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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Indicators of Civic Health

In 2001, the National Civic League invited Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Yampa Valley, Colorado, to participate in a project to enhance and measure the civic health of communities. The hope was to develop and track over time quantifiable indicators of civic vitality. Since I'm in Jacksonville, this is when I started to pay attention to civic indicators.

The results were mixed. Jacksonville developed a civic indicators report that outlined current and prospective indicators, and then incorporated some of those indicators into its annual Quality of Life Progress Report. Yampa Valley continues to track civic indicators as a separate section of its Community Indicators Project. The National Civic League published a handbook, which is no longer available on its website (unless I just didn't see it -- correct me if I'm wrong, please.)

Recently, however, two initiatives are raising the level of conversation much higher, and it's time all communities paid attention. The National Conference on Citizenship released its first national Civic Health Index at its annual conference in September 2006. And the Colorado Civic Canopy in February 2007 held a fascinating discussion on civic indicators that shows the art and science of measuring the civic health of a community is coming a long way.

Robert Putnam's work has added richness to this discussion as well, as has the work of a number of other folks I'm forgetting right now but I'm sure some of you will remind me of.

Data sets for your community are available here. Are you measuring the civic health of your community? Do you know someone who is? Can you share that information as we move the conversation forward?

1 comment:

  1. TIME magazine this week (March 26) has an article called A Road Map to Prevention, which describes the work of the Justice Mapping Center. They identify neighborhoods of a few blocks that produce extraordinary numbers of criminals. This helps in developing efforts to remediate the problems that contribute to the criminal behavior. The philosophy is that if we are spending $1 million to incarcerate the residents of the neighborhood, an equal amount would be well spent on prevention programs. Makes sense to me.