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.

The Jacksonville Community Council (JCCI) understands indicators and community change, with more than 25 years of producing the annual Quality of Life Progress Report for Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida region, and two decades of helping other communities develop their own sustainable indicators projects. JCCI consultants give you the information you need to measure progress, identify priorities for action, and assess results.

I'd like to talk with you personally about how we can help. E-mail me at
ben@jcci.org, call (904) 396-3052, or visit CommunityWorks for more information. From San Antonio to Siberia, we're ready and willing to assist.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

News from Redefining Progress

Here's an update of what's happening with Redefining Progress:

Greetings from Washington, D.C.! With all that we’ve been up to in California and other states, I bet many of you didn’t realize we had a D.C. office. In fact, I like to think of it as our headquarters, but maybe that’s just because from here it’s easier to keep our eyes on the prize: Federal climate change legislation that is environmentally and economically smart and socially just.

In fact, a lot of us had almost given up hope for action at the Federal level, but in the last few months the Capitol has been a hotbed of debate on how—not if—we should tackle global warming. There are no fewer than seven bills in various stages of the legislative pipeline, any one of which would at least make important first steps in addressing the environmental problem. The bad news is that not one of them adequately addresses economic or environmental justice. The good news, of course, is that these important conversations are happening, and we’ve managed to convince quite a few that equity and justice do matter and that we don’t have to sacrifice them for environmental progress. We’re not going to stop until we convince the rest.

To that end, we’re convening a meeting here in August that will bring together environmental justice leaders from around the country. We’ll be designing a policy platform that gets it right on economics, equity, and the environment, and then we’ll begin bringing our message to communities across the nation, girding the grassroots for change.

I’ll let you know more about the conference as it develops. In the meantime, look for Redefining Progress at the U.S. Social Forum (June 27-July 1, Atlanta, GA) and Tall Ships Road Island (June 27-July 1, Newport Harbor, Rhode Island), where there will be a kiosk for you to take the Ecological Footprint Quiz and learn how to reduce your footprint.

Then join Emerging Leaders, Emerging Solutions (July 10-12, Newark, N.J.), a conference organized by the Environmental Leadership Program to highlight model policies and practices for how to create change in our lives and communities. Nia Robinson, director of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, will be speaking, as will Redefining Progress Board Member Dr. Beverly Wright of Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

PS. If you like what we do here at Redefining Progress, please pass this message along to a friend. Word of mouth is a great way to spread the news about the need for a fair and efficient climate policy.

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this. Tell-a-friend!

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for Redefining Progress.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

New Sustainability Indicators Project (?)

I ran across a recent blog entry that called for a new sustainability indicators project in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The article was persuasive, referencing the Sightline Institute , Sustaining Jackson Hole, and the Cascadia Scorecard. (I love whoever does the messaging for Sightline -- they don't refer you to data and statistics but to "extraordinary graphics" and a "wonktastic blog.")

From the blog entry at the Carbon Neutral Journal:

Recently, Sustaining Jackson Hole's Resource Use Group announced a community-wide 10 x 10 effort, which aims to reduce Teton County’s per capita energy use and garbage generation by 10% (from 2006 levels) by December 31, 2010. This effort is intended to complement the Town of Jackson's and Teton County's joint resolution to reduce electricity and fossil fuel consumption 10% each by December 31, 2010.

I bring all this up because the most recent Cascadia Scorecard reveals that, on a per capita basis, Northwesterners are using less gasoline, In fact they've reduced gasoline use by 10% since the late 1990's.

How did they do that? According to
Gristmill's analysis, there are three primary reasons:

  • Folks are driving a bit less. Person for person, vehicle mileage trends in the Northwest are on the decline.
  • Cascadians are driving more efficient vehicles. In the Northwest, sales of hybrids have outpaced Hummers for years.
  • Mass transit is gaining ridership. Between 1999 and 2006, transit boardings in greater Vancouver and Portland have gone up by about 25 percent; in the Puget Sound it's been about 11 percent.

As the Sustaining Jackson Hole and Town/County efforts gain momentum, it will be critical to track and analyze the key measures of our energy and fuel conservation as well as the reduction in trash generated. Keeping the public involved, updated and motivated by our progress toward 10 x 10 will require consistent and timely dissemination of vital statistics.

Perhaps the time is ripe for a Tetonia Scorecard?

If you live around the Jackson Hole area, or just want to lend support to the initiative, check out the blog entry. I'm sure they'd appreciate hearing from you.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Using Private/Commercial Data Sets

Several of us have, as part of our community indicator selection criteria, the expectation that the data are available free or at very limited cost. Besides the cost advantage, this often avoids questions of reproducing someone else's proprietary data. In the Jacksonville community, for example, we had to find different measures of tourist activity than hotel occupancy rates, because we could only get that data locally through a commercial source, and reproducing the data was prohibited. (Instead we used a measure of bed-tax receipts, which [after adjusting for inflation and for tax rate] served as a decent proxy indicator.)

Others, however, find real power in using proprietary data. At the Community Indicators Consortium's 2007 conference, a presentation by The Reinvestment Fund, NeighborWorks America, and the Wachovia Regional Foundation made a compelling case for using primary and secondary data together, some of which came from commercial data providers, to understand a community.

