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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, October 2, 2007

Greenest Countries and Cities

Matthew Kahn and Fran Lostys wrote the October 2007 Reader's Digest article, Living Green: Ranking the World's Best (and Worst) Countries.

The title doesn't quite fit the article. Kahn and Lostys measure both countries and cities on a series of indicators, many of which (but not all) are environmentally focused.

Kahn writes about the article:

To be serious for just one second, what I think we did right in this October 2007 Reader's Digest piece is to incorporate data on economic opportunities, local pollution levels, and global "good environmental" citizen indicators and create a ranking index based on all of these criteria. While people may quibble about our index weights, this approach builds on Sen's work on the Human Development Indicators report. A city or nation that scores high on our index offers economic opportunities, high environmental quality of life and one doesn't have to feel guilty that your lifestyle is exacerbating global public challenges such as climate change via producing more greenhouse gases.

The data sets used differ for countries and for cities. For the city rankings, sources included "The Millennium Cities Database for Sustainable Transport (2001) by Jeff Kenworthy and Felix Laube of Australia's Murdoch University, the World Bank's Development Economic Research Group Estimates, and our own reporting on local environmental laws, energy prices, garbage production and disposal, and parkland."

For the country rankings, here's all I could find that the article had to say:

We analyzed data from two top sources covering 141 nations to rank the planet's greenest, most livable places. Our analysis delved into social factors (income and education, for instance) and environmental measures (see our chart for who scores highest and lowest for some of them, and how the United States, the best overall, and the worst overall stack up).

I'm trying to track down the source data -- if anyone knows, please pass on the information. ETA: I received a nice note from Matt Kahn. The primary data source was the Environmental Sustainability Index hosted at Yale. He adds, "We used a subset of their variables for the national rankings and used several different data sets (including a RD survey) for the city level analysis." Thanks for the quick response!

The good news is that this is more mainstreaming of indicators information -- I think we're seeing increased activity in the popular press around measures of the quality of life in communities. How we leverage that comfort level with publicizing our own community indicators projects is up to us.


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