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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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 23, 2007

Using Private/Commercial Data Sets

Several of us have, as part of our community indicator selection criteria, the expectation that the data are available free or at very limited cost. Besides the cost advantage, this often avoids questions of reproducing someone else's proprietary data. In the Jacksonville community, for example, we had to find different measures of tourist activity than hotel occupancy rates, because we could only get that data locally through a commercial source, and reproducing the data was prohibited. (Instead we used a measure of bed-tax receipts, which [after adjusting for inflation and for tax rate] served as a decent proxy indicator.)

Others, however, find real power in using proprietary data. At the Community Indicators Consortium's 2007 conference, a presentation by The Reinvestment Fund, NeighborWorks America, and the Wachovia Regional Foundation made a compelling case for using primary and secondary data together, some of which came from commercial data providers, to understand a community.

In that context, I thought I'd share what Brian Rajan Nagendra provided for the NNIP listserve:

In some cases, commercial datasets are able to provide data on smaller geographies than publicly available census data or BLS data, a limitation you may encounter when looking for data for your area, as Kathy [Pettit] mentioned.

If you are looking for economic data or employment information order reports from Moody's ( . If my memory serves me well, reports run about $200 for each geography. If you are looking for demographic or psychographic data go to Claritas Site reports ( Reports range $70-150+.

To learn more about the commercial data sources available and how they are used look at this presentation from the Brookings Urban Markets Initiative:
Private Data Sources: Informing the Public Sector

If you are curious how Claritas works its magic and how others use Claritas Data go to another presentation from the same source:
Data Segmentation: Communities' Friend or Foe?

Good luck!

Do you use private data sets? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?


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