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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Report Release: Twin Cities Compass

I received a nice note from Craig Helmstetter, Senior Research Scientist at Wilder Research. They've just released a new community indicators report called Twin Cities Compass. They're interested in the reaction of the indicators community to their format/structure and the indicator selection -- check out the report in PDF (two pages!) at

Here's what I find so intriguing about the report. One of the challenges we have is how to convey a lot of information quickly and clearly so that it captures the imagination and informs the public. Here they have nine elements defining progress for the region:

  • civic engagement;
  • early childhood;
  • economy and workforce;
  • education;
  • environment;
  • health;
  • housing;
  • public safety; and
  • transportation.

Each section has between two and four indicators. For each indicator, there's an arrow showing the trendline -- better or worse. There's a national comparison (one to three "compass rose" symbols showing better, same, or worse), and columns for Y or N under disparities in income, place, or race. Then there's a column for sources, and on the back a timeline of the activities that got them to this point.

The website is where you can find the actual data and more information on each indicator --

I love the attention to the disparities -- the devil's in the disaggregations, as we've mentioned before -- and the indicator set seems pretty good. There's an opportunity to use sparklines instead of/along with arrows to show trends, which might be interesting in a future report. And the compass symbols are more distracting than information -- I had to keep going back to the legend to figure out what they meant, and since it's printing in color the red-yellow-green color scheme might have worked better. And I wish there were not so many N/A's on the page -- even blank spots would have been preferable/less distracting.

But that's nit-picking. Overall, a really nice effort, especially in putting together a companion printed overview piece with a more in-depth interactive website effort. And with plenty of community engagement. Well done!


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