In that context, I thought I'd share what Brian Rajan Nagendra provided for the NNIP listserve:

In some cases, commercial datasets are able to provide data on smaller geographies than publicly available census data or BLS data, a limitation you may encounter when looking for data for your area, as Kathy [Pettit] mentioned.

If you are looking for economic data or employment information order reports from Moody's Economy.com (www.economy.com) . If my memory serves me well, reports run about $200 for each geography. If you are looking for demographic or psychographic data go to Claritas Site reports ( www.sitereports.com). Reports range $70-150+.

To learn more about the commercial data sources available and how they are used look at this presentation from the Brookings Urban Markets Initiative:
Private Data Sources: Informing the Public Sectorhttp://www.brookings.edu/metro/umi/events/20050726.htm

If you are curious how Claritas works its magic and how others use Claritas Data go to another presentation from the same source:
Data Segmentation: Communities' Friend or Foe?http://www.brookings.edu/metro/umi/events/20050824.htm

Good luck!

Do you use private data sets? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Life Expectancy Displayed

Sometimes I run across some interesting visualizations, as people find more and more creative ways to display data to get their message across. This example is from WorldProcessor, which has a series of maps of the world displaying information in different ways. I thought I'd share one with you.

This goes beyond the color-shaded GIS maps to make the actual numbers stand out. It's different, which I think makes it more powerful.




What do you think?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Food Deserts in Detroit

Mari Gallagher shared the following with the NNIP listserve:

Our latest report, Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in DETROIT, with foreword by Thomas Kingsley of NNIP and the Urban Institute, is now available on our website at www.marigallagher.com. The study was sponsored by LaSalle Bank.

Also available is the Detroit Project Technical Appendix, which includes details about our methodology, author’s comments and acknowledgements, a next steps section for partners and funders, and our new methods to track the public health impact of community development and market investment.

250 representatives from Detroit’s government, healthcare, planning, public health, community development and grocery sectors gathered at the Detroit Athletic Club on June 19 to learn the results of study. Considerable press has followed. The effort was made possible by LaSalle Bank, Detroit LISC, and 21 Forum Friend organizations, including NNIP. Thank you for your support and we hope you find the study useful.

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Data on Religions

One interesting data source available is from the The Association of Religion Data Archives. Data sets available include religious affiliation in one of 149 religious bodies at county-level specifics. Survey information is also available on religious beliefs, as well as demographic shifts over time, the Baylor Religion Survey, QuickStats, national profiles from the World Values Survey, and more.

Links on the site take you to a number of research sites, including the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (http://hirr.hartsem.edu/) and the National Study of Youth and Religion (http://www.youthandreligion.org/), as well as the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (http://pewforum.org/).

Why is this data useful? ChildTrends points out in its survey on religiosity that religion impacts society and child well-being in a number of ways. Certainly religion impacts public life and public policy. A number of studies have looked at religion and health, and religious beliefs and perceptions of quality of life.

In addition, faith institutions are arguably a sizable part of the social capital of a community and play a major role in its social infrastructure.

And yet religion or religous beliefs don't usually appear in community indicators projects. At least I don't know of one that includes religion or faith institutions in its measurement set. Is there a good reason for excluding religion from community indicator projects? Do you know of a community that includes it?

(Just for fun, I looked at a listing of statistical resources for the state of Utah, in which [of all states] religion has an unabashedly and undeniably significant impact on the community. Of the resources listed, religion shows up in global compendiums of international statistics, and even in a national historical document, but doesn't appear as a subject listing in any state or local data profiles. Interesting.)

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Indicator Selection Criteria, Part III

OK, here's an environmental indicator selection criteria set from Down Under that I liked for its simplicity. It's from Australia's Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Australian Antarctic Division:

Indicator selection criteria

The selection criteria for environmental indicators have been adopted from State of the Environment Reporting: Framework for Australia (Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1994). Indicators contains only those indicators that satisfy the majority of the criteria.

Environmental indicators should:

  • Serve as a robust indicator of environmental change;
  • Reflect a fundamental or highly-valued aspect of the environment or an important environmental issue;
  • Be either national in scope or applicable to regional environmental issues of national significance;
  • Provide an early warning of potential problems;
  • Be capable of being monitored to provide statistically verifiable and reproducible data that shows trends over time and, preferably, apply to a broad range of environmental regions;
  • Be scientifically credible;
  • Be easy to understand;
  • Be monitored with relative ease;
  • Be cost-effective;
  • Have relevance to policy and management needs;
  • Contribute to monitoring of progress towards implementing commitments in nationally important environmental policies;
  • Where possible and appropriate, facilitate community involvement;
  • Contribute to the fulfilment of reporting obligations under international agreements;
  • Where possible and appropriate, use existing commercial and managerial indicators; and
  • Where possible and appropriate, be consistent and comparable with other countries’ and State and territory indicators.

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Indicator Selection Criteria, Part II

Here's a shorter set of selection criteria for indicators, this one taken from PittsburghToday.org:

Guidelines for choosing indicators

The consortium has established four rules to guide a committee’s choice of indicators.

