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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, May 2, 2008

Data Access Tools: Central Ohio

Community Research Partners in Columbus, Ohio, is an organization I like a lot -- they do really good work, and I had the opportunity to sit on a board with one of their former associates and was impressed with the caliber of work he did. (Hi, Mike!)

I like what they've done with their website to integrate their indicators reports, research efforts, and interactive data/mapping tools. Check out to see what I mean.

They do one other thing I really like: They train people on how to use the data in making better decisions.

As an extra bonus, they provide a pretty good summary of how to use community indicators on their website:

How Indicators can be Used

The indicator data can be used in a variety of ways—for policy and program design, resource allocation, grant applications, program evaluation, advocacy, and research. The following describe the ways that indicators help us understand our community:

  • Indicators provide information about large systems.
    The Community Indicators Handbook (Authors: Tyler Norris Associates, Redefining Progress and Sustainable Seattle) includes this definition of indicators:“Indicators are small bits of information that reflect the status of larger systems…When we can’t see the condition of something in its entirety– whether it’s… a person, an educational system or a whole community–we need indicators to make these conditions visible. Indicators can’t tell us everything, but they can tell us enough to make good decisions possible.”
  • Indicators help us see relationships among aspects of community life.
    Redefining Progress, a nonprofit research organization, provides the following perspective on indicators:“…indicators can bring many different sectors of the community together, foster new alliances and relationships, provide all citizens with a better compass for understanding community problems and assets…Unique partnerships for improving communities can be formed as community members begin to appreciate the linkages among seemingly unrelated aspects of community life.”
  • Indicators link the past to the future.
    The International Institute for Sustainable Development describes the use of indicator data in this way:“Societies measure what they care about. Measurement…provides an empirical and numerical basis for evaluating performance, for calculating the impact of our activities on…society and for connecting past and present activities to attain future goals.”The Community Indicators Database is being developed with all of these viewpoints in mind. CRP hopes that the database will help the community to better understand its systems, gain new insights into the interrelatedness of community trends, and most importantly, develop consensus on data-driven goals for the future.

So check out the site and let me know what you think.


Post a Comment