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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More from Regards to Rural Conference

Good morning! Last night as part of the Regards to Rural V Conference we had a chance to hear from Frances Moore Lappé, author of books like Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad, Democracy's Edge, and You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.

What she had to say wasn't about indicators, but about community. Yet there were a few thoughts I thought that community indicators practitioners might want to pay attention to.

Democracy, she suggested, wasn't merely elections plus free markets, some structure or set of institutions inherited from the past that continues unaided into the future. Instead, democracy is something we do; democracy isn't a system, it is a set of shared values that undergird how we make decisions that matter for the community. There are plenty of examples of systems that use the forms of democracy without really engaging the people in making decisions that matter.

Important for democracy, then, are institutions that act in a convener role, and that engage citizens in acts of power. To get there, we need to rethink power. Power is not a thing, it is the capacity to act, and power is always relationships.

We need to rethink fear, because perhaps the only real problem we have to overcome is citizens feeling powerlessness.

So how does this fit with communtiy indicators efforts? As we engage communities in identifying what matters, and measuring our progress towards real and actual change, we are engaging citizens in acts of true power -- building relationships, enlarging the capacity to make change.

And when we succeed, which we often do in quiet and marvelous ways, we need to do a better job of telling our stories. Frances Moore Lappé says that we become part of this "living democracy" through shared story-telling, seeing the examples of democracy-in-action, and creating new norms for our communities. We've been talking quite a bit here about the importance of storytelling, and here's another reason to get better at telling our stories: not just to move the actions we're working on, but to inspire others with a greater sense of capacity to act (power) so that they too can do much good in our communities.

What do you think?


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