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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, April 30, 2008

Job Opening: Planning Council

Position Announcement: Evaluation Associate

The Planning Council has an opening for an Evaluation Associate position. The Evaluation Associate will be responsible for working on evaluations of health and human services programs and research related to community issues in Southeastern Wisconsin. The Planning Council is a non-profit organization that serves as an independent resource for information, education, research, and consulting on community issues.

Required Education and Experience
Education – Masters Degree or other advanced degree required.
Program evaluation experience – graduate level training and/or relevant work experience in program evaluation.
Community experience – past experience working with non-profit or governmental agencies, diverse community groups, and/or consumers of health or human services.

Required Skills
Listening skills – actively attends to and conveys understanding of the comments and questions of others; listens well in a group.
Analytical skills – gathers relevant information systematically; understands complexities and perceives relationships among problems or issues; accurately uses logic and interpretation in analyses; understands limitations of research approaches and methods.
Written communication skills – conveys information clearly and effectively; summarizes qualitative and quantitative data accurately and objectively, with attention given to the intended audience.
Oral communication skills – speaks clearly and expresses self well in groups and one-on-one.
Values diversity – shows respect and appreciation for diversity.
Interpersonal skills – sets appropriate personal and interpersonal boundaries; ability to be flexible.
Capacity for teamwork – works well both independently and within a team approach to project management.

Demonstrated Knowledge
Evaluation – familiarity with traditional program evaluation methods and emerging trends in evaluation; awareness of and/or experience with community-based research; familiarity with data collection instruments and procedures; familiarity with evaluator role and ethics; understanding of the function and use of program evaluation within non-profit agencies; understanding of the role of evaluation in federally funded programs (e.g., SAMHSA).
Data analysis –experience with quantitative and qualitative data analysis and data interpretation.
Computer software – proficient with the application of computer programs for data entry and data analysis (e.g., Excel, Access, SPSS).
Human services – experience in mental health and/or substance abuse fields highly preferred.

Please submit resume, cover letter, salary requirements, and references by May 15th, 2008 to:
Janet DeJesus, Office Manager
Planning Council for Health and Human Services, Inc.,
1442 N. Farwell Ave., Suite 300, Milwaukee, WI 53202
jdejesus [at] planningcouncil [dot] org

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Child Abuse and Data Transparency

A new report by First Star and the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego's School of Law calls for better data standards and more openness in reporting child abuse and child deaths in the United States.

The report, State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S. (PDF), says that "The majority of U.S. states fail to release adequate information about fatal and life-threatening child abuse cases, adhering to misguided and secretive policies that place confidentiality above the welfare of children and prevent public scrutiny that would lead to systemic reforms ..."

USA Today reports that what the groups are after is "maximum transparency."

The report caught my eye, and not just for the rankings of all 50 states in compliance with data reporting standards. It reminded me that a key role we play in compiling and disseminating community indicators reports is advocating for better and more open data reporting.

I know we get involved in this work because we want to change the community, and understand that the democracy of data creates shared knowledge, better decisions, and stronger actions. But we're also in the field to make sure that good data is available for everyone, and sometimes we fall short in ensuring that potential data providers understand the importance of sharing their information with the larger community.

What has been your experience in encouraging better data? How do you measure your efforts in improving the information available for your community, above and beyond reporting the information already available?

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CIC Innovation Awards

For the third year, CIC will be celebrating promising indicator practics with its Innovation Awards. Tell us about your project and how it has benefitted and brought change in your community, or nominate a project you feel meets the criteria. International projects are welcome. Go to to learn more about the Awards and how to enter. Deadline for entries is 12 May 2008.


“When an outside entity…recognizes your work, it elevates the
value of that product locally” Donna Sines, Executive Director, Community Vision,
Osceola County, FL, Third Place Winner 2007

For the third year in a row, we are delighted to invite you to apply for the Community Indicators Consortium’s (CIC) Innovation Awards Applications are due Monday, May 12, 2008.

We are seeking nominations of indicator projects (US or international) that best demonstrate positive change in their communities and the power of indicators to drive that change. The communities will likely be geographically contiguous areas, but they might be topical communities.

The purpose of the Awards is
  • to celebrate the successes of outstanding indicator projects and the people who
    create and manage them
  • to add to the public body of knowledge about community indicator projects’ best

As before, we anticipate first, second, and third place awards and a selective number of nominations will be recognized as honorable mentions. The three winners and the honorable mentions will add to the body of knowledge about promising practices in the world of indicators. The winners will be invited to speak at our Annual Conference in Arlington, VA, on June 26 – 28, 2008, and their web links will be put on our website.

The more CIC can share the good news and celebrate success, the more we can help you, and practitioners and community leaders like you, to create real change and real benefit to your communities.

“CIC provides a forum…we were able to learn from like-minded
professionals and share Baltimore’s story of data-driven management”
Christ Thomaskutty, Deputy Mayor, Baltimore
CitiStat, Second Place Winner 2007

Projects can be hosted by non-profit organizations, local government entities, or academic institutions. They will publish, electronically or in hard-copy, data-based indicators on community conditions for the purposes of better understanding conditions of concern and improving those conditions. Your community may be large or it may be small, but your impact will be significant.

We are interested in:
  • Specific changes caused by the projects
  • The tools and mechanisms used to catalyze action and drive community change

Applications are due Monday, May 12, 2008

1—A one-paragraph summary describing the nature of your project, the actual or forthcoming changes in the community that can be ascribed to the project, and the mechanisms through which change came about. Please include the name of the project, the sponsoring organization, contact name with phone number and e-mail address, name of the community your project covers, the project web site or published report, and the size of your organization (staff plus volunteers)

2—A short narrative (maximum three pages) describing the project in greater detail, including background and scope, what changes have occurred, and how you created/fostered these changes. For example:

  • Why and when was your project created, what need brought it into being
  • How wide-spread is its current and future impact
  • What are/were your goals
  • The size of the community your project seeks to influence
  • Who benefits, directly and indirectly
  • Specifically, what changes have occurred as a result of your work
  • How did you do it
  • What tools and methods have you employed
  • What have you learned, and what can we learn from you

3—Provide the names, with contact information, of at least three individuals who are not paid project staff who would be willing to speak about the strength, value, and influence of your project.


