute. Instead, we wanted to take advantage of some of the exciting trends in web-based communications – from the explosive use of the internet for information, news and commentary, to the rapid expansion of social networking tools – to establish a unique resource for understanding the critical public policy issues that impact the Charlotte region’s quality of life. In doing so, the Institute is merely tapping into a 21st century technology to continue its forty-year tradition of serving as a trusted and reliable resource for information, and as a convener for informed dialogue on issues of importance to the Charlotte region.
On these web pages, you will find the same quality data and information that you have come to expect from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, including current and past reports from research conducted by our staff and academic partners. The website will also serve as a portal to the Institute’s enhanced Charlotte Regional Indicators Project, an important source of interactive data on quality-of-life trends in the fourteen-county region. While still being developed (scheduled for release this fall), this "sub-page" of our website will provide you with more user-friendly access to our Indicators data, and will serve as an online link to tailored reports that we'll be preparing for a growing list of "Indicator Partners", ranging from the United Way of the Central Carolinas to the Council for Children's Rights.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the new website is the space we have devoted to news and commentary about the region. You’ll note that a considerable amount of our front page’s real estate has been set aside for “Spotlight” stories, where we will post not only the latest releases of Institute-sponsored reports, but also commentary and essays written by regular contributors, including the Institute’s staff, university faculty and the occasional community guest writer. By design, this section is intended to be a mixture of both unbiased research and subjective commentary, providing our readers with the dual benefits of objective data and thoughtful opinion in helping them make sense of the many complex issues facing this region.
Another feature called “Top Stories” will serve as a news aggregation resource, where we will lift up headline stories from newspapers throughout the Charlotte region related to the issues we feel our constituents care most about: the economic, environmental and social well-being of the region. We hope this feature, together with the Spotlights section, will help fill what we believe is a growing void in public information – the coverage of policy issues on a truly regional basis.
I have used the term “region” repeatedly, and that has been intentional – for this website has been designed as a truly “regional” resource. Not only have we designed individual pages for each of the region’s counties, where stories, reports and other resources relevant to each county can be found, but special care has been taken to make sure that this website embodies the essence of what the greater Charlotte region is all about. From occasional guest writers focusing on the natural and cultural heritage of the region, to photo essays capturing both its unique beauty and inherent challenges, we hope this website becomes an essential and honest resource for anyone hoping to better understand the region beyond the glitz of Charlotte’s skyline and the stereotypes of its rural edge.
Finally, we just want to acknowledge that for us this new website is an experiment – one that enables the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to fulfill its mission via a new delivery mechanism. In recognition of our obvious learning curve in providing this service, we have set forth a more modest strategy for ourselves in posting fresh content, at least initially. While the reader will find daily news updates from the region’s print media in the “Top Stories” section of our website, additional postings of new reports, data and commentary in the “Spotlight” section will be less frequent, tied to the timing of releases of university-based reports and government statistics, as well as the availability of our generous contributors. Given this more infrequent release of reports and commentary, we have made it easy throughout the website for you to sign up for social networking “feeds” to provide you regular notices about new postings when they are made.
So sit back and enjoy the website! And for those of you who care about the Charlotte region, we think you’ll find many reasons to return and for making us a regular part of your weekly “information fix”.