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, January 31, 2008

JCCI Releases 23rd Annual Community Indicators Report

The 2007 edition of the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) Quality of Life Progress Report has been recently released. The 23rd edition outlines clear priorities for action for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida for the coming year.

The report includes 111 indicators that reflect trends in nine external environments: Achieving Educational Excellence; Growing a Vibrant Economy; Preserving the Natural Environment; Promoting Social Wellbeing and Harmony; Enjoying Arts, Culture and Recreation; Sustaining a Healthy Community; Maintaining a Responsive Government; Moving Around Efficiently; and Keeping the Community Safe.

Much of the data for the Quality of Life Progress Report is obtained from the records and documents of various public and private organizations. An annual opinion survey provides the remaining data.

At the release event, Ronald Autrey, chair of the 2007 Quality of Life Progress Report Review Committee and chair of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, presented the report to Mayor John Peyton and the citizens of Jacksonville.

The Florida Times-Union reported: Acknowledging what he called "externally imposed reductions to local funding," referring to Tuesday's approval of the property tax amendment, Ron Autrey outlined the findings of the Jacksonville Community Council Inc.'s 2007 Quality of Life Progress Report. Autrey, head of Miller Electric Co., and chairman of the report, spoke of the level of uncertainty the tax amendment will impose on the community's efforts to sustain the gains and to make improvements that are needed. The purpose of the annual report, he added, is "to help keep important issues on the public's mind."

Local television added that the good news is that the community cares. "Every one of those negative trends is being looked at, by government, by business, by concerned individuals and nonprofit agencies," Autrey said.

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) is a nonprofit civic organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Northeast Florida. Since 1975, JCCI has convened diverse groups of citizens each year to identify significant community issues for in-depth study. Its goal is to increase public awareness and promote positive action. JCCI’s study process and indicator reports have served as models for hundreds of communities around the world. For more information, visit the JCCI web site at http://www.jcci.org/.

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Super Crunchers: Book Review

I picked up the book Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart at an airport bookstore and was entertained for nearly the entire trip to Chicago. I thought community indicators practitioners might be interested in Ian Ayres' book, and so I'll share my thoughts.

Please note that this is coming from the perspective of someone who has been trying for quite some time to increase the use of data-based decision-making, particularly in public policy. The chapters on public policy -- especially "Government by Chance" -- were especially interesting to me, but I was predisposed to accept the author's arguments from the outset.

The book begins with a discussion of the incredibly large quantities of data available now. He points out that "a terabyte is the equivalent of 1,000 gigabytes. The prefix tera comes from the Greek word for monster. A terabyte is truly a monstrously large quantity. The entire Library of Congress is about twenty terabytes of text." He tries to get us used to the idea of huge amounts of data and increased cheap data storage and powerful processing capabilities, which allows for "super crunching" of data. (He doesn't mention the rumors of a terabyte ipod, however.)

(For another perspective on the amount of data being generated, see this earlier blog post from last March. It has pictures. And a discussion of exabytes, which are way cooler than terabytes.)

With that amount of data, and that amount of processing speed, amazing things can be done. 100,000 lives saved with simple changes in medical practice. Effective policy demonstration practices replicated quickly. Airlines and booksellers and grocery stores tailoring their pricing structure to extract as much money as possible from you.

Wait, that last part didn't sound as exciting. But that's the downside of this data explosion -- along with the lack of privacy, the notion that business can use data to your personal dollar pain threshhold and come as close to it as possible.

So how do we counteract these trends? Increased public availability of data. Community access to information. Put the data in the hands of the consumer or voter and see what kinds of revolutionary changes are possible.

The author's a friend of the Freakonomics guys, and tries to write a book as engaging and controversial as theirs. It's not quite there. But it should make you think a little bit about how you use data and the importance of open, free access to information to counteract the growing information imbalances in our society.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Cradle to Prison Pipeline" Report

The Children's Defense Fund has issued a report called America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline. The report identifies what it calls "an urgent national crisis at the intersection of poverty and race that puts Black boys at a one in three lifetime risk of going to jail, and Latino boys at a one in six lifetime risk of the same fate."

The narrative is compelling. The photos are haunting. But the real story, and why I'm bringing this report to your attention, is the constellation of indicators that together tell a story that both saddens and overwhelms.

It is in this appendix (PDF document) that we see a series of state-by-state indicators that begin with the number of children and advance chronologically through childbirth, poverty, school, foster care, abuse, dropping out, gun violence, and incarceration. The picture is bleak.