1—All applications will be reviewed by at least three experts in the field of indicators. Choices will be made based on the projects’ meeting of the criteria. A panel of seven experts will be chosen by CIC.

2—Experts will independently rank the selected projects and then they will discuss their individual choices to reach consensus on the top ten projects.

3—The experts will conduct telephone interviews with the non-staff people you identify as knowing about the strength and influence of the project.

Finalists will be notified by Friday, May 23, 2008. Winners will be notified by Friday, June 10, 2008. Winners will be invited to attend the Sixth Annual CIC Conference in Arlington, VA, on June 26 – 28, 2008, to speak about their projects and to receive their awards. Visit our web site, , for more information about the Conference.


Lynda Fairbanks Atkins
Interim Executive Director


Community Indicators Consortium
Post Office Box 8222
Lynn, MA 01904

Electronic submission is preferred

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

AGA Adds New Blog

The Advancing Government Accountability group -- -- has added a new feature to their website.

Here's the news:

AGA's blog is a new feature on our AGA website ( ) that uses a variety of guest "speakers" to set the stage for the day's topic. Tomorrow I will be writing about performance reporting and some of the ways government entities have used their performance reports in decision making and citizen communication. I would appreciate your comments and observations not only to stimulate a good discussion but also to share best practices with those reading the blog.

The first set of articles are quite strong. Check it out!

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Call for Papers: Performance Measurement

Call for Papers
Symposium: Accountability and Performance Measurement in the Hollow State:
A Reflective Dialogue on the Evolving Role of Nonprofits in Public Service Delivery
October 23-24, 2008 in Cleveland Ohio

ASPA and ARNOVA have joined to co-sponsor a symposium directed to one of the most pressing challenges of public administration today: accountability and performance measurement in public – nonprofit partnerships. This symposium invites research directed to the challenges articulated by practitioners who are struggling with the complexities of accountability and performance measures in the new environment of third sector government, New Public Management and Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

Symposium format and presentations will encourage dialogue between scholars and practitioners with the intention of generating a research agenda to strengthen the capacity of both sectors to engage in public service. Selected papers will be reviewed for Administration & Society as well as a special symposium of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

In their proposals scholars are asked to explore innovative efforts as well as challenges and lessons learned. Authors must show the relevance of their research for addressing the challenges of government-nonprofit partnership in the current environment. We welcome papers focusing on how new accountability measures impact public sector organizations’ capacity to manage as well as govern.

From a nonprofit perspective, we are interested in how new measures of accountability are reshaping the nonprofit sector. What impact do new measures of accountability and performance have on nonprofits and their traditional contributions to citizenship and to partnership with the public sector? In brief, this symposium is designed to encourage scholars to look for how practice can inform theory in their identification of research topics.


  • Accountability frameworks in cross-sector partnerships and networks: their impact on nonprofit-public relationships, inter-organizational partnerships, and measurement of key and intangible factors.
  • Performance measurement and governance - including the legislative process, policy development, community indicators, and/or budgeting: the integration of accountability and performance measures in the management and governance process; including program design, management, and evaluation; use of community indicators to target resources and generate strategic results for communities.
  • Strengthening the connection between mechanisms of accountability and performance: impacts of new government requirements regarding contract monitoring; for example, how will state and local governments comply with federal regulations without allowing them to become unduly onerous for provider agencies?

Examples of challenges experienced by public sector and nonprofit practitioners are posted at
the website address; scholars are welcome to consider these or identify challenges relevant to their research interests in their own communities.


To propose a paper, please send a summary of 500-600 words to All summaries should be submitted in MS Word format with a subject line of CAP symposium. The proposal should explain the relevance of the proposed research to the symposium themes. Proposals that are co-authored by teams of academics and practitioners will receive special consideration.

Abstract of 500 words to be submitted: May 1, 2008
Notification of accepted submissions: May 15, 2008
First draft due: August 1, 2008
Deadline for early registration: August 15, 2008
Full paper to be submitted: September 30, 2008
Symposium at Cleveland State University: October 23-24, 2008

FOR MORE INFORMATION regarding the symposium, including registration, accommodations, schedule, registration fees, and case study postings of practitioners,

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Friday, April 18, 2008

In Praise of GDP

We've been talking about the need for broader indicators of progress than the Gross Domestic Product, and that need has launched an international summit and a new presidential commission in France.

Turns out, however, that some folks like the GDP just fine, thank you very much, and don't want it meddled with. Justin Fox opines in TIME magazine:

...[C]ompiling a reliable measure of all the economic activity in a country as big as this one is hard. Which is something to consider whenever you hear somebody arguing that GDP ought to be shelved in favor of some more holistic measure of economic well-being. Somebody like, say, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who early this year appointed a high-powered task force--boasting not just one but two economics Nobelists, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz--to devise a GDP replacement. Similar "ditch-GDP" noises can be heard frequently from enlightened sorts who care a lot about the environment, health care, education and happiness.

Now, there certainly are measures of economic and societal success that we ought to pay more attention to. But ditch GDP? Perish the thought.

One reason the GDP is getting a lot more love lately comes from the work by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers where they show a positive correlation between GDP and happiness. From The New York Times report:

“The central message,” Ms. Stevenson said, “is that income does matter.”

