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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Sobering Look at Social Indicators in Burma

Many of us who work with social indicators do so in a context of equity -- helping the ones left out of general social progress. But around the globe, different peoples have different experiences, and some of the social indicators used are sobering in themselves, even before we examine the data.

Kyi May Kaung uses a new social indicators report, the Failed States Index from The Fund for Peace", to tell the story of the people of Burma.

Her article on Burma begins this way:

Last year (2006) my country of origin, Burma, was number 18 on the list of Most (Worst) Failed States in the world. This year it is number 14th. Can the military junta that rules it so tightly, do nothing but make it “advance” on indicators that show how awful it is?The topmost block of indicators in a list totaling 177 countries blares at you from a bright red alert background color. Next comes orange and then, lowest on the scale, which is the best in this case, a cool color – green.

So how does the Fund for Peace measure all this, and what does it take account of? So which are the two worst places, with the most failed states? Your guess is absolutely right and they are – Sudan and Iraq. Daily media images confirm this. But wait a minute, how do we exactly measure Sudan and Iraq against each other? It’s done by using social, economic and political indicators, and in this case it is not a statistical sleight of hand.

Read the article, then think about your community and what you're measuring. Do you have a measure on "chronic and sustained human flight"? "Widespread violation of human rights"?

Look back at The Fund for Peace's map of the world -- there's a lot of work ahead.

And that's a hard message for a Monday morning.


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