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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Governing Magazine Discusses Indicators

Jonathan Walters, in Governing Magazine, highlights community indicators and government performance benchmark projects that have been successful in getting the public to take notice and affect public policy.

He says, "[T]here are a growing number of examples where savvy players in public policy are having some significant success in getting key audiences to focus on performance measures," and then he highlights some of the projects which had received innovation awards from the Community Indicators Consortium.

This isn't the first time Governing Magazine has discussed using data, indicators, or performance measures to get results. Ellen Perlman's article on Stat Fever was quick to point out how "the practice of collecting data to monitor and improve government performance continues to gain momentum and evolve." But this article, interestingly enough, highlights non-governmental approaches to measurement that are changing public policy. And there are a number of lessons in the article community indicators practitioners need to pay attention to, in addition to knowing that data is important for quality decision-making in public policy.

  1. The presentation of the data must be "clear and concise."
  2. The data must "tell a story."
  3. The data must be presented in a way that's meaningful for their target audience -- the people who care about that story.
  4. Involving the whole community is critical.
  5. Never forget the reason for the indicators is to get things done. They quote Donna Sines from Osceola County's Community Vision project: “It’s so much more than looking at evaluation or outcome data,” says Sines. “It’s about bringing the right people in and putting them around that data and then bringing the resources to bear.”
  6. "Flesh out the data with personal stories."
  7. The messenger is as important as the message. Mary Lou Goeke, with the Santa Cruz County United Way, says, "Who actually delivers the data and the message to policy makers matters a lot."

There's plenty more in the article -- I highly recommend reading it. Then let me know what I left out of the summary -- or what you would add to the article as key tips for moving public policy using data.


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