To see what they mean, take a look at the map that accompanies this column. It’s based on Gallup polls done around the world, and it clearly shows that life satisfaction is highest in the richest countries. The residents of these countries seem to understand that they have it pretty good, whether or not they own an iPod Touch.

If anything, Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers say, absolute income seems to matter more than relative income. In the United States, about 90 percent of people in households making at least $250,000 a year called themselves “very happy” in a recent Gallup Poll. In households with income below $30,000, only 42 percent of people gave that answer.

Here's the chart they reference:

What are your reactions?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Radical Math: Social Justice and Statistical Literacy

A recent conference explored the potential relationship between math instruction and social justice. For those of us using community indicators to create community change, some of the same lessons apply -- and the good news is that these lessons are now available in a standardized curriculum.

There's a resource called Radical Math that provides this framework to connect learning math with social justice. From the guide (PDF), here's two reasons why integrating these two concepts makes sense:
  • Good math doesn’t mean good politics
    There are some textbooks and popular curricula that are useful for teaching young people mathematics. Many of these texts even use real-world contexts for instruction. However, very few of them are relevant to our young people, and they don’t have students investigate issues of social justice. Talking about a jar of Jelly Beans can be a fun way to learn about probability. But studying probability in the context of a unit on how the Lottery increases the economic divide between rich and poor will allow the class to cover the same mathematical content while simultaneously investigating an important issue of economic inequality.
  • Good politics doesn’t mean good math
    Many people often make the mistake of thinking that just because we are talking about important and relevant issues, that there is good teaching and learning going on in our classrooms. Unless the math content itself is strong, even the most provocative conversations and lessons are actually doing students a disservice. It is an act of social in-justice to deny young people the opportunity to master the math that they are in your class to learn.

There's a fascinating article called Making Numbers Count at that discusses this approach to learning math. I liked this quote from Janet Wayne, an 11th-grade math teacher in Los Angeles:

"These kids got involved socially and politically in their communities because they knew the numbers," Wayne says. "And I have to tell you, that's why I love math."

The approach is not without its critics, of course. I'll leave the arguments about politics in the classroom to others. But finding a way to increase statistical literacy by using real-world social justice data can't be all bad.

The resources page at Radical Math links to a series of background information (and a number of indicators data sources).

If you've been working with local math classes with your community indicators projects to provide the data for them to learn about graphs and data analysis, please share. If you aren't, here's an interesting idea to explore.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Presenting Data: Case Study on Racial Disparities and Imprisonment

One of my interests in community indicators is measuring progress towards eliminating racial disparities. After considerable community dialogue around the issue, it became clear that, at least in my community, we needed a shared set of data to move from divergent perspectives to a shared understanding of reality. We also needed an unimpeachable data set for community accountability, and an objective way to tell if our community initiatives were working.

That being said, I started reading James R. Council's blog entry on America's Prison Crisis from a data presentation perspective (I was more interested in what data he was using and how he was sharing that data than in the conclusions he was reaching or their policy implications -- it's an occupational hazard sometimes.)

I saw some ways he used information that I thought were worth discussing, above and beyond the specific issue. (Though I highly recommend reading his piece for its intended effect as well -- the data are about real people, first and foremost. But I think you'll get that from the examples I'd like to share.)

Here's some of the data he presents:

1. The U.S. has 2.2 million prisoners. He takes that data point and relates it as a percentage of a larger set -- That "makes up 25% of the world’s prisoners in a country that holds 5% of the world’s total population." The 2.2 million number is now in context.

2. He continues to put the numbers in context by putting it in a population ratio -- 740 per 100,000. He then puts that in context by comparing the U.S. to countries we might want to be like, and countries we don't want to be like:

By contrast Libya, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan, countries whose rulers were rated in 2005 by Parade Magazine as the world’s worst dictators, have far lower reported rates of incarceration; the lowest is 57/100,000 in Pakistan and the highest is 207/100,000 in Libya (Fraser 2007). Other western democracies such as France, Germany, and England and Wales have 93, 98 and 140 per 100,000 respectively (Snacken 2006). The only European countries that rival America’s incarceration rates are Belarus and the Russian Federation with 554 and 595/100,000 (Snacken 2006).

3. He then establishes a trend line for a context over time. "America hasn’t always had such a high prison population. From the 1940s until the early 1970s, the incarceration rate in the U.S. hovered around 100/100,000 (Young 2007)."

4. Now that he has your attention, he turns to racial disparities. He takes the data on disparities and focuses attention on another contextual factor: the disparities in incarceration compared to disparities in economic, education, or other social indicators.

In his testimony before the Joint Economic Committee on October 4, 2007, Harvard University professor Bruce Western stated that, “young black men are now more likely to go to prison than to graduate college with a four-year degree, or to serve in the military” (2007). He goes on to say:

The large black-white disparity in incarceration is unmatched by most other social indicators. Racial disparities in unemployment (2 to 1), nonmarital childbearing (3 to 1), infant mortality (2 to 1), and wealth (1 to 5) are all significantly lower than the 7 to 1 black-white ratio in incarceration rates. (2007)

By this point, he had my attention. Then he began discussing the policies and practices that led to this point. It's an interesting discussion, found here.

Here's my takeaway:

  • Data gain power/meaning in context.
  • That context can include comparisons to communities we think we are like (or better than), or communities we think we are not like.
  • The context can also include a cluster of other indicators to highlight where the problem isn't just bad, it's much worse than the other problems we already know are bad.
  • And the data can be stronger than the soundbite -- compare:

    Over 40 years have passed since Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and the passing of landmark civil rights legislation. But looking at the contrast in incarceration rates between Black and White Americans, we seem to have a long way to go before we become a nation that, “judges a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character."

    with this:

    [Byron Eugene Price's graph shows that], “by 2017, there will be more Blacks in prison (an estimated 2 million) than Blacks enslaved in 1860 (1.9 million).”