But I would like you to review the use of indicators to make the point. And think about how you use indicators to tell the stories of your community.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

EveryBlock Now Online

I had the opportunity yesterday to explore EveryBlock.com, a new website that captures community information on an address-specific basis for a different way to look at what's happening in your community. Right now the site covers Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, but the author is promising to add more cities over time.

Al's Morning Meeting blog provides a quick assessment of the functionality of the website and its tools. I played around with the site and quickly got Flickr photos, news stories, crime reports, restaurant inspections, business reviews, and a number of other localized information bits about a part of Chicago I knew nothing about.

On the one hand, this is an exciting expansion of usable information into the hands of people who might want to know more about a neighborhood. Combine this with www.zillow.com and you've got an incredible amount of address-specific information in one spot.

On the other hand, however, finding the meaning behind the signal noise just got a little bit harder. What does all of this information mean? What can I do with it? How can I aggregate or constellate the information in a way that tells me the story -- or even a story -- of the neighborhood? Can I draw a conclusion from the information in any way that makes me feel comfortable that I've added to my understanding of the community? Can I make better decisions about public policy or social service provision or economic development at any level more than "gee, that looks awful. don't think I want to live there!"

I don't know the answers to these questions. I'm excited for the product, but I suspect it will take others to figure out how to best use this new tool for community improvement and not just voyeurism.

But you need to know more about the project itself. Here's a selection from an interview with Adrian Holovaty at Poynter Online (click here to read the full article):

Tompkins: What does EveryBlock do?

Holovaty: EveryBlock filters an assortment of local news by location so you can keep track of what's happening on your block, in your neighborhood and all over your city. We compile news, we classify it by location/geography, and we present a beautiful, easy-to-use interface that lets people view news in specific locations.

Tompkins: How does EveryBlock work?

Holovaty: There are two main ways of reading news on EveryBlock -- by location and by type. You can search for any address, neighborhood or zip code in the city (more on the city list in a bit), or you can browse by type of information: restaurant inspections, mainstream media articles/blog entries, crimes, building permits, etc.

Tompkins: How does the data gathering/classification work?

Holovaty: We have a sophisticated collection of computer programs that crawl news and information from all around the Web. We've written some algorithms that are able to detect locations in free-form text with a reasonable degree of certainty, and we also manually tag information in cases where the computers don't cut it. This is an area of ongoing experimentation.


Comment here on what you think, or let them know at EveryBlock.com -- they have a nice feedback form to allow for your input on how to make the product better.

Hat Tip: Kathy Pettit

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Maps Wanted

From the NNIP listserve:

Please consider submitting a map for display at the first ever Regional Equity Map Exhibition at Regional Equity '08: The Third National Summit on Equitable Development, Social Justice, and Smart Growth, to be held March 5-8 in New Orleans, Lousiana.

We are looking for maps used to further equitable development in communities and regions. Maps may have been created for any purpose, such as data analysis, community organizing, civic engagement, policy advocacy, planning processes, program implementation, or evaluation.

Submissions are due by February 8, 2008. Please follow the guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.regionalequity08.org/atf/cf/%7BF0BEAA1E-C0AD-4629-A5A9-9925BBAA1467%7D/Map%20Exhibit%20Submission%20Guidelines_final_feb8.pdf

And to find out more about the Summit and register go to www.regionalequity08.org.

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Living Inside Networks of Knowledge

Nick Chrisman has an interesting article in ArcNews in the Fall 2007 issue (which just showed up in my inbox -- don't know how long someone else had been reading it). The article, Living Inside Networks of Knowledge, begins by discussing the history of the architecture of the Internet. He makes the point that:

The Internet was not unprecedented. Connecting a significant portion of the world's population to an integrated network of communication is something our society has done over and over again. The telegraph system was one such system. From its inception in the mid-19th century, the telegraph provided light-speed communications from place to place. It remained centralized, and the last mile involved boys on bicycles, but the overall increase in speed was enormous. The telegraph was followed by the telephone, bringing the equipment right into each house. In a sober analysis, the Internet, as most people use it, simply makes another transition in the details of the connection.

He argues for a transformation in the way we think about knowledge distribution. GIS, which is his subject, is still "living out the original dreams of the 1960s" – we're still using 1974 technology in File Transfer Protocols (FTP) to take a worldwide interconnected network of information providers and users and force onto it the centralized model of the telegraph office.

