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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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

Engaging Citizens in Public Performance Measurement

Here's a heads-up from the Public Performance Measurement Reporting Network (PPMRN). A new report has been released which you may find useful in your own community indicators efforts, especially in trying to integrate community indicators with government performance measurement systems.

Engaging Citizens in Measuring and Reporting Government Performance and Community Conditions: -- A Manager's Guide

Alfred T. Ho
Associate Professor
School of Public & Environmental Affairs
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis

Report link:

This report presents specific guidelines to local public managers as well as nonprofit leaders on how they can work with each other and with citizen representatives to use public input to guide government performance and community conditions reporting. This report challenges the traditional notion of "performance management," in which public managers dictate what indicators should be used and how data should be analyzed and presented and suggests that citizen engagement should play a larger role in the process.

Two models of public engagement are recommended in this report. The "partnership" model emphasizes equal sharing of power between citizen representatives and public officials in deciding what and how performance indicators should be used. This model is illustrated through a case study of the Des Moines "Citizen-Initiated Performance Assessment" project in 2001-2004, which was a partnership between the city government of Des Moines, Des Moines Neighbors, and several universities in the region. The second model, which is the "community indicators" model, gives even more power to the public by empowering and supporting nonprofit organizations in a community to measure the quality of life and policy outcomes through self-organized efforts and collaborative partnerships between government, nonprofit and business organizations. This approach is illustrated in this report through a case study of the Boston Indicators Project, which just released its 2004-2006 report in June 2007.

From the Des Moines and Boston experiences, the report provides specific recommendations on the following aspects:

  • how to prepare government and community leadership to engage the public in performance measurement and community conditions reporting before the project launch;
  • how to solicit public input and engage the general citizenry effectively in designing performance indicators;
  • how to report community conditions and program results effectively to citizens so that the content of the report, whether in paper or in electronic media, is meaningful, understandable, accessible, and credible to citizens;
  • how to engage the public in follow-up after the release of a performance report so that the analysis can be used to empower policymakers, community leaders and public managers to take responsive action.


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