  1. The data must be publicly available without charge. The data comes from both public and private sources, but most of the indicators are drawn from local, state or federal government statistics.
  2. The data must be the most current available, after taking into account time lags between the collection of data and its public release.
  3. The data selected must cover at least the last 10 years, and it should be placed in the context of national data, or data from other cities. Any comparisons to other cities should be on an “apples to apples” basis. In other words, the basis of comparison must be consistent, whether it’s a single county, a Metropolitan Statistical Area, or some other basis.
  4. Data and the indicators based on it should be actionable. This means that the situation being described by the data suggests a problem, and some type of public response would be appropriate. It does not mean, however, that PittsburghToday will take any direct action to organize such a response, since it is an information program and not chartered to conduct advocacy or undertake civic initiatives.

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Indicator Selection Criteria, Part I

I thought it might be interesting to pull together the selection criteria different communities use in choosing their indicators. I'll start with Jacksonville, Florida, because I'm most familiar with that one. The complete list is available here (PDF):

GUIDELINES FOR SELECTING AND MAINTAINING MEANINGFUL AND USEFUL COMMUNITY INDICATORS

For the purposes of JCCI's Quality of Life indicators project, an indicator is defined as a quantitative measure of the quality of community life. Perfection in the selection of these indicators is not possible. An indicator that is meaningful (provides valuable information) and useful (provides guidance toward community improvement) usually reflects a combination of idealism (what we would like to measure) and pragmatism (what we are able to measure). Based on these concepts, the Quality of Life indicators have been selected and are maintained based on the following criteria:

  • Importance: The indicator measures an aspect of the community’s quality of life which a diverse group of people in the community would agree is important, in relation to the community’s vision.
  • Policy relevance: The indicator measures an aspect of the community’s quality of life
    concerning which the community can achieve positive change through public decision making and policies at the community level.
  • Responsiveness: The indicator responds relatively quickly and noticeably to real changes in the quality of life, as revealed by changes in the direction or slope of the indicator’s trend line.
  • Validity: If the indicator’s trend line moves either upward or downward, a diverse group of people in the community would agree on whether the quality of life is improving or declining.
  • Understandability: The indicator measures an aspect of the community’s quality of life in a way that most citizens can easily understand and interpret, in relation to their own lives.
  • Clarity: The indicator uses clear measures that filter out extraneous factors. For instance, dollar indicators are reported in deflated, constant dollars; per-person rates are used where appropriate to factor out population growth; and raw numbers are used where total magnitudes are important.
  • Outcome orientation: Where possible, the indicator measures a community outcome—the actual condition of the quality of life (e.g. the crime rate). Alternatively, it measures an outcome of the community’s response to a quality-of-life issue (e.g. police response time) rather than the input of the response itself (e.g. number of police officers).
  • Asset orientation: Where possible, the indicator measures a positive aspect of the community’s quality of life (the community’s assets rather than its liabilities) so that an increase in the indicator’s trend line reveals community improvement (e.g. the high-school graduation rate rather than the dropout rate).
  • Anticipation: The indicator anticipates future quality-of-life conditions rather than reacting to past trends. A “leading” indicator (e.g. cigarettes sold) is more useful than a “lagging” indicator (e.g. long-cancer deaths) because it allows a proactive community response.
  • Availability, timeliness, stability, and reliability: Data for the indicator are readily available and affordably accessible annually from a credible public or private source. If the data come from multiple sources, staff can readily compile and calculate the indicator numbers. Data are consistently collected, compiled, and calculated in the same way each year.
  • Representativeness: Taken together, the indicator set, and the indicators within each Element, cover all the major dimensions of the community’s quality of life.

Jacksonville Community Council Inc., July 2000

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rural v. Urban Living

Today a friend sent me this link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/world/06/urbanisation/html/urbanisation.stm

The site is a BBC News interactive map that shows the growth in urban populations around the world from 1955 to a projected 2015.

Coincidentally, I had recently finished a conversation with another colleague about the challenges of developing regional indicators for regions that include both urban and rural populations (as most do). Simply put, often the core issues are different, and more significantly, the data mean something different in urban and rural communities. (Commute times measure distance and not congestion, for example, and parkland may serve a different function in urban and rural environments.)

For those working on rural issues, RUPRI -- http://www.rupri.org/ -- is a tremendous resource. http://circ.rupri.org/ is their Community Information Resource Center, with interactive mapping and a lot of useful information.

If your project successfully integrates both urban and rural issues into a shared indicator set, please drop me a line (or comment on this post) -- I'd be interested in hearing about your experiences.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Race and Economic Indicators

Recently on the NNIP listserve, someone requested data resources for measuring economic indicators by race at the community level. Here's a quick compilation of many of the responses:

http://www.fairdata2000.com/SF3/contrast_charts/index.html provides city and county-level profiles using 2000 Census Cummary File 3 data.

http://diversitydata.sph.harvard.edu/ uses Census data as well as data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Health Statistics for a broader look at metro-area profiles.

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/saipe/ is the Census Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates which provides poverty and income estimates by race.

The Mumford Center analyzes Census data by race for metro areas at http://mumford.albany.edu/census/data.html

The American Community Survey allows you to build customized data sets. You can get household income, family income, median family income, per capita income, and aggregate household income by race, poverty status by race, median earnings by race, food stamps by race, and employment status by race. See http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/CTGeoSearchByListServlet

Local school data on free/reduced-price lunch program participation can be a useful, local(school-specific) proxy for family income by race. Local sources will vary, though usually the state will provide the information needed.