Here's the exciting part:

As long as the current distribution of geographic power revolves around being a gatekeeper, a custodian of data, the potential of the distributed sensor network is diminished. What is required is an escape from the "Prisoner's Dilemma." [Note: This dilemma comes from game theory: many situations are structured to disfavor cooperation.] And there are glimmers of hope in this regard. In the tightest of information economies, there are "Free Data Movements."

How do we make use of the real power of the internet? Reshaping the "data economy" is a human issue, not a technical one, he says. "Knowledge networks have escaped from the hierarchical structure." Spatial search is a step forward, but even Google Earth misses the social networking side. But the data movement is marching on.

One of the key elements of the technology is the empowerment of citizens to produce their own spatial information, then to present it publicly. This overthrows the specialist model of the centralized model from decades past.

If social networking is the transformative future of the web, then licensing/closed shop/restricted access to tools and data is standing in the way of progress. (You do remember that this newsletter/newspaper is published by ESRI?) This is an incredibly important message, and one that ought to be transforming the way we do our work in community indicators. How open is our information? How open source our software? Are we gatekeepers and presenters of data, or are we part of a network that allows for everyone to be part of both providing and using information?

The knowledge networks of the web contain their own challenges. How do we know which information to trust? How well do we provide metadata so that others can trust the information we provide? How collaborative are we in engaging to build networks of data users and providers?

Read the article at http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/fall07articles/living-inside.html and then comment here. This conversation needs to be louder and more of us need to join in.

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Balanced Scorecard Resources (and new project hint)

Posts have been a little slower lately -- I'm working on a project that should be of interest to the blog readers here, and am looking forward to when it can be brought into beta testing and I can invite all of you to participate. (If any of you are interested in helping in the alpha stage as we deal with site design, please drop me a line.)

In the meantime, I've been talking with the good folks at http://www.activestrategy.com/. (Here's a shout out to Heather Smith!) They have some interesting free webinars on performance improvement, geared largely to private sector and government applications.

They invite the people on this blog to check out their archived webinars -- there's some interesting information available there.

They're providing an intermediate webinar on February 6 for people already familiar with building Balanced Scorecards. They're also doing one on how to leverage the Balanced Scorecard framework within their software, and finally one about BSC in hospitals. He tells me that a public sector webinar probably won't be scheduled until April.

They also have educational seminars coming up this year - the first is in LA, with a general track and a healthcare track. Their first seminar with a public sector track will be in Nashville in September. The information is located here:
http://www.activestrategy.com/events_and_news/seminars/index.aspx.

They also have a blog with a public sector category:
http://www.strategyexecutionblog.com/ese_in_government/index.html.

Take a look and see if this helps meet your needs. Let me know what you think. If you have other resources you'd like the blog audience to know about, drop me a line.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Community Monitoring Systems Report


The National Institute on Drug Abuse has issued a report on Community Monitoring Systems: Tracking and Improving the Well-Being of America's Children and Adolescents.

Here's a selection from the Executive Summary which might pique your interest:

Monitoring the well-being of children and adolescents is a critical component of efforts to prevent psychological, behavioral, and health problems and to promote their successful development. Research during the past 40 years has helped identify aspects of child and adolescent functioning that are important to monitor. These aspects, which encompass family, peer, school, and neighborhood influences, have been shown to be associated with both positive and negative outcomes for youth. As systems for monitoring well-being become more available, communities will become better able to support prevention efforts and select prevention practices that meet community-specific needs.

There is evidence that supports the importance of certain factors for young people to function successfully including academic success and participation in volunteer activities. Research also has identified biological, psychological, and social factors that are associated with negative outcomes in youth; these include substance use, antisocial behavior, risky sexual practices, and academic failure. From a public health perspective, the problems most important to monitor can be chosen based on their prevalence and consequences to youth, their families, and communities.

Communities can choose which factors to monitor based on the prevalence and consequences of these factors in their community. This monograph describes Federal, State, and local monitoring systems that provide estimates of problem prevalence; risk and protective factors; and profiles regarding mobility, economic status, and public safety indicators. Data for these systems come from surveys of adolescents and archival records.

By focusing attention on measurable outcomes, Community Monitoring Systems (CMSs) can help bring about critical improvements in the lives of children and adolescents and affect positive changes at the community level. To the extent that these systems can be made available to communities, they will foster support for prevention efforts and guide selection of increasingly effective prevention and treatment practices.

