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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, September 15, 2007

City Data Resources

I ran across a fascinating data site called they claim to have "collected and analyzed data from numerous sources to create as complete and interesting profiles of all U.S. cities as we could."

There's a number of sites out there with "city profiles on them" that tend to repeat the basic profile information from the 2000 U.S. Census. But this site is different.

Clicking on my city's profile (which was really easy as they set the page to dynamically grab your location information and set that as the example link), I was first greeted with 69 photos of Jacksonville, Florida.

Then I got maps, detailed weather information, breakouts by zip code, population, median age, median income, house values, median gross rent. It had racial breakdowns, commuting times, unemployment rates, and educational attainment. It had building permit data through 2006, with some nice comparatives.

And it kept going.

My point is that there's an awful lot of information on this site, and it's worth checking out your community for data or information on potential indicators.

Here's my quibble with the site: Despite having enourmous amounts of information (and forums to discuss issues and opportunities to correct or add information), I found it nearly impossible to source most of the information presented. I couldn't find the metadata information necessary to verify where the data came from. I really wanted to know whose population estimates were being used, whose median income estimates, what year they were using for educational attainment figures. I wanted the boring background reference stuff. And I couldn't find it.

The good news is that there's a way to contact the site owners and ask questions, and a way to join an active forum to talk about your concerns. On the whole, I think this is a useful starting point for community indicators folks in the United States to start looking at possibilities for indicators, but I'd get pretty upset if I ran across a report that used the data and only cited as a source.


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