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.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cross-posted: Instant Atlas Blog

Here's a piece I wrote for the Instant Atlas blog -- thought I'd cross-post it for those of you following along here.

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) began using Instant Atlas to display its Quality of Life Progress Report community indicators in September of 2009. For the first 18 months, we used the Single Map Template to show approximately 125 indicators, many of them stretching back over 25 years, in a way that was revolutionary for our community. People throughout our community, from policy-makers to grant writers to community advocates, appreciated the ease and clarity with which they could get the data they needed. On our part, we appreciated the freedom from the constraints of the printed report, allowing us to update information as soon as it was released (often beating the local newspaper to the publication of new data.)


Beginning last month, we decided to see how our community would react to seeing some of the other tools Instant Atlas has to offer. When we used the Double Map Template and began playing with the scatterplot tools, we started to see interesting (and sometimes unexpected) correlations that we could verify over time. In fact, the use of this template helped provide a definitive answer if one of our indicators truly was still a significant and useful measure today. (It was, much more than anticipated.)

If the scatterplot tool, allowing comparisons between two indicators, revealed such interesting information, we wondered what the Bubble Plot Template might show? Once we began examining relationships among four indicators at the same time, we began to see targeted opportunities for additional research and policy direction. For example, when examining high school graduation rates, we found school districts that were overperforming in relation to the social and economic conditions within the district, and other districts that were underperforming – including districts with a reputation for excellence. Suddenly, we were able to bring together useful information in a compelling visual display with the ability to reshape community conversations around priorities and policies – and the data is available for anyone in our community to check for themselves.


You can see how we’re using Instant Atlas at www.jcci.org.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SA 2020 Update

On March 19, we completed the first phase of the SA 2020 process with a public release and written report (available here.)  It was an amazing experience as the people of San Antonio came together to reach a shared vision for the future, develop metrics (community indicators) to measure their progress, and commit to action to reach their goals. (Pictured is the December forum where the groups determined their key indicators they would like to see measured in each of the themes of the report.)

The SA 2020 initiative focused on what San Antonio could look like in the year 2020, and enjoyed both wide community participation and widespread support.  Of particular interest to those who might be considering similar initiatives in their communities, Mayor Juli├ín Castro focused on the SA 2020 initiative as a key feature of his first term in office, and was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

The work on implementing SA 2020 continues. This week, Mayor Castro briefed the White House on SA2020 and its goals, adding: SA 2020 "produced specific marks for the community to meet," Castro said. “That has value as other communities look to develop plans.”

I'm reminded of what Becky Morgan, of the Morgan Family Foundation, said while introducing an indicator report they supported:

In a time when our neighbors listen to elected officials or other established leaders and wonder who to believe, indicator reports serve as a civic-based tool to re-build this country’s social capital … our trust in each other, our willingness to find common vision and values, our engagement in collaborative civic work to solve problems that confront us. But most of all, they help to build a commitment to stewardship, to pass along to our children and grandchildren a country of many regions that are much improved over those left to us. Such commitment to progress is also a commitment to measure our progress … honestly and with open hearts and minds. This is the promise of the regional indicator movement in our state and our country.

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Press Release: Open Indicators Consortium

Here's the press release from the Open Indicators Consortium:

June 14, 2011

From across the nation, local, regional and state data partners have collaborated with a team of 20 faculty and graduate students at one of the world’s top data visualization labs in the Open Indicators Consortium to create Weave (Web-based Analysis and Visualization Environment), a high performance web-based open source software platform. Weave allows users to explore, analyze, visualize and disseminate data online from any location at any time.

The Open Indicator Consortium’s goal is to transform publicly available data into visually compelling and actionable indicators to inform public policy and community-based decision makers. Since 2008, the Open Indicators Consortium (OIC) has brought together technical and academic experts, data providers and data users. With its technical lead and partner the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Institute for Visualization and Perception Research, the OIC is soft-launching Weave 1.0 BETA in preparation for the official release of Weave 1.0 in the mid-fall.

The Weave core code is being released under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3), and the Weave API under the Mozilla Public License (MPL v 1.1).

Full documentation is available through http://www.oicweave.org. The code is available for download now at http://ivpr.github.com/Weave/. These releases provide all that is needed to implement Weave.

More information can be found here.

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