As communities become skilled at implementing and operating CMSs, they can use data to guide them in choosing programs, policies, and practices (PPPs) that address malleable risk and protective factors in order to prevent young people from engaging in risk behaviors, which in turn can help bolster the well-being of the entire community.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

JCCI Releases 3rd Race Relations Indicators Report

At the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Jacksonville, Florida, the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) released its third Race Relations Progress Report, a series of community indicators measuring racial and ethnic disparities in the quality of life of Jacksonville.

Community indicators reports, in their aggregations, sometimes miss the real story in the community -- if the quality of life is measurably different for different people in the community, the averages can be meaningless or misleading.

This is the third annual report card on racial disparities that JCCI has released. Take a look. I've added some of the local comments on the report for you to read.

Columnist Ron Littlepage writes:

When I was a youngster, blacks couldn't drink from the same water fountains I did. That separation held true for public restrooms, and I've never forgotten the pain and embarrassment of being refused service at a restaurant when accompanied by a black friend. I was reared in the Bible Belt, but the Bible's teachings certainly weren't being followed.


With the optimism of youth, I saw a better society in the future, one where race didn't determine relationships. And there have been positive changes. The "whites only" and "for coloreds" signs are gone. Blacks have made gains in the business and political worlds.

But now as I approach 60, it's clear that my generation has failed just as past generations had when it comes to race. That was evident last week when the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. released its annual report on the progress of race relations in Jacksonville.

"All indicators demonstrate unacceptable disparities between white and black residents," the report concludes. Those disparities are in education, employment and income, neighborhoods and housing, health, the legal system, and political and civic engagement.

Blogger (and strong community activist) Tony Allegretti added:

... JCCI's Race Relations Progress Report. This is the single most depressing report I have ever read. Grab it (and all their other work) here. If you don't have time, let me read you the only bold sentence in the Executive Summary: All indicators demonstrate unacceptable disparities between white and black residents. That will make cold eggs seem colder.

The editorial page of the local paper commented on the report:
As we honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps the greatest American of his generation in helping this country fulfill its promise of "one nation, under God," we search for a guidepost.

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. provides an annual guide with its Race Relations Progress Report. It was released recently at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

Bill Bond, who led the JCCI review committee, told the roughly 2,000 people at breakfast that the city's murder rate is "appalling." And he said we should "cry ourselves to sleep" over the high infant mortality rate. How true.

Yet, he said, we are a "city of courage" that has been willing to take bold steps.

In a news article about the report,

Compiling a race relations report, which was one of the recommendations of the 2002 JCCI study "Beyond the Talk: Improving Race Relations," is something the JCCI has done for the past three years. [Commiteee Chair Bill] Bond said the most positive aspect of the report is that the JCCI still is committed to taking an annual look at the issue.

"At least we're talking about these things," [NAACP President Isaiah] Rumlin agreed. "Twenty years ago, we weren't doing that."


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Clay County Florida Launches New Indicators Project

Clay County, Florida, is developing its community indicators project. They began by launching a community survey to develop a scope for community visioning efforts, to be followed by a more formal visioning process and then indicators to measure progress towards that vision.

The survey was provided through two local newspapers,My Clay Sun and Clay Today, as well as on a new website, ClayQOL.com.

Ray Avery, chair of the citizen's committee behind the process, had this to say:

“I believe we are at a critical time in the life of Clay County,” said Ray Avery, chair of the Clay Quality Council Steering Committee. “I believe it is time for our citizens to determine a shared vision for our future and develop the tools to track our progress. The development of our own Clay County Quality of Life Indicators is a first step to develop the baseline from which to measure our progress toward the vision we set. ...

“I am still learning about this program but from all I have read, this approach makes good common sense and I am very excited about the prospect of our entire community including business leaders, community leaders, faith groups, civic organizations, educators, environmentalist and residents from all walks of life in Clay County coming together to establish a vision for the future and establishing indicators to measure our progress. For this to be an ongoing success it is essential that our entire community participate.”

More about the project is available here, here, and here.

I was also interested in reading the responses to this blog article about the survey -- the sponsors were up front about where the money was coming from to support the effort, and this seems to raise suspicion among some residents.

Which leads me to my question for this group -- community work costs money. How do you create financially sustainable community indicators projects while maintaining both actual impartiality and the perception of absolute integrity in the process?