    What are your thoughts?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pick-ups and Politics

I don't know if you've been following this series of indicators that tries to define which U.S. states are most like Pennsylvania. This is an interesting use of unusual indicators to define community.

In the first blog entry, Brian Schaffner looks at pick-up truck ownership and shopping at Wal-Mart. Conclusions? "As you can see from the figure, the percentage of Wal-Mart shoppers in a state is related to the percentage of pickup truck owners."

In the second post, the key indicators are "the percentage of citizens in each state who watch PBS (at least occasionally) and the percentage who say that they are invested in the stock market."

The third post compares indicators of gun ownership and feelings toward Jon Stewart. And this post puts it all together.

I don't know how many of you are currently using any of these six indicators for your community. I share them with you for two reasons: first, because the analysis of which state is "most like" Pennsylvania is interesting, and second, because sometimes we need to think differently about how to measure trends in our communities. (Like riding bicycles.)

Anyone have other examples of unusual indicators we should pay attention to?

(Hat tip: The Numbers Guy)

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Measuring the Progress of Societies

The summary video of the OECD Global Project on "Measuring the Progress of Societies" is available at

This short movie (12 minutes) describes the OECD Global Project on "Measuring the Progress of Societies". It was made during the second OECD World Forum on "Statistics, Knowledge and Policy" held on 27-30 June 2007 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Measuring and Fostering the Progress of Societies - A Global Initiative (Part 1) [Streaming Flash video]

Measuring and Fostering the Progress of Societies - A Global Initiative (Part 2) [Streaming Flash video]

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Older Americans 2008 Released

Get the report at Here are excerpts from the press release:

Americans Living Longer, Enjoying Greater Health and Prosperity, but Important Disparities Remain, Says Federal Report

Average life expectancy continues to increase, and today’s older Americans enjoy better health and financial security than any previous generation. However, rates of gain are inconsistent between the genders and across age brackets, income levels and racial and ethnic groups. Some critical disparities also exist between older Americans and older people in other industrialized countries. These and other trends are reported in Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being, a unique, comprehensive look at aging in the United States from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

Highlights from Older Americans 2008 include:

Population – The demographics of aging in the United States continue to change dramatically, as the baby boomers accelerate growth in the percentage and numbers of older people and other important parameters change.

· In 2006, an estimated 37 million people in the United States—12 percent of the population—were 65 and older. Projections forecast that by 2030, approximately 71.5 million people will be 65 and older, representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population.
· In 1965, 24 percent of older adults had graduated from high school, and 5 percent had bachelor’s degrees. By 2007, 76 percent were high school graduates, and 19 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. Substantial educational differences exist among racial and ethnic groups. Eighty-one percent of non-Hispanic whites age 65 and older had finished high school in 2007, compared with 72, 58 and 42 percent, respectively, of older Asians, blacks and Hispanics.

Economics – More older people enjoy increased prosperity than any previous generation, with an increase in higher incomes and a decrease in the proportion of older people with low incomes and in poverty. However, major inequalities continue to exist for older blacks and for people without high school diplomas, who report smaller economic gains and fewer financial resources.

· Income generally rose between 1974 and 2006. The proportion of older people with incomes below the poverty line went from 15 percent to 9 percent; those categorized with low income dropped from 35 percent to 26 percent; those with high incomes increased from 18 percent to 29 percent.
· Median net worth for households headed by whites age 65 and older was six times that of older black households, although the gap has slightly narrowed since 2003.
· More older people, especially women, continued to work past age 55.

Health Status – Americans’ longevity continues to increase, although life expectancy at age 65 in the United States is lower than that of other industrialized countries. While older people experience a variety of chronic health conditions that often accompany aging, the rate of functional limitations among people age 65 and older has declined in recent years.

· Life expectancy in the U.S. is lower than that of many high-income countries, such as Canada, France, Sweden and Japan. For example, in 2003, women age 65 in Japan could expect to live 3.2 years more on average than women in the United States, with the difference among men at 1.2 years. In the early 1980s, U.S. women age 65 had one of the highest average life expectancies in the world, but over the next two decades, the life expectancies of older women in many countries surpassed that of women in the United States.
· The prevalence of certain conditions differs by sex and by race and ethnicity. Women reported higher levels of arthritis than men did, while men reported higher levels of heart disease and cancer. Non-Hispanic blacks reported higher levels of hypertension and diabetes than did non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics reported higher levels of diabetes than did non-Hispanic whites.
· The prevalence of functional limitations declined from 49 percent in 1992 to 42 percent in 2005.

Health Risks and Behaviors – Factors affecting the health and well-being of older Americans, such as smoking history, influenza and pneumonia vaccinations and mammogram screenings, are key indicators that have shown long-term improvements but no significant change in recent years.

· There was no significant change in the percentage of older people engaged in physical activity between 1997 and 2006.
· The percentage of people age 65 and older who are obese, as with other age groups, increased between 1988-1994 and 2005-2006, from 22 percent to 31 percent. However, over the past several years, the trend appears to have leveled off.
· The percentage of older people living in counties with poor air quality for any air pollutant decreased from 55 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2006.

Health Care – Health care costs, particularly for prescription drugs, have risen dramatically for older Americans.

· Between 1992 and 2004, average inflation-adjusted health care costs for older Americans increased from $8,644 to $13,052. Costs varied by race and ethnic group, income and health status.
· In 2004, as in the previous 4 years, over half of out-of-pocket health care spending (excluding health insurance premiums) by community-dwelling older people was for purchase of prescription drugs. By 2004, prescription medications accounted for 61 percent of these out-of-pocket expenses. Out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs are expected to decline because of the savings available through the Medicare prescription drug program.
· The implementation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits is included in the Indicators volume for the first time. From June 2006 through September 2007, the number of beneficiaries age 65 or older enrolled in the program increased from 18.2 million to 19.7 million, with two-thirds selecting stand-alone plans and one-third in Medicare Advantage plans.

