Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

AARP's Community Indicators

For those looking for indicators for older persons, AARP has a set of community indicators available on their website. You enter in your zip code (or city/state you're interested in), identify the geographic size of the community you're interested in finding out more about (anywhere from 5 to 100 miles from the zip code you enter as a radius), and select an indicator on the left. Attractive, clear graphs appear.

On the plus side, there's quite a bit of information, the presentation is clear, and the user interface is simple and intuitive.

On the minus side, besides the assertion that the information is "up-to-date" and that data are provided by OnBoard LLC ("Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed,") no metadata information is presented about the data. You don't know the year of the data, or the sources, or the means of measurement. Some of it appears to be Census data, but because of the radius piece I can't really determine the geographic boundaries that are being used nd I can't sync it very well with the data sets I'm used to.

I'm sharing this both for the information purposes about measuring quality-of-life aspects that matter to older persons, and for the ease of use factor. Too often indicator websites are horribly daunting to approach for the statistical novice. However, without the necessary metadata, the information is largely useless for decision-making or planning.


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