If you have other specific data sources for measures of income by race and ethnicity, please let me know. See also Indicators of Racial Disparity for more information.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Linkages, Visualizations, and Definitions

I've been playing with a new (to me) online tool called Visuwords. It's an online dictionary that hints at the power we could be unleashing with computers. You have to see it.

Enter in a term, like "education" or "housing" or "poverty" and it gives you the term, linked to related terms. Move the terms around (it's fun!), mouse-over any term for a definition, double-click a term to find its linkages, and just keep going.

The possibilities are amazing. From the community indicators world, think of the same software tool used to provide possible measures for terms, links to related issues, and measures for those issues. Think about how this could be used to organize metadata, or display the interconnectedness of issues measured in an indicators project. Think of how fun, intuitive, and user-friendly we could make our indicator projects.

Than keep playing with the site. How cool is that?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

NationMaster and StateMaster

Here's a fun online data resource/tool to explore. NationMaster pulls together statistical information from OECD, the CIA Factbook, and the UN in an easy-to-use, well-organized, and searchable database of information. StateMaster does that same thing with information from the census, NCES, and FBI. In both sites, you can search statistics by subject area or by nation/state.

Here's how you might you it. let's say I'm interested in an indicator on infant mortality. From StateMaster's front page, I select the "Health" category under "Facts & Statistics", then reluctantly scroll past interesting data options from Alligator Attacks to STDs to select "More health statistics", which loads a full Health menu on the page. I then select "Infant Death Rate" and end up with a bar chart of the states in ranked order, a definition of the data displayed (with year), and a link to the source of the data (in this case, statehealthfacts.org.)

Clicking through the data link, I have further information on the subject, and another new data resource. I also have the option (back on the StateMaster Infant Mortality page) to get a health profile of a specific state, or to click through on NationMaster to see what information is available on the subject.

The infant mortality rate listed for Florida is 7.5 (2002), which is interesting (though the data is a little old -- a "huge data update" is promised soon.) If I check Florida's health profile, though, I get lots of interesting data options, with definitions and sources -- my network of information possibilities keeps growing!

I turn back to infant mortality, though, and follow the link to the NationMaster Infant Mortality page. Florida's rate falls between Montserrat and Cyprus, it turns out. I can check infant mortality by gender among countries, which is also interesting.

Explore these two sites and let me know how useful they are to you. They aren't probably the definitive indicator data source, but they could be an interesting starting point for looking at possible indicators and where to find the data.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Multicollinearity and Community Indicators

"Multicollinearity" is the technical/statistical term for re-using the same information unintentionally. There's a fairly clear explanation for the term and why it can be such a big problem in making financial decisions on this webpage. (Also note on the webpage a number of different ways to graph data.)

We ran into this problem earlier when trying to put together a cluster of indicators to describe the gay/lesbian demographics in our community. Several folks had put together different kinds of measures and indices (like Richard Florida's Gay Index), but when we looked closer, all of them were relying on the same core data set from Census information about unmarried same-sex households. Had we tried to use several "different" measures to confirm each other, we would have been guilty of multicollinearity -- we would have a result with several graphs that appear to support each other, but that's only because they're all based on the same information.

When putting together community indicators, then, we probably want to watch out for this problem. Too often when we try to build indicator clusters, or constellations, we run the risk of trying to say too much with the data if the data sets are repeated within the cluster.

This makes metadata -- data about the data, or information about how the data was collected and transmitted -- critically important. Without understanding where the numbers come from, we risk multicollinearity -- and now I've repeated the term enough times you're starting to feel comfortable with it. Try it out in conversation and let me know what happens.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Data Visualizations and Interface

We mentioned Dr. Hans Rosling's TED presentation earlier (he's the developer of gapminder.org).

Here's another presentation from TED -- this one taking us to a new level of thinking about computers, how people interface with computers, and what the possibilities are. Stick with the video, because about five minutes into the demonstration Dr. Jeff Han picks up where Dr. Rosling left off, and then he takes us into a new way to think about interacting with mapping technology.

I got the following out of the presentation:

1. New technology is really cool, and we have no idea what's coming next.

2. We need to think differently about how people can intuitively access, display, and manipulative information. Mouse-and-keyboard controls are much too complicated and limiting.

3. We live in a 3-D world -- why should we restrict data displays to two dimensions?

Check out the video, and see if you think the possibilities are as exciting as I do.

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Alliance for Regional Stewardship Change

In November 2005, the Alliance for Regional Stewardship published a monograph called Regional Indicators: Telling Stories, Measuring Trends, Inspiring Action (available online to ARS members only.)

At that time, we had great hope for ARS to serve as a catalyst for regional indicators efforts around the country. In our region in Northeast Florida, they helped inspire the creation of a Regional Leadership Academy, using their developing John W. Gardner Regional Leadership Academy to bring people together. Part of the Northeast Florida Regional Leadership Academy work led to regional leaders calling for a regional vision and indicators to measure progress toward reaching that vision.

With that context, I just received a press release from ARS. I'm more than a little concerned about the loss of a network focused on regional action, and am not convinced that the ACCE affiliation allows the same breadth of regional interest we had seen before. I'm interested in your feedback, especially if you've worked with ARS before.