In Jacksonville, potential contributors are vetted against a series of criteria before being allowed to give money to the project, but the success of this effort may be driven in part by a trusted, proven process with a lengthy community history before the first project sponsors were brought on board to defray rising costs. How do you launch an effort which has to establish its reputation while raising funds to cover its costs?

Read more ...

Friday, January 11, 2008

State of the World 2008 Released

Here's a press release from the Worldwatch Institute:

Pioneering entrepreneurs, nongovernmental organizations, and governments around the globe are now inventing the Earth's first sustainable global economy, according to State of the World 2008: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy. In response to climate change and other environmental problems, these leaders are field-testing a remarkable array of economic innovations that offer surprising and hopeful new opportunities for long-term prosperity.

"Once regarded as irrelevant to economic activity, environmental problems are drastically rewriting the rules for business, investors, and consumers, affecting over $100 billion in annual capital flows," say project co-directors Gary Gardner and Thomas Prugh.

The world economy is now at grave risk from environmental threats, but those threats are also creating an unprecedented wave of innovation from both the private and public sectors, Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin said at the recent press conference in Washington, D.C. "That is now giving us a fighting chance of stabilizing the world's atmosphere and dealing with the array of other environmental problems we now face," said Flavin.

Want to learn more about State of the World 2008? Check our quick links
· State of the World 2008 Discussion Questions. Recommended for business leaders, book clubs, advanced students, classrooms, faith-based groups, policymakers, and their staff.
· Innovations: Ideas Outlined in State of the World 2008. From carbon trading and manufacturing efficiencies to new ways of raising food, pioneers are sowing the seeds for a sustainable economy.
· Photo Slideshow: State of the World 2008 in Pictures. See photos of nature's economic contributions, "gross national happiness" in Bhutan, and other innovations mentioned in State of the World 2008.
· State of the World 2008 Audio Hub. Listen to a podcast with project co-directors Gary Gardner and Tom Prugh, or hear authors and journalists discuss the book at a Washington, D.C. press conference.

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Call for Papers: Mental Well-being and Happiness

ROYAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY / INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS
ANNUAL CONFERENCE
27-29 AUGUST 2008, LONDON, UK
(
www.rgs.org/ac2008)

CALL FOR PAPERS

Mental Well-being and Happiness

A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903), Act I

For the last 50 years Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has underpinned psychological understandings of achieving the ultimate in mental well-being; to achieve self-actualisation. But new understandings of well-being and happiness across the developed and developing worlds are dismantling the hierarchy and challenging the way we conceive of mental health.

Concerns with mental health have been dominated by a focus on deviations from a ‘norm’ – particularly where this relates to stress and psychological disorder. In contrast to traditional methods, more recent understandings of mental health are extending beyond these negative boundaries embracing emotions at the positive end of the scale. Happiness, satisfaction with life or quality of life are merging to provide more holistic measures of subjective well-being embracing the complex relationships between the individual and their environment.

The spaces, and their potential to become places, that people inhabit are important concepts for these new conceptualisations. They not only facilitate our understanding of how the physical, cultural, and political environment impact on health, but, importantly, provide the framework for understanding how these external spaces are internalised and give rise to the emotions that manifest as negative and positive mental health states. In this session we wish to draw out this discussion by considering how these complex relationships and processes play out at the local and global level affecting mental illness, mental health, psychological well-being and happiness.

To facilitate this debate on the changing and broadening concepts of mental well-being, and consider the implications for geographic – the importance of ‘space’ and ‘place’ –understandings of these phenomena, we welcome papers along the broad questions of:

What do we mean by mental health?
Is mental health the same or different to happiness and well-being?
How do we measure these abstract concepts?
Do space and place matter for mental well-being and happiness?
What are the implications for public health and health policy in developed and developing nations if the aim is to reduce suffering and enhance well-being and happiness?

The deadline for abstracts (of around 200 words) is 8 February 2008. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Beverley Searle Chris Dunn
Research Fellow Senior Lecturer


Dr Beverley A Searle
Research Fellow
Department of Geography
University of Durham
South Road
Durham DH1 3LE

Telephone: 0191 334 1901
Fax: 0191 334 1801


Department of Goegraphy
http://www.dur.ac.uk/geography/

Pathways of Housing Wealth and Well-being
http://www.geography.dur.ac.uk/Clusters/Default.aspx?alias=www.geography.dur.ac.uk/clusters/swsj


Social Well-being and Spatial Justice Cluster
http://www.geography.dur.ac.uk/Clusters/Default.aspx?alias=www.geography.dur.ac.uk/clusters/swsj

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Mapping Technology and the Civil War

One of the reasons why mapping technologies are so interesting is the incredible amount of information that you can convey quickly and clearly. When you add animation to a map, you can convey hundreds of thousands of data points as they change over time in ways that tell the story in a compelling fashion -- no sets of tables or graphs have quite the same power that I've seen, at least not so far.

