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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Community Indicators in Rural Communities

I'm at the Regards to Rural V Conference right now, and I'm struck once again by the growth of community indicators projects in rural communities. We've seen tremendous, sustained efforts in places like Yampa Valley, Colorado. We've seen resources like the Northwest Area Foundation's Indicators Website made available (I just saw Karla Miller at the conference and was reminded again of the great work that they do.)

And we're seeing interest in indicators popping up in rural communities around the globe. So why do indicators projects make so much sense for rural communities?

I'll be exploring that question in a session tomorrow morning as we talk about our experiences in Walla Walla, Washington. I'm interested in what I'm going to hear from those who come to the session. In the meantime, here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. Rural communities have identities.
  2. Rural communities, like the rest of the world, are in a state of change.
  3. Change can be scary. Unmanaged change can be catastrophic. Some rural communities have not managed change well and effectively lost their pre-change identities.
  4. Change can be exciting. Managed change can be transformative, in a positive way. Some rural communities have managed change well and kept their core identity while becoming something stronger and more sustainable.
  5. Information is power. It is nearly impossible to manage change without it. Knowledge of what the shared vision of the community might be, and where the community is in relationship to that vision, is an essential part of determining how to manage change. Using data as an accountability tool helps avoid the problems with broken promises later.
  6. Sharing information, by itself, creates cohesion, connection, and identity.

    What are your thoughts? I'll share what I hear in the sessions tomorrow and see what others think as well.


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