American Chamber of Commerce Executives and Alliance for Regional Stewardship Announce Affiliation Agreement
June 12, 2007 (Philadelphia, PA)
The American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship (ARS) announced today an Affiliation Agreement that will bring new regionalism programming to Chambers across the country and will help expand the multi-sector partnerships for regional development that ARS has promoted.

ACCE is a national non-profit association, founded in 1914, that serves individuals in Chamber of Commerce management. ARS is a national non-profit network of public and private practitioners, launched in 2000, whose mission is to build strong, globally-competitive regions for the U.S.

Under the Agreement to be signed this summer, ARS will become a signature part of ACCE's expanded focus on regional activities, research and partnerships. ACCE will assume responsibility for the management, funding, and operations of ARS. Current and new ARS programming will be offered to ACCE members, and to interested leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who want to promote development in their regions.

"With this affiliation," said Mick Fleming, President of ACCE, "ACCE will expand available resources for communities and chambers related to regionalism. We will establish a separate wing of our website for ARS with regionalism-related content, links, research and resources. We will expand ARS consulting services and energize the ARS Regional Stewardship Awards program. And we will ensure strong regionalism content in our national meetings."

Fleming added: "This affiliation agreement is a win/win for regional activists and for the 1,500 Chambers of Commerce across the country. Business leaders increasingly are engaging across political and geographic boundaries to help solve the challenges confronting their communities. ARS brings experience in more than 50 regions as advisors and mentors, helping build the multi-sector coalitions that are the key to regional success.

All current ARS members will be offered membership in ACCE at no additional cost through 2007, with benefits including attendance at two national conferences, participation in web-based training and learning, and access to ACCE's extensive information network.

This new Affiliation means that the ARS National Forum, scheduled in November, 2007 in Long Beach, CA, will not be held. Instead, current ARS members and others interested in ARS Forum topics will be invited to ACCE conferences this year, where regional topics will be featured. In future years, the ARS annual conference will become a feature of ACCE annual meetings, held annually in August.

Joan Riehm, Chair of the ARS Board of Directors, noted that the ARS Board adopted an ambitious strategic plan last year to expand its services, but found it needed a strong organizational framework to make the plan a reality. "We are delighted that ACCE sees the value that ARS has built in helping deliver real, measurable results in the regions where we have worked. We're looking forward to expanding our consulting, research, and information services to reach a much broader audience than we could do on our own."

David Thornburgh, current President and CEO of ARS, will be stepping down from that position once the Affiliation Agreement is complete. "David has a great commitment to the ARS vision," said Riehm, expressing the gratitude of the ARS Board for his service. "His insights and disciplined thinking about how to realize the ARS vision have been enormously important to the Board and to the decision to pursue this strategic option."


Riehm, a consultant in Public Issues Management based in Louisville, KY, will serve as interim executive director of ARS through 2007, until ACCE hires a staff director for its expanded regional activities.

About the Alliance for Regional Stewardship
For more information on the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, visit
http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=qvvpabcab.0.eubuszbab.bkbmfxbab.679&ts=S0254&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.regionalstewardship.org%2F

About the American Chamber of Commerce ExecutivesFor more information on the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, visit http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=qvvpabcab.0.su5d74bab.bkbmfxbab.679&ts=S0254&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.acce.org%2F

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Regret Index

Because it's been nearly a month since I blogged about indicators in comic strips, I thought we might be overdue for a post on the subject.

Today's entry comes from Dinosaur Comics, an absurd online web comic whose panels have been unchanged for nearly 1000 comic strips (only the words change.) It shouldn't be funny, but it often really is.

In the strip, the T-Rex decides to create a "Regret Index" -- see the results for yourself here.

What makes this blog-worthy is that there's now a Regret Index, created by the comic's author, which allows you to vote on your favorite regrets (and non-regrets). As the T-Rex tells the Utahraptor, yeah it's just asking people what they like and don't like, but "regret index" makes it sound more scientific.

Not that I've ever seen any parallels recently in the news.

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Education Data Available Free -- Limited Time Only

A special announcement from Education Week. Check out the interactive mapping tool.

The 2nd Annual Diplomas Count is here. Produced with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this eye-opening report is now available online at edweek.org. During our edweek.org Open House, you can access the whole report for FREE! The report examines college and career readiness and provides the most accurate and far-reaching analysis of high school graduation policies and trends. While you’re at it, be sure to check out some of our past reports and our most recent edition of Technology Counts.

Some things you shouldn’t miss in this year’s Diplomas Count:

‘Soft Skills’ in Big Demand: Interest in teaching students interpersonal skills needed for success in life is on the rise. - By Catherine Gewertz

Learning and Earning: An analysis that shows the relationship between education and pay. - By Christopher B. Swanson

Access to Opportunity: Skilled workers for the jobs of the future are in short supply, risking further expansion of the American family-income divide. - By Anthony P. Carnevale

Our totally new edweek maps tool allows you to map graduation rates by school district. You can see how your district compares to other districts in your area and nationwide. This great tool gives you access to incredible amounts of information right at your fingertips!

Remember, our doors will be wide open through June 25. That means you’ll have access to everything our premium subscribers see daily for a full two weeks!

