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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Social Justice and Racial Equity

Effective Communities, LLC has created a new website, The site is committed to increasing racial equity and social justice through providing six "pathways to progress."

The site identifies gaps (PDF document) or disparities in how people are treated, and provides a list of data sources for specific indicators (PDF) so that you can measure these disparities in your own community. also highlights case studies of communities and programs that make a difference.

From their website:

Improving social justice and racial equity remains a challenge to society. Data consistently show gaps or disparities in the performance of our public systems, private markets and everyday life. For example…

On Bourbon Street, African Americans have to wait longer for service and are charged more for drinks than Whites, on average.

Around the country, applications for home mortgages submitted by African Americans are rejected at a higher rate than those submitted by Whites, even when the applications are identical.

African American children start school at greater risk, on average, than White school children. They ultimately finish their schooling with less satisfactory prospects, earning less and having less to invest in their homes, their health or their children. These prospects are then passed on to the next generation with less than Whites, on average.

Most people, on hearing these examples, acknowledge “That’s not the way it should be. It goes against basic American principles of fairness. We should be able to fix that.” Fixing that goes by many names: closing the gaps, leveling the playing field, removing structural barriers, and addressing root causes.

The results of such efforts to "close the gaps" should be that, on average, blacks and Whites experience the same waiting times and prices at bars and restaurants, and are subjected to the same decision-making rules when applying for a mortgage, and find equally beneficial environments and opportunities in health and in school.


Can philanthropy, in any of its many forms, stimulate progress in
social justice and racial equity? The question is the basis of our inquiry; the answers, cast as a work in process, motivate this Web site.


Benchmarking progress: Many funders want to see measurable results. Measuring results assumes that we know and agree which "bottom lines" are important to achieve. Measuring results also assumes we have appropriate and reliable measuring tools. In fact, neither is the case. One purpose of this project is to advance the field's understanding of progress -- what it means in context, how to notice it, and how to advance it. Ultimately the results to be measured in the gaps data: Are the gaps closing?

If you haven't started measuring racial disparities as part of your community indicators efforts, this website provides the tools, data links, and reasons why you should get started.


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