Here's an example that should make us all sit up and take notice. It's the American Civil War* in Four Minutes, and I hope you find it as interesting as I do. Look for both the story it tells -- I know I learned quite a bit -- and the potential applications of this kind of technology to the stories you want to tell.

For example, can you imagine a similar time series showing wetlands losses over the past 50 years? Changes in average home prices per geography? Crime statistics? High school graduation and dropout rates? The list is endless, and multiple variables would make it even more interesting, especially if the data display technology shows something about how they interact.

What do you think? Have you tried something like this before in a community indicators effort, or in a way to display data effectively? Do you have other examples you've seen that you'd like to share?


* Note: I live in a part of the country that often refers to this same event as "The War Between the States". I was on a historical tour when the guide, a wonderful woman of a certain age with an amazing hat, referred to this same time frame as "the Great Unpleasantness." I only bring this up to remind the reader that in any effort to convey information, you need to know your audience.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Indicators of This Blog Community

I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your participation in this experiment in creating a blog all about community indicators. I joke with friends that I have created perhaps the most boring blog on the internet (and there's some pretty stiff competition!), and I worried that I'd run out of things to say or links to post about as fast as people would run out of interest.

This blog began on March 15, 2007. In 2007, we ended up with 267 blog articles; 4,774 absolute unique visitors from 102 countries; 6,119 visits; 10,720 page views; and an average time on site of 1:45 minutes. By the last quarter of the year we were averaging over 1,000 visitors and 2,000 page views a month.

(Because of the kind of people you are, you might enjoy this article: http://www.caslon.com.au/weblogprofile1.htm on blogging statistics. It has data about blogs, which seems kind of fun.)

So what's next for 2008? There's a lot more information to get out there, and a greater need to organize this information into easily accessible segments. 2007 brought us GapMinder and Many Eyes and Swivel -- 2008 could bring us an explosion of new technology and ideas and data display tools and data sources and data aggregations.

We're exploring opportunities to expand the conversation through Web 2.0 and social networking software and integrated discussion boards and more. I'm looking for other people who might be interested in helping author articles from different points of view (including different countries and languages) to begin to encompass the increasingly global movement that community indicators have become. I'd love your feedback on what could make this site more interesting, informative, or useful for you.

Because the need to capture information, sort through the piles of data, and present clear and compelling statistics for data-driven decision-making and advocacy will only be growing. The increasing amount of information out there only makes community-based, community-driven indicator reports more important. And the need for community-level input into the conversations and projects at national indicator efforts (like the State of the USA effort) or international efforts (like OECD or the Beyond GDP work) is of paramount importance to avoid leaving our local communities swept aside in the aggregations.

What do you think? Reply to this message or e-mail me through my profile -- this blog is for you.

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Transportation Indicators

Many community indicator efforts examine measures of mobility -- how well do community systems support the transportation needs of the citizenry? This may include indicators of commute times, traffic congestion, mass transit use and availability, vehicle miles traveled, effectiveness of roadway systems, transportation planning, commute sheds, or more.

The Washington State Department of Transportation deserves enormous kudos for the resource list it has compiled. They set out to examine best practices in performance measurement for transportation systems across the country, and when they had compiled the lot, they created a website that shares their research with all interested parties.

Go to http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Accountability/Publications/Library.htm to see their Performance Measurement Library with links to State DOT sites, with their performance measurement dashboards and their traffic congestion reports. In addition, they've provided links to national (U.S.) data sets; links to Australian and New Zealand data sets; selected city, county, and regional data reports; and other research and reports you may find useful.

If you're looking to create or enhance your community's transportation indicators as a separate index or part of an overall community indicators report, this site is an invaluable starting point.

(Note: If you were a member of the Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Network listserve, you'd know this already ... why not check them out?)

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Graduation Rates Mapping Tool

A friend sent along this mapping tool for high school graduation rates in the United States. See http://mapsg.edweek.org/edweekv2/default.jsp to look at graduation rates by state or zoom in for district comparisons.