If you like what you see on edweek.org, get even more by adding a 4-week trial subscription to Education Week. This trial offer of 4 weeks of print and online access is available for only a short time at: http://enews.edweek.org/GoNow/a15864a167576a424495831a8.

Tell your colleagues about the complete, FREE access to Diplomas Count and our Open House!

See you there,

Virginia B. Edwards
Editor and Publisher

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Monday, June 11, 2007

How much money to buy happiness?

If you've ever wondered how much money it would take to buy happiness, a new study will tell you -- but only in British pounds. (Here's a currency converter for you.)

From a London news story:

Their main source was a survey of 10,000 Britons, who were asked to rate their level of happiness and answer questions on their wealth, health and social relations.

The team, from the University of London, then placed all these people on a "life satisfaction scale" of one (utterly miserable) to seven (euphoric).

Using the information they had collated, they could calculate how much extra money the average person would have to earn every year to move up from one point on the scale to another. ...


Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, one of the main researchers, said: "One of the things we wanted to find out was the answer to the age-old question - can money buy the greatest amount of happiness for us?"

Turns out great health is worth about $600,000 U.S. per year, while marriage is worth about $100,000.

Dr. Nattavudh Powdthavee is from the Bedford Group for Life Course and Statistical Studies, Institute of Education, University of London. [Dr. Powdthavee's thesis was on "Essays on the Use of Subjective Well-Being Data in Economic Analysis: An Empirical Study Using Developed and Developing Countries Data" (download PDF).]

A quote from Dr. Powdthavee's website: "Unhappiness, on the other hand, is having everyone fallen asleep during one of your talks..." )

I think I could really get to like this guy. He's also the self-proclaimed editor of The Journal of Obvious Results, which says it "publishes articles that have been rejected more times than the author could remember by other peer-reviewed journals on the ground that 'The results are just too obvious'. " He invites submissions.

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Sustainability in Chester, Connecticut

There's a nice write-up on Justin Good's SolarClarity blog of Maureen Hart's work to help Chester, Connecticut develop sustainability indicators.

(Maureen Hart is the President of Sustainable Measures, author of the Guide to Sustainable Community Indicators, staff of the International Sustainability Indicators Network, and a really good person to have help you if your community is working on indicators of sustainability, as Justin clearly shows.)

Here's a couple of selections from the blog article:

"The single most important issue of the next century is going to be sustainability. Communities that make the jump to sustainability, economically and philosophically, will prosper, while those that cling dogmatically to the conventional wisdom of the 20th century will suffer the harsh, unpredictable consequences of a deepening oil and natural gas crisis, global climate change and the ensuing political, economic chaos of a post-9/11, post-Katrina world. "

"The word ‘sustainability’ is really just a new term for the old fashioned idea of stewardship: the careful, long-term management of community, land and resources. So what should we understand to be the goal of sustainable development? According to the widely-accepted definition adopted by the United Nations Brundtland Commission, sustainable development is development which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” and it can only be pursued if “population size and growth are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem.” By this standard, many of the economic processes and systems upon which our daily life depends in Chester are clearly very far from being sustainable."

"Now from a long-term planning perspective, the difficulty with becoming a genuinely sustainable community lies not in how you define sustainability, but in how you measure it."

The blog goes on to list the indicators that were developed in the community workshops. Check out the good work happening in Connecticut!

(While you're poking around Justin's blog, check out his article on Green Burial -- something to think about.)

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Happiness and Misery Indicators

I ran across a fascinating discussion running over a series of blogs about capitalism, happiness, economics, and indicators. A hat tip goes to the Philanthropy 2173 blog, which not only is where I ran across the story but which is also a serious conversation about philanthropy that takes its title and mission from Woody Allen's movie, Sleeper.

Economist Stefan Bergheim wrote for Deutsche Bank Research, 25 April 2007, The happy variety of capitalism: Characterised by an array of commonalities (PDF). In the article, he
identifies ten indicators for a happy society, from a cluster analysis of 22 countries and looking for the commonalities:

  1. High degree of trust in fellow citizens
  2. Low amount of corruption
  3. Low unemployment
  4. High level of education
  5. High income
  6. High employment rate of older people
  7. Small shadow economy
  8. Extensive economic freedom
  9. Low employment protection
  10. High birth rate

This list has raised some eyebrows, from the Economist blog saying "That's Enough Happynomics" and calling the research "bizarre" to a spirited exchange on the New Economist blog: "Ten Indicators for a Happy Society". One respondent pointed out that the U.S. already has a Misery Index, so why should it be a reach in public policy to develop a Happiness index?

Another referenced Richard Layard's lecture, Happiness: Has Social Science a Clue? (PDF), which seemed interesting so I'm passing it on.

So here's the question. Does your community indicators effort seek to quantify happiness? If so, how? if not, why not?

(Here's the Philanthropy blog article that introduced me to the piece: "Success Isn't Always in the Metrics")

I've written earlier about on Measuring Happiness, Satisfaction with Personal Life, and Measuring Personal Happiness -- I suspect that there's a great deal more we could be doing with community indicators than measuring civic involvement, government performance, or the sustainability of the external environments, even though these are all critical things to measure. Bergheim suggests that there is a direct public policy framework and priority related to social happiness we can measure and influence. That's something worth thinking about.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Community Indicators for Iraq?

