Patchwork Nation is a reporting project that aims to explore what is happening in the United States by examining different kinds of communities over time. The effort divides America's 3,141 counties into 12 community types based on certain demographic characteristics, such as income level, racial composition, employment and religion. You can read about the methodology of the project on the Christian Science Monitor's methodology page.
Launched as a Christian Science Monitor project by Dante Chinni and James Gimpel to cover the 2008 election, this incarnation of Patchwork Nation will evolve to cover more communities and more topics, with a focus on the economy and how it affects different sorts of communities.
This version of the project represents an unprecedented collaboration between the Christian Science Monitor, the NewsHour and local public broadcasting stations. These local stations were selected because of their strong connections to their communities and proven public affairs reporting teams.
The citizen bloggers in each community will contribute their stories - what they are seeing, hearing and reading - about the issues that impact their lives and the lives of those around them. Visitors to the site can also contribute their own views by submitting their photos to the Patchwork Nation Flickr group, uploading a video to YouTube or writing an article.
The interactive map will help break down national data to analyze how it impacts communities. It will put much of the data in the hands of the user, allowing him or her to compare different data sets and explore national data county-by-county.
When combined, these different layers will create a picture of how the country is faring through the prism of these communities.
We recognize many people may see their county and think, "That is not what it is like here," and we agree that counties are not the perfect way to measure community. We chose counties as the organizing idea because of the availability of county-level data. While not perfect, these datasets do create an image of the United States that is more than red and blue states, but instead represent a new way of looking at the country at this time of change.
This project was funded by the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization based in Miami, Fla., and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.