Several new specific indicators have been added in Older Americans 2008:

· Housing. Most older people live in adequate, affordable housing. However, a significant percentage has housing-related issues that can pose problems to an older person’s physical or psychological well-being. In 2005, 41 percent of households with people over age 65 had significant housing-related problems, such as housing cost burden (expenditures on housing and utilities that exceed 30 percent of household income), physically inadequate housing and crowded housing. The prevalence of housing cost burden for households with people age 65 and over increased from 30 percent in 1985 to 38 percent in 2005, compared with 26 and 33 percent, respectively, for all U.S. households. Notably, a smaller percentage of older adults’ housing had major physical problems, such as faulty plumbing or poor upkeep—5 percent in 2005 versus 8 percent in 1985.

· Use of Time. The proportion of leisure time that older Americans spent socializing and communicating—such as visiting friends or attending social events—declines by age, from 13 percent in those ages 55 to 64 to 10 percent for those 75 and over. The proportion of leisure time devoted to sports, exercise, recreation and travel also declines with age. On an average day, most Americans age 65 and older spent at least half of their leisure time watching television. Americans age 75 and older spent a higher proportion of their leisure time reading, relaxing and thinking than did those ages 55 to 64.

· Health Literacy. Among older Americans, the average level of health literacy—the extent to which people can obtain, process and understand basic health information and services—was lower than that of any other age group, and it continued to decrease with age. Thirty-nine percent of people age 75 and over had below basic health literacy, compared with 23 percent of people ages 65 to 74 and 13 percent of people ages 50 to 64.

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Geography Matters

The following is taken from the press release at


The Forgotten 2008 Campaign Issue? “Shocking” Disparities Show That “Geography Matters” for U.S. Children; AZ, SD, NV, AR, SC, TX, OK, NM, MS and LA Identified as 10 Bottom States by Key Child Well-Being Measures.

WASHINGTON, D.C.///April 2, 2008///The states of Louisiana and Vermont may be part of the same nation, but they are worlds apart when it comes to the well-being of children living within their borders.

Across the United States, where a child is born and raised can make a shockingly large difference to their chances of getting and staying healthy and then surviving to adulthood, according to a major new report released today by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Every Child Matters Education Fund (ECMEF). Entitled “Geography Matters: Child Well-Being in the States,” the ECMEF report concludes: “There exists a huge gap among states on a wide variety of child well-being indicators. The state they live in should not adversely influence the life and death of children—but it does. Such inequalities affect all Americans, rich and poor alike, and weaken both our economy and our democracy.

Children in the lowest ranking state are:

• Twice as likely to die in their first year as children in the highest ranking state.
• Three times more likely to die between the ages of one-14.
• Roughly three times more likely to die between the ages of 15-19.
• Three times more likely to be born to a teenage mother.
• Five times more likely to have mothers who received late or no prenatal care.
• Three times more likely to live in poverty.
• Five times more likely to be uninsured.
• Eight times more likely to be incarcerated.
• 13 times more likely to die from abuse and neglect.”

Based on a wide cross-section of 10 major child well-being standards, the 10 bottom states identified in the Every Child Matters Education Fund report are: Arizona (41); South Dakota (42); Nevada (43); Arkansas (44); South Carolina (45); Texas (46); Oklahoma (47); New Mexico (48); Mississippi (49); and Louisiana (50). The 10 top states for children by the same measures are: Maine (10); Washington (9); Minnesota (8); Iowa (7); Hawaii (6); New Hampshire (5); Rhode Island (4); Connecticut (3); Massachusetts (2); Vermont (1).

You can read more about it and download the report at

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17th Biennial Forum of Government Auditors

I find a wide range of things in my mailbox (electronic and otherwise). I am neither an auditor nor someone who works for government, but someone decided I needed to receive this invitation. I'm glad they sent it -- I won't be attending the conference, but I am interested in the results. If a blog reader is attending, would you mind letting it know how it went?

In the meantime, it's another example of the growing reach of the indicators movement.

17th Biennial Forum of Government Auditors --

May 20-22, 2008
Philadelphia, PA

Key Sessions:

  • Challenges Government Will Face Communicating and Collaborating in a Web 2.0 World
  • Accountability in the Iraq Reconstruction
  • Government Performance: Using Indicators to Increase Accountability at Home and Abroad
  • The State of the Economy and its Impact on Federal, State, and Local Governments
  • Financial Management and IT Transformation

Speakers at the indicators session will be Chris Hoenig, from the State of the USA, and Enrico Giovannini, from OECD.

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Vote for SCOPE!

Take a moment and vote for a great example of community change efforts stemming from community indicators -- and help fund the work. Here's the information you need:

SARASOTA, FL … SCOPE is pleased to announce that the Summit for Environmental Action, held in Sarasota County, is the only Florida-based project to be a Top 20 Finalist in the Case Foundation’s Make It Your Own Awards™. The Summit was selected from a nationwide pool of nearly 5,000 applications evaluated on subject matter and strength as an example of positive “citizen-centered” change. Each Top 20 Finalist received $10,000, consultation with a Case Foundation Social Investment Manager, and the opportunity to compete for additional funding. After selecting the top 20 ideas, the Case Foundation is inviting America to get online and vote for the Final Four, each of whom will be awarded an additional $25,000 in grant dollars to help further their community work as part of the award. Make It Your Own is an innovative grants program that forgoes the traditional grant application model to embrace a more grassroots, “citizen-centered” approach to seeking funding.

