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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, December 5, 2007

Dashboards and Community Indicators

I've had a couple of requests recently for a discussion of community dashboards. We tend to use the term in two different ways. The first is to talk about community indicators projects in general, where the indicators themselves serve as gauges of progress in the community, and the set of indicators is the "dashboard". Under that definition, any indicators project is an example of a dashboard, though not all label them as such.

The second definition tries to get at a functional single-page image-intensive picture of community progress -- sort of community progress at-a-glance. There's some interesting work being done on these kinds of initiatives as well, and I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite examples.

One at-a-glance dashboard I like is in St. Louis with a group called RegionWise -- it’s their Wheel of Progress that I find so interesting. See for how they depict progress in each of their indicator areas in a picture that manages to convey an extraordinary amount of information in a simple design.

Randal Son, of Many Waters in Walla Walla, Washington, has an intriguing dashboard he’s interested in talking to more people about. You can see it at -- I really like how much information it displays with simple symbols.

Our friends at iisd have a free dashboard they’re trying to get others to use. It feels a little jarring to me, unfortunately, but it may be helpful for others in designing their own dashboards. See

Here’s The Florida Department of Children and Families dashboard -- -- it’s the best example I know of that shows what not to do. See The point of dashboards is supposed to be to convey information with more clarity.

A warning note about dashboards -- combining too many indicators into a simple picture can be about as useful as that doggone engine light coming on. You know something's wrong, but don't know what it is or what to do about it besides just hand everything over to professionals. That response, I think, defeats the purpose of a community indicators report, which in most cases is trying to democratize information, not obscure it.

What are your favorite dashboards out there?


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