Beyond just seeing the color-coded map, you can hover your mouse over a district and get additional details, or click for a full district report. Quick, easy, informative. See http://mapsg.edweek.org/edweekv2/help.htm#district for more information about how to use the tool.

Keep sending along these data tools!

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Translation Widget Added

On the left-hand side of the page, you should notice a new box allowing you to translate this page into other languages. I've been looking at different ways to open this site up to more people around the world, and thought I'd try this as a test.

Please take a moment to test it and give me feedback -- useful, not useful? How could it be improved? Do you know of a better widget I should be plugging in?

Thanks for your input. If you have other suggestions for improving this blog, please let me know as well, either by replying to this post or e-mailing me directly (through my profile).

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Indicators of Spirituality

A Call for Papers crossed my inbox recently and got me to thinking about indicators of spirituality as part of quality-of-life measurements. First, here's the call for papers:

APPLIED RESEARCH IN QUALITY OF LIFE: OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF QUALITY OF LIFE STUDIES – ISQOLS
www.isqols.org

CALL FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST IN A SPECIAL EDITION ON SPIRITUALITY, RELIGION & QOL

Professors Mark Peterson, Dave Webb and Rick Sawatzky would like to invite authors to submit a one-page expression of interest for a special edition of ARQOL focusing on the theme Spirituality, Religion and QOL.

Focus of special edition: Our goal as co-editors of this special edition is to advance knowledge in the area by bringing together in one forum the latest thinking in the area.

While we invite expressions of interest relating to any aspect of Spirituality, Religion and QOL, we are particularly interested in receiving papers that in the context of QOL explore the conceptual structure and subsequent operationalization of ‘spirituality’ and ‘religiosity’.

Who can submit? We welcome contributions from the many disciplines represented in the ISQOLS database.

Publication consideration is not restricted to current ISQOLS members but it will be a condition of publication that authors be members of ISQOLS at the time of publication.

Please submit an electronic copy of your one-page extended abstract by 28 March 2008.


We've mentioned indicators of religious attendance and spirituality before, most notably in this article on data sources about religions and this discussion of how Pikes Peak used indicators on religion to combat erroneous perceptions of their community.

However, neither discussion really captured the dimension of spirituality as a measure of the quality of an individual's life, or how you could develop indicators to measure such a thing on a community-wide basis. I'm not sure what's out there in this arena -- just a very quick look brought me to George Barna's The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators, a 1996 book I haven't yet read (but I ordered a copy just to see what the author had to say.)

Has anyone explored spirituality as a dimension in your quality of life indicators? Have you included it in surveys of happiness? Is this an important aspect of community indicators that we ought to be exploring (noting that at the time of this post, it's the beginning of the New Hampshire primaries in selecting candidates for the next American president, a contest in which religion at least has played a significant role to date.)

Thoughts, anyone?


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Quote of the Day

Sorry about the delay -- this quote is from TIME magazine from last month:

"We've always thought facts and data will have to drive the company. We used to say, 'In God we trust. Everyone else brings data.' "

N. R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys.

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2008 Forum on Local Government Performance Measurement

2008 Forum on Local Government Performance Measurement
Transparency. Accountability. Engagement.

WHEN: January 30 – 31, 2008
WHERE: Sheraton Read House, Chattanooga, TN

The Southeastern Results Network (SERN) is pleased to present the first Forum on Local Government Performance Measurement. This conference will feature a variety of presentations and workshops on key performance measurement issues, including:

  • developing indicators
  • performance budgeting
  • reporting to the public
  • 311-systems
  • collecting data
  • and many more!

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Colonel Dean Esserman, Police Chief, Providence, RI Col. Esserman will be speaking on the role of community policing and performance measurement in producing a double-digit drop in Providence crime rates over the past five years.

The Forum will provide the unique opportunity for practitioners from both local government and community-based organizations from around the Southeast to come together, share ideas and best practices, and to work together to address issues around government performance measurement.

For more information and a complete conference schedule, please visit www.seresultsnetwork.org

About SERN: SERN is a membership organization of local governments and community-based organizations that have an interest in improving performance measurement and accountability in government. SERN seeks to facilitate these groups working together and sharing information on best practices in developing and measuring indicators of government performance. SERN is funded in part by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation .

Click here to read SERN’s full case statement.

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