To vote for the Summit for Environmental Action as one of the Make It Your Own Awards Final Four, please visit: You will be asked to select four choices from the finalists and respond to an email confirmation for your vote to count. Voting closes on April 22nd.

The Summit for Environmental Action brought together diverse members of the community to create specific solutions addressing local environmental concerns. The Summit idea stemmed from the quality of life indicators in SCOPE’s Community Report Card. A cross-section of individuals and organizations came together to plan the Summit, which was held in February.

“The Summit was a well-organized, innovative program that should be used as a model for community forums on other issues. Thank you for the opportunity to join this inspiring group of people,” noted one participant. The Make It Your Own Awards helped make possible this idea of creating citizen-inspired action leading to positive environmental change. Please cast your vote at the Case Foundation website.

For more information contact:
Kate Irwin
tel = (941) 365-8751
fax = (941) 365-8592
kirwin (at) scopexcel (dot) org

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Job Opening: Russell Sage Foundation

112 East 64th Street
New York, New York 10065

Position Opening: PROGRAM OFFICER

The Russell Sage Foundation is the principal American foundation devoted exclusively to research in the social sciences. An operating foundation with assets of over $250 million, the Foundation supports external research projects on a variety of social issues, provides residential fellowships to selected scholars, and publishes books and monographs deriving from the research it supports. Current programs include research on the labor market problems of low-skilled workers, the social, economic and political implications of the current large wave of immigration to the U.S., the social consequences of the recent rise in economic inequality, and the ways in which U.S. institutions are adapting to the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the American population. The Foundation's interests range across topics in economics, sociology, political science, and social psychology, and its programs are often designed to foster new or interdisciplinary approaches to social problems in the U.S.

The Foundation seeks a program officer to take responsibility for overseeing one or more current research programs, to orchestrate the annual review of visiting scholar applications, and to participate in the development of the Foundation's new initiatives in social research. The program officer will work with program staff and academic advisory committees to provide overall intellectual and scientific direction for each program under development. Duties include writing requests for proposals, reviewing submitted proposals, organizing peer review, working with principal investigators to shape projects that require revision, writing briefs to propose research projects to the Foundation's Board of Trustees, monitoring funded research, and consulting with other funding agencies to secure support for co-funded projects.

Qualifications include:

  • a Ph.D. and a substantial research background in social science
  • strong analytic and quantitative training
  • excellent interpersonal and organizational skills
  • evidence of superior writing ability
  • excellent presentational skills
  • demonstrated administrative strengths

The Foundation offers a competitive salary commensurate with experience, and excellent benefits.

Send a resume and a brief letter describing qualifications and interest in the position to:

Ms. Alexsa Rosa
Russell Sage Foundation
112 East 64th Street
New York, New York 10065
Email: arosa (at)

All applications received will remain under consideration until a hiring decision is made.

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A Governing Webinar

Here's an announcement of a webinar on government performance measurement and community indicators:

Making the Connection: Government Performance and the Quality of Life
Join Governing's Jonathan Walters for a special web seminar on this topic, on Wednesday, April 29th at 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT.

Governing Webinar When and Where:
Making the Connection: Government Performance and the Quality of Life.
Date: Tuesday, April 29th
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT
Duration: 1 hour

Do you sometimes wonder whether your hard work – and what you accomplish – really contributes to a better life for your fellow citizens? Learn how some communities are making real and meaningful connections between government performance and the quality of life in their cities, counties and states.

Walters will talk with Rita Conrad from the Oregon Progress Board, which has for more than two decades been working to link government action with statewide livability indicators. They'll be joined by Kathy Carter, now community relations director for Washoe County, Nevada and formerly the head of her region's long-running livability initiative, along with Dawn Farr of the Oregon Legislature's Fiscal Office and Jeff Tryens, Conrad's predecessor at the Progress Board.
You’ll get an inside view of the work these efforts take -- and the results they hope to – and sometimes do – produce. You’ll have a chance to ask your questions about their experiences – and how they may apply to your community and your government.

You'll learn:

  • How livability indicator projects are beginning to influence public policy;
  • How and why public officials are starting to embrace community indicators; and
  • How these indicators can serve as a rallying point for building cooperative, public/private initiatives in areas beyond government's reach.

Register today to join Jonathan Walters and his guests, your colleagues, in this discussion.
Before you join, be sure to read (or re-read) Walters' article "Add to Wish List" in the April issue of Governing.


  • Jonathan Walters, Columnist, Governing Magazine
  • Rita Conrad, Executive Director, Oregon Progress Board
  • Dawn Farr, Legislative Analyst, Oregon Legislature's Fiscal Office
  • Kathy Carter, Community Relations Director, Washoe County, Nevada, and former President, Truckee Meadows Tomorrow
  • Jeff Tryens, former Executive Director (1995-2004), Oregon Progress Board

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Call for Papers: Performance Measurement

International Journal of Public Sector Performance Management (IJPSPM)

Call for Papers: Due Date 1 June, 2008

Special Issue on: "The Comparative Analysis of Local Government Performance Measurement Systems: A Global Perspective"

Guest Editors:

  • Eric Scorsone, Michigan State University, USA
  • Emanuele Padovani, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Hiraki Tanaka, Shizuoka University of Art and Culture, Japan

Across the globe, local governments and their brethren regional and national governments, are facing the growing prospect of undertaking performance measurement and management.

Extensive research has been conducted over the last two decades on understanding the evolution of performance measurement systems (PMSs), their adoption and, in some cases their effectiveness, both subjective and objective (see, for example, Poister, 2003). More recently, progress has been made in understanding challenges in measuring and comparing bureaucracies across countries at the national level (see, for example, Van de Walle, 2005, 2006).