I don't know if you caught this conversation if you watched CNN's Republican candidate debate last night. (I didn't either, but caught the transcript here.)

Of interest to me in the conversation was the suggestion by Rudy Giuliani of an "Iraq Stat" program, a series of indicators to measure progress toward defined outcomes. Did you hear that? Have you see Baltimore's Citistat program to see how it works?

Here's the context of the remarks, about the war in Iraq:

Mr. Giuliani: I believe that this terrorist war began way back in the 1970s. They attacked us in 1993 in New York. They attacked us again in 2001 in a horrible way. And I believe that what we’re doing in Iraq, if we can get it right, is going to help reduce the risk for this country. And if we get it wrong, it’s going to be much, much worse for us.

And part of what we have to do, and we haven’t done right, is take on that responsibility of nation-building. We created that responsibility for ourselves when we overthrew Saddam Hussein, which we did very effectively. It was one of the greatest military actions in American history overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

But we didn’t accomplish the second step. People can only embrace democracy when they have an orderly existence, and we have to help province that. We didn’t want that role, but it is our role. We have to train our military to do it. We should probably have an Iraq stat program, in which we measure how many people are going to school, how many factories are open, how many people are going to back to work. We had to get into the nitty-gritty of putting an orderly society together in Iraq. It is not too late to do it. (emphasis added)


Then later he added the following, about what he would change in Washington were he elected:

MR. GIULIANI: The thing that I would do different is I would establish accountability in Washington. ... I would establish programs like I did in New York City, where I had to deal with a heavily Democratic city — FedStat programs to measure accountability.

You get what you measure. If you don’t measure success, you have failure.

What do you think about that -- indicators as the solution for Iraq? For D.C.? For the country?

(Please note this is not an endorsement of a candidate, but a discussion of a strategy that every candidate, in whichever party, could adopt.)

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Citizen Engagement

One of the unique (and powerful) factors involved in community indicators is the citizen engagement in defining and users the indicators for community change. There's a fascinating intersection between data people and deliberative dialogue people in this field.

A useful resource for public deliberation and citizen engagement work is the IBM Center for The Business of Government report, "Public Deliberation: A Manager’s Guide to Citizen Engagement." In this report, Carolyn Lukensmeyer and Lars Hasselblad Torres describe a changing landscape in how citizens are becoming more involved in government, world wide. They describe a shift from the traditional "information exchange" to an "information processing" model of engagement, where citizens are no longer just consumers of government programs and policies but actively engage in shaping them. They describe a spectrum of citizen engagement models, ranging from the traditional approach of informing citizens of planned efforts, all the way to empowering citizens to directly make decisions.

Lukensmeyer and Torres provide a series of examples of how some cutting-edge citizen engagement model work, both face-to-face, and on-line. For example, in some communities in Brazil, citizens vote on how some budget items are to be spent in their neighborhoods. They conclude with recommendations to both agency leaders and governmentwide policymakers, recommending the creation of "champions" to review existing potential bureaucratic barriers to the use of these cutting-edge tools and to serve as advocates for their use in large-scale initiatives.

Lukensmeyer Report:
http://www.businessofgovernment.org/pdfs/LukensmeyerReport.pdf

IBM's Center for The Business of Government at:
http://www.businessofgovernment.org

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Indicators Conferences

New this week to the blog is a list of conferences dealing with indicators. The list is necessarily incomplete (with a number of exciting conferences happening at exactly the same times in June and October). One difficulty I had in trying to compile the list is that indicators are critical components of community change strategies in a number of different fields, and so a conference about improving health or rural development or social issues with a strong indicators focus seems to be as interesting as a conference focused solely on using or displaying data.

I'm not sure what the criteria should be for inclusion in the list, except that the conferences strike me as interesting. (I included a conference on sustainable development indicators in mining because (1) it was being held in Greece, which I'd love to visit and (2) it just looked fun.)

For those of use involved in technology and data, conferences may seem anachronistic -- why do we need face-to-face time when the web allows for simulcast streaming of sessions and interactive participation? The OECD World Forum has a Virtual Participation section, after all, which I hope you're planning on joining in evven if you can't make it to Istanbul this month. (Details here: "The OECD project "Measuring the Progress of Societies" seeks to create a global community who come together both virtually and at meetings, to learn from one another about how best to define, measure and achieve societal progress. It is possible to attend preparatory meeting and technical workshops and to submit a document for discussion through the OECD World Forum knowledge base.")

So why do you attend conferences? What conferences do you attend? Which conferences should I be including in the list? Drop me a line and let me know.

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Northwest Area Foundation Solutions Depot

If you live or work in the Northwestern United States, anywhere from Minnesota/Iowa to Washington/Oregon, you've likely visited (and used) the Northwest Area Foundation's Indicators Website.

Now NWAF has announced the launch of their Solutions Depot, an online catalog of efforts to make things happen in communities. Here's their announcement:

Thank you for visiting this online resource for community-focused poverty reduction and prosperity building. Please browse the shelves and fill your toolbox!

We’re stocking the shelves with:

  • How-to guides
  • Case studies
  • Web-based calculators and analyzers
  • Reports and studies
  • Links to organizations
  • Links to communities that can talk about their efforts and achievements

Don’t see what you need? Let us know.

Solutions Depot is designed to grow. Please tell us about tested, practical strategies and tools working in your community.

