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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, November 6, 2007

Arizona Indicators Project

The Arizona Indicators Project "is a collaboration of Arizona State University, the Arizona Republic and the State of Arizona. The project seeks to build a shared, community-focused data repository for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area and for the State." That's the description given on the front page of the Project, and it already has two important lessons for us: (1) thank your sponsors early and often, and (2) especially thank media sponsors, and you might get press like this.

The report itself lets you browse five content-specific dashboards (economic indicators, quality of life indicators, sustainability indicators, education indicators, and innovation indicators), as well as a dashboard for "comparing Metro Phoenix". It also has two sets of interactive maps, economic and sustainability.

If we click on the "innovation indicators" section to see what they're measuring, you can see the lessons in design continue. The different sections on this page are useful for explaining what it is the user is about to see. They begin by identifying their collaborative partners, explain the purpose of the section, link to more information, and provide an opportunity for feedback.

They then explain that the innovation indicators are provided in two sections: inputs to innovation and outputs of innovation. The next section is interesting:

Rationale for Innovation Indicators: In modern economies, innovation and new technologies lead to economic gains in the communities in which they are adopted. A good economic foundation nurtures innovation, and innovation is necessary if an area wishes to be an economic leader. Once an area decides it wants to be a leader, the challenge is to develop a business and socioeconomic environment that promotes innovation. The innovation indicators contained in this dashboard assist individuals and policy makers to assess the local innovation environment and to make policy decisions that would allow Arizona to better compete in this environment.

They then provide navigation tips, usage notes, and a caveat.

So I click through the inputs to innovation, and then click the research and development link, and then click through to patent applications -- and finally I get to the data. The site is well organized and pops up quickly, and I suppose five clicks to get to the data isn't excessive -- but the number of steps makes it really hard to get a quick overview of the data sets provided.

The good news is that the data are provided in side-by-side maps and data tables, with opportunities to select the comparison years and the raw data in front of you. I really like that. You can save it, download it, print it as a PDF, and more. In addition, each indicator has an "information" icon, which provides an indicator description, its classification within the set (its category and subcategory, the definition, data sources, rationale for inclusion, and comments on the quality of the data. As nearly perfect a data site as I've ever seen, and I highly recommend that you check it out for your own community indicators efforts.


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