The next stage or evolution in this arena of interest is the comparison of local government performance and bureaucracy. This is particularly important given the continuing push by many international agencies for devolution or decentralisation of government functions (for example, OECD, 2001). In order to address this lack of a unifying framework, this call for papers seeks work that will build our theoretical, conceptual and empirical understanding of the functioning of local government performance measurement systems and benchmarking efforts across countries and the potential implications of the functioning of such systems on comparisons across countries.

Subject Coverage

Specifically, we are seeking papers that include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Comparing performance measurement systems across local governments
  • Discussion and analysis of cross-national benchmarking projects concerning local governments
  • Theoretical issues connected to the comparison of local public sector performance across countries
  • Consequences at the policy and managerial level of cross-national comparisons
  • Performance measurement in local and regional government in the reporting process to the EU (accountability for funds).

Notes for Prospective Authors

  • Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere
  • All papers are refereed through a peer review process. A guide for authors, sample copies and other relevant information for submitting papers are available on the Papers
  • Submission section under Author Guidelines

Important Dates

  • Submission of full paper before: 1 June, 2008
  • Notification of acceptance before: 15 August, 2008
  • Submission of final and revised manuscripts: 1 November, 2008

Editors and Notes

You may send one copy in the form of an MS Word file to an e-mail (details in Author Guidelines) to the following:

with copies to:

Please include in your submission the title of the Special Issue, the title of the Journal and the name of the Guest Editor

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Job Opening: Social Compact

Some of you are really good at the technical side of metrics. One of you may be perfect for this position announcement:

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Database Administrator

The Database Administrator is a full-time position responsible for the management of Social Compact's relational database environment and design and maintenance of a database warehouse. Database Administrator will supervise the importing of raw data, monitor datasets, provide quality control, automate data aggregation processes, plan for future data and technology needs, and provide technical assistance to research staff.


* Management and design of the data integration process - aggregating
diverse datasets in complex and creative ways to build alternative market and demographic indicators across multiple cities.
* Manage SAS Server, SAS Enterprise Guide
* Support and maintain relational databases and applications, design
queries and reports for users. Pro-actively develop reporting solutions for staff.
* Supervise the process of data importing, geocoding, and cleaning of
* Ensure that data are properly geocoded and cleaned before
aggregating to neighborhood indicators.
* Identify appropriate data sources to expand the indicators and
improve reliability.
* Work with staff to integrate indicators into reports and market
* Respond data requests and provide assistance and training where
* Work collaboratively with research staff on a variety of projects
* Meet with community leaders, city planners and other researchers to
explain the data aggregation process to individuals with diverse levels of technical and research expertise.


The ideal candidate for this position will have the following
* Bachelor's degree in computer science or extensive
programming/database management experience; and 2 years of experience in database management, spatial and statistical analysis. Advanced degree preferred.
* Demonstrated proficiency in SQL
* Programming skills, preferably including VB and VBA
* Experience working with and designing geo-databases
* Knowledge of GIS mapping applications
* Prior experience with SAS and SAS Enterprise Guide is highly
* Proficiency in Microsoft Office
* Ability to work both independently and as a team-member within tight
* Interest in issues related to urban areas, economic development and
poverty alleviation

The Social Compact, Inc. is a DC-based nonprofit organization launched in 1990 by a coalition of business leaders who came together to promote successful business investment in undervalued communities for the benefit of current residents. This is largely done through the Neighborhood Market DrillDown, a pioneering market analysis model built on innovative sources of dependable, business-oriented data that reveals the hidden strengths of traditionally undervalued communities.

Questions about the opening and hiring process can be addressed to Ryan Sullivan (

Ryan Gerety
Associate Director, Research
The Social Compact, Inc.
738 7th Street, S.E.
Washington, DC 20003
United States

Tel: 001 202 547 2581
Fax: 001 202 547 2560
Cel: 001 505 315 5532

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Community Indicators Consortium Call for Proposals

From the Community Indicators Consortium:

We are looking for proposals for panels!

Community Indicators: Moving Information to Action, the Sixth International Conference on Community Indicators, is being held at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA from June 26 through June 28.

Will you bring your knowledge and experience to the Conference and share it with others?

There are opportunities in all of the tracks, so please see our website for details. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Rate of Change in Technology

This is pretty interesting. Thought you might want to see it. Any guesses as to what's next?

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UN Data Available

Robert Kosara, on EagerEyes, announces that "Data is being set free: the United Nations have started a new website called UN Data to share the data collected by a number of UN agencies."

He analyzes the interface, then adds:

I immediately thought, "this would be perfect in combination with Trendalyzer!" - and sure enough, this was not done by the UN alone, but together with gapminder. I'm sure they will be incorporating this as a data source soon, which should be interesting.

The Information Aesthetics blog also praises the new site.

Go to and try it for yourself. I typed in "infant mortality" (because of this project we're working on) and found the ability to customize a chart with the countries and years I wanted quite simple to use.

Check it out, and tell me what you think.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

"Free Harmonized Data to the People"

As long as I'm mentioning DataPlace (see previous post), I should point out this talk on video from Troy Anderson.

Here's Google's abstract of Troy's Tech Talk:

Organizing the world's information is great, but you end up with a lot of GIGO. While technology can clean up some things, without human intervention, you're still going to be left wanting. See what happens when cleaned up geodata meets some of the more pressing problems facing society today; and the humorous, or less humorous side, of what happens when you don't bother.

Check it out.

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Input Needed at DataPlace

Here's a note from the good people at DataPlace. For those unfamiliar with the site, it provides a great deal of data (much of it housing-specific) with some interesting tools to support your community indicators initiative. We've talked about them before, and recommended them for community projects. It's well worth checking out.