Poverty is a harsh reality for over 37 million people living in America. Reducing poverty is not a fast or easy goal. We hope NWAF Solutions Depot helps in your community efforts to move from poverty to prosperity.

Check it out and share your efforts ... this looks like it's going to be a great resource.

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Hennepin County Releases Indicators Report

Please keep me informed as your community issues your community indicators reports. The RSS feed doesn't catch all the local headlines, and I like to share each report as released. Hennepin County is a fascinating place, and people are doing good work there.

From The Pioneer, May 21, 2007:

Hennepin County residents continue to make positive strides in their health, safety and self-reliance, according to the Hennepin County Community Indicators report, issued every other year by the county’s Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement Department.The report provides a broad snapshot of community conditions and trends and is a reflection of the health of the county as a whole.

Overall, the indicators suggest that since the early 1990s, county residents are experiencing improvements in quality of life, including:

  • Overall teen pregnancy rates and teen birth rates have declined.
  • The percentage of children receiving age-appropriate immunizations has increased.
  • The water quality of county lakes has continued to improve.
  • The percent of adults receiving public assistance has decreased.
  • Motor vehicle crashes with injuries or death continued their downward trend.

Despite overall gains in quality of life, the indicators also reflect a need for focused improvement in several areas. Among the challenges facing the county are:

  • Reported violent crime and property crime rates have begun to increase.
  • Child care costs constitute an increasing percentage of residents’ incomes.
  • The percentage of residents who lack health care insurance has continued to increase.

County departments will be evaluating this information as they prepare the 2008 budget.To read the report, log onto Hennepin County’s Web site at www.hennepin.us and click on “Your County Government,” “Reports, Plans & Studies” and “Hennepin County Community Indicators Report” or call (612) 348-4466.

You can also see the report by clicking here.

My favorite parts of the report are these:

(1) The search for indicators of "assured due process." Here's what they say: "Overarching Goal: Assured Due Process. Separate teams that worked on previous Community Indicator reports have not been able to agree on what would be meaningful indicators for this overarching goal. In 2007, the Hennepin County Department of Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement will engage Hennepin County government, municipalities in Hennepin County, and community organizations to identify key indicators that represent Hennepin County for use in the 2008 Community Indicators report." I think that's an interesting goal, and look forward to ways in which they'll measure assured due process -- if you have an idea, post it here or give them a call (I'm sure they'd appreciate it.)

(2) I like the look and feel of the report. Lots of pictures, plenty of white space, the graphs are crisp and clear, and the endnotes provide references and occasional comments about what is being measured. Telling me "the story behind the numbers" was very helpful.

I would have appreciated a little more metadata -- I wasn't sure how some of the numbers were calculated, and didn't want to go search someone else's website to see where the data was located. (Sending me to the home page of a government website is a starting point for finding data, but it's an awful lot of work to figure out which report on that site you pulled the data from. I ran out of interest before I found the report.)

Anyway, congratulations to Hennepin County, Minnesota, for a successful report. Check it out!

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Indicators That Tire You Out

According to First Time Home Buyers' Blog, Orange County, California, is the best city for sleeping. Here's an excerpt:

Having trouble catching some ZZZZZ’s? Maybe you should consider moving to one of Sperling’s “Best Cities For Sleep.” According to one of their most recent studies, Orange County, CA, was the city in which residents had the most days of restful sleep per month.

Orange County is the second largest county in California, and the fifth largest county in the country. With the highest concentration of high-tech industries in the U.S., and a strong job market, Orange County has seen a rise in population in the last couple of years, according to the county’s Community Indicators Project. In fact, the OC has more inhabitants than the states of Utah, Nevada, Iowa, and Idaho. ...

Are you curious about what city took the honor of “worst city for sleep”? That dubious honor went to Atlanta, GA. This is very interesting, since that city is the home of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine.

Interestingly enough, I haven't seen community indicators that track naptime before. Perhaps with the aging of the Baby Boomers, we ought to consider a good night's rest a critical measure of the quality of life in a community ....

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ACS: Comments Needed

From the NNIP listserve:

American Community Survey Alert, Number 49 (released June 1, 2007)
U.S. Census Bureau Seeks Input on ACS Summary File (ACS-SF) Prototype

The ACS Office developed and released last January a prototype ACS Summary File (ACS-SF), and encourages data users to provide comments on this prototype to help us design and implement the full version of the ACS-SF by December 2007.

The ACS-SF contains the detailed tables for all geographies published by the 2005 ACS and is similar to the Census 2000 summary files. The Census Bureau plans to provide a separate set of summary files for one-year and three-year estimates beginning in 2008, and for five-year estimates beginning in 2010.

Please send your comments on the ACS-SF prototype via email to:
nicholas.m.spanos@census.gov no later than July 31, 2007. Subsequent updates or changes to the ACS-SF will be announced via ACS Alert and on the ACS Web site: http://www.blogger.com/www.census.gov/acs/www.

The ACS is a key component of the Census Bureau's 2010 Decennial Census Program, which also consists of early planning and modernization of geographic operations and a short-form only for the 2010 Census.

Contact Us
If you have questions or comments about the American Community Survey, please call
(888) 346-9682 or e-mail cmo.acs@census.gov .

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