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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Defining "Community Indicators"

I thought it might be useful to discuss what this blog means by "community indicators", since the blogosphere is tagging two separate-but-related items with community_indicators tags.

This blog is generally concerned with indicators of geography-based communities -- neighborhoods, municipalities, counties, regions, states, nations, groups of nations, etc. -- and their characteristics. I went to MetaGlossary for their definitions, and was struck by the one used in the Tasmania Together initial report, since adopted in community indicator projects throughout Australia, such as here in the Waverley Community Indicators and Local Democracy Project:

Indicators developed through a community-based process in which local citizens determine the key areas of concern and set standards for improvements in their community over time. Community indicators don’t just measure conditions; they are designed to monitor progress in achieving community goals. The indicators can be measures of the progress of social, environmental or economic well being.

Our Canadian friends have a simpler definition used by the First Nations Community Planning Group:

Measures created and used by communities for understanding and drawing attention to important issues and trends. Useful for building awareness and taking action.

These are the kinds of definitions used by the good folks at the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) or the Community Indicators Consortium.

But out here on the internet, a new kind of community has been growing -- the online community. And leading the charge to develop indicators of the online community has been Nancy White. She started this discussion two years ago this month, with this blog post.

Somewhere, these two discussions -- indicators of the online community, and indicators of the geographic community -- intersect. Both are looking for good measures of engagement and social capital, as a starting point. We geography-oriented folks have a larger data set to choose from as we look at the quality-of-life measures and sustainability in a geography, but perhaps more and more of those measures may be applied to the online community discussion.

Right now, however, the intersection points of the two discussions may not be as clear as Nancy laid it out. However, I think the two conversations can learn from each other and support each other.

So if you found this blog while looking for a very different kind of discussion based on a technorati tag, please stick around and contribute -- we'd love to hear from you.


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