They're trying to build their 2.0 version of DataPlace, and need your input. Here's the message I received:

Hello from the development team at KnowledgePlex, Inc. We are busily working to make DataPlace better serve the data needs of community development professionals. As a registered DataPlace user, we would greatly value your input on changes you would like to see in a DataPlace version 2.0.

Any suggestions you have are welcome. Below are examples of questions that are important to us as we decide priorities for site design and development.

Bill Talcott
Associate Director, Research & Programs
KnowledgePlex, Inc.

1. Our goal with DataPlace is to provide data tools that facilitate positive community change. If you know of an example of DataPlace playing a role in a community development initiative, we would love to hear it.

2. Can you give an example of how you or your organization has successfully used DataPlace in the past? If so, please describe.

3. Do you have a wish list of data, tools, or other improvements you would like to see on DataPlace?

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Have You Registered Yet?

We've been talking about the Global Trends, Local Impacts conference presented by the National Association of Planning Councils. Early Bird registration discounts expire April 9, so here's a couple of quick motivators to encourage you to register now.

First, from the always-entertaining Indexed blog:

Second, from Albino Blacksheep, an update on their movie, Shift Happens.

Now go register for the conference.

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Citizens and Performance: Benchmarking Livability

Jonathan Walters, in this month's Governing magazine, tackles the question of community indicators and government benchmarks, and shows how it's possible to bring the two together.

From the article:

There's nothing new about aspiring to improve community well-being by trying to measure it. One of the first recognized attempts goes back to 1913. That's when the U.S. Department of Labor published its "Handbook of Federal Statistics on Children." The handbook brought scattered information on child welfare together into one place, in hopes that it would inform federal policy. Tracking broad measures of economic well-being became popular after the Great Depression. The 1960s, meanwhile, witnessed a surge of interest in data on general social and environmental health.

Check out the discussion and the examples in the article. Readers of this blog will recognize quite a few people and organizations mentioned.

Then drop me a line -- how has your community successfully integrated community indicators and performance measures?

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Freebase Up To 3.26 Million Topics

You'll remember our conversation about Freebase last September. describes itself as "a uniquely structured database that you can easily search, add to and edit; you can also use the data in it to power your own projects. It’s a data commons in the way that a public square is a land commons—available to anyone to use."

They've been adding a lot to the database in the last 90 days. From the Freebase blog:

3.26 Million. You guessed it — that’s the number of topics currently in Freebase. We wanted to share with you some of the data loading activities that we’ve been working on recently at Metaweb. In the last 90 days, we’ve seen the number of topics grow by 15% overall.

The blog continues with some interesting data visualizations covering types of topics added and their growth.

The Freebase team has more information to add:

It's been a long time since we last sent out an update, and a lot has happened since then, so we wanted to let you know about our more exciting developments.

If you're the visual type, feel free to skip to the screencast for a tour of our new features.

Over the past six months we've been working hard to improve the service. Some of the things you might notice are:

  • Way more data As Mike pointed out in his recent blog post, the Freebase community, along with our internal team, has been adding a ton of great new data to Freebase. As of today, there are more than 3.3M topics and over 100M facts.
  • A much improved UI Based on a lot of community feedback, we've completely redesigned the topic pages. The new view is faster, easier to edit, and really emphasizes what Freebase is all about: structured data. Check it out and let us know what you think.
  • Data dumps We want everyone to feel secure that if they put data into Freebase, they will always be able to get it out, so we now offer Data Dumps: free, downloadable files containing all of the data that you'll find in Freebase. We're hoping this will be a useful complement to the existing API and Freebase Wikipedia Extraction (WEX).
  • Better Terms and Policies We also noticed a lot of questions coming in around our site policies. How does licensing work? What about privacy? What are the rules around API use? We want everything around Freebase to be 100% clear and transparent, so we've updated our Terms of Service, especially our Licensing policy. Again, take a look, and please let us know if we missed anything.
  • A bunch of new hires We've hired some great people recently, including one of our early community members, Kirrily Robert (a.k.a. skud), as our new Director of Community. If you ever have any ideas, comments, or questions about Freebase, feel free to reach out to her.

We have quite a few new things in the works, so stay tuned these coming months. In the meantime, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, join the Freebase mailing lists, or swing by our next user group meeting on April 16th.

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New Newsletter: Measuring the Progress of Nations

I just received the first issue of the Newsletter on Measuring the Progress of Societies – March 2008. You can see the newsletter at: You really need to read/subscribe to this newsletter to keep up with what's been happening after the Istanbul conference.

Here's a short selection from the newsletter:

Dear Reader,

I’m very pleased to welcome you to this first issue of our new "Measuring the Progress of Societies" Newsletter.

We have been producing short newsletters every few months for the past two years, and these bulletins will continue. But for the most part we have focused on just providing information about what was happening within the OECD or about the World Forum. As the network of those we are working with grows every day, we are impressed at the enormous amount of interesting work happening around the world on measuring different aspects of societal progress. We think this work needs to be shared as widely as possible.

Indeed, the diversity of measuring progress work is reflected here, with articles about initiatives based in four continents. 2008 got off to a busy start for the team working at the OECD on this theme.

For example, we are:

• Working within the OECD and with other organisations to design the Global Project and its deliverables, to establish its governance structure, etc.;

• Beginning to plan the 3rd World Forum which will be held in South Korea in late 2009;

• Developing a stream of research and training material to assist people involved in this field around the globe;

• Working to establish regional groups those will be the foundations of this "network of networks" that we call the Global Project.

Also in the newsletter:

  • Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative;
  • On the Right Track Canadian Index of Wellbeing;
  • Measuring and Fostering the Progress of African Societies;
  • Conference on Gross National Happiness.
  • Highlights; Knowledge Base and Wikigender.
  • OECD Factbook 2008 Special Discount offer for Newsletter readers

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