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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hennepin County Releases Indicators Report

Please keep me informed as your community issues your community indicators reports. The RSS feed doesn't catch all the local headlines, and I like to share each report as released. Hennepin County is a fascinating place, and people are doing good work there.

From The Pioneer, May 21, 2007:

Hennepin County residents continue to make positive strides in their health, safety and self-reliance, according to the Hennepin County Community Indicators report, issued every other year by the county’s Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement Department.The report provides a broad snapshot of community conditions and trends and is a reflection of the health of the county as a whole.

Overall, the indicators suggest that since the early 1990s, county residents are experiencing improvements in quality of life, including:

  • Overall teen pregnancy rates and teen birth rates have declined.
  • The percentage of children receiving age-appropriate immunizations has increased.
  • The water quality of county lakes has continued to improve.
  • The percent of adults receiving public assistance has decreased.
  • Motor vehicle crashes with injuries or death continued their downward trend.

Despite overall gains in quality of life, the indicators also reflect a need for focused improvement in several areas. Among the challenges facing the county are:

  • Reported violent crime and property crime rates have begun to increase.
  • Child care costs constitute an increasing percentage of residents’ incomes.
  • The percentage of residents who lack health care insurance has continued to increase.

County departments will be evaluating this information as they prepare the 2008 budget.To read the report, log onto Hennepin County’s Web site at and click on “Your County Government,” “Reports, Plans & Studies” and “Hennepin County Community Indicators Report” or call (612) 348-4466.

You can also see the report by clicking here.

My favorite parts of the report are these:

(1) The search for indicators of "assured due process." Here's what they say: "Overarching Goal: Assured Due Process. Separate teams that worked on previous Community Indicator reports have not been able to agree on what would be meaningful indicators for this overarching goal. In 2007, the Hennepin County Department of Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement will engage Hennepin County government, municipalities in Hennepin County, and community organizations to identify key indicators that represent Hennepin County for use in the 2008 Community Indicators report." I think that's an interesting goal, and look forward to ways in which they'll measure assured due process -- if you have an idea, post it here or give them a call (I'm sure they'd appreciate it.)

(2) I like the look and feel of the report. Lots of pictures, plenty of white space, the graphs are crisp and clear, and the endnotes provide references and occasional comments about what is being measured. Telling me "the story behind the numbers" was very helpful.

I would have appreciated a little more metadata -- I wasn't sure how some of the numbers were calculated, and didn't want to go search someone else's website to see where the data was located. (Sending me to the home page of a government website is a starting point for finding data, but it's an awful lot of work to figure out which report on that site you pulled the data from. I ran out of interest before I found the report.)

Anyway, congratulations to Hennepin County, Minnesota, for a successful report. Check it out!


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