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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Five Types of Data Visualization People

Flowing Data presents an interesting set of categories of people who are interested in data visualization. The list includes these five types:

  • The Technician, focused on implementation (how the hardware/software support the visualization);
  • The Analyzer, focused on the data (what are the numbers and what do they say?);
  • The Artist, focused on the visuals (is it pretty?);
  • The Outsider, focused on context (what's the other information we need to understand the data?); and
  • The Light Bulb, focused on the picture -- the one with the Big Idea that everyone else has to sweat to implement.

Tasty Data Goodies, the blog from Swivel, talks about the five categories, and includes a graph purporting to show the relative size of the five types. Except the graph is based on a sample size of 10. And people could choose more than one category. I'm not reproducing the graph (you can see it here if you really want to), but why did they? I thought they knew data better than that. Just because you have some numbers doesn't mean you have information.

Back to the five categories. Do you see yourself in them? Your project partners (staff or volunteers)? Are these categorizations complete? Are they useful?

(As a side note, the Flowing Data blog is pretty neat -- I'm adding it to the blogroll on this page. If you have other suggestions for blogs that we should be linking to, please drop me a line.)

Read more ...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Information Updates

Here's a couple of updates from stuff we've talked about earlier:

1. PolicyMap ( has just added new data sets:

- Presidential Campaign Contributions as of June 20, 2008
- 4th Quarter 2007 Home Sale Statistics
- Fair Market Rents (FMR) for 2008 by bedroom size: efficiencies, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, 3 bedroom, and 4 bedroom units
- Area Median Incomes (AMI) for 2008 by family size (1 through 8 person families). Data includes 30%, 50% and 80% of AMI calculations

2. The Housing+Transportation Affordability Index web training session is tomorrow. Here's what you need to know to join in:

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index: A New Way of Defining Affordability

Thursday, July 31 at 2:00 p.m. ET

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, developed by CNT and collaborative partner, the Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD), is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing by including the cost of transportation associated with location. Planners, lenders, and most consumers traditionally measure housing affordability as 30 percent or less of income. The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, in contrast, takes into account not just the cost of housing, but also the intrinsic value of place, as quantified through transportation expenses.

The latest release of the H + T Index, a project of the Brookings Institution's Urban Markets Initiative, includes an interactive mapping site which provides housing and transportation costs at the neighborhood level for 52 metropolitan areas. Additionally, other key characteristics of neighborhoods are presented, including average VMT (vehicle miles traveled), auto ownership rates, employment density, and transit ridership. Recognizing the relationship between urban form, housing site selection, and transportation costs and integrating this way of thinking into the choices and decisions made by home buyers, renters, urban and transportation planners and developers are key factors in creating and establishing true affodability in housing choices.
KnowledgePlex Expert Chats are free to attend and use Microsoft's Live Meeting Software, a small and free program you must install beforehand.

For more information or to join this Expert Chat, click here.

Try the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index website at

Read more ...

Rochester Launches Community Indicators Project

From the Rochester Area Community Foundation comes this report of a new initiative I thought readers might be interested in:

Community Matters - Joined Forces

The Community Foundation and United Way prepare to launch a community indicators program for greater Rochester.

A new method of problem solving and decision making that allows for valuable input from the entire community will soon be inplace in greater Rochester. A community indicators program developed jointly by Rochester Area Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Rochester is currently in the planning phase. The initiative is expected to officially launch in the fall.

Community indicators are systematic measures of the overall health and well-being of a community, presented in a way that focuses community attention on critical needs and moves the discussion of solutions from general opinions to fact-based actions. The ultimate goal is a more efficient and effective response to our community’s problems.

As a first step, existing data is being examined in twelve critical categories: financial well-being; children and youth; education; the economy; community engagement; community safety; health; environment; arts and culture; housing; transportation; and technology. The target region includes Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.
Recently, the community indicators program has been given the name ACT Rochester, which stands for Achieving Community Targets. The new name conveys the sense that data and information must be collected and turned into community action.

More than 100 community organizations and agencies are now engaged in a series of community consultations designed to provide input on the selection of measures as well as the overall program. Eventually, active community forums and debates will be encouraged to address the implications of the data. A website will also be developed to highlight the data and offer additional opportunities for community participation.

The Center for Governmental Research has been hired to advise on data elements, and Logical Solutions has been retained to design and launch the project’s new website.

Planning for this ambitious program has been guided by a joint Community Foundation-United Way task force under the leadership of Margaret Sánchez, immediate past chair of the Community Foundation’s board of directors. Ed Doherty, vice president of community programs for the Community Foundation, and Dawn Borgeest, senior vice president and chief corporate affairs officer for United Way, are charged with moving the project forward during its development over the next several months.

Both the Community Foundation and United Way have pledged equal, long-term support to ACT Rochester. Leaders of the two organizations hope their partnership will provide not only a vehicle for enhanced service to the community, but also an example for other community collaborations.

Read more ...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Call for Papers: Neighborhood Renewal

Invitation received via NAPC (National Association of Planning Councils) -- I think if you ask nicely they'll let you subscribe. I thought both the conference and the call for papers might be of interest to some of the readers here:

Neighbourhood – The International Journal of Neighbourhood Renewal
Annual International Neighbourhood Renewal Conference / Annual International Neighbourhood Renewal Awards London Nov 2009 – Free Delegate / Display Space Offer

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the development of the International Journal of Neighbourhood Renewal which will promote good practice in this field of public policy. The first edition of the Journal will be published on the 1st September 2008 and the first year of Journals will contain a range of informative articles from around the world. If you would like to subscribe now to the Journal, then please visit the website. Alternatively Stuart from my office will be in touch with you shortly to discuss this matter in more detail, In summary subscription fees are as follows per annum:

(a) £149 per annum for a quarterly hard copy, free electronic access for all in the team and 50% off other conferences organised by Holden Publishing. This rate also qualifies you for a free display space / free delegate pass at the Inaugural Annual Conference of the International Journal of Neighbourhood Renewal / Annual International Neighbourhood Renewal Awards at the Central Hall Westminster on the 19th and 20th November 2009 if you subscribe before 4th August 2008.
(b) £49 per annum for electronic access and 10% off other conferences organised by Holden Publishing.

If you would like to submit a paper for future inclusion in the Journal then please follow the link and submit a paper at any time. I look forward to welcoming you as a subscriber to ‘Neighbourhood’ or as one of our contributors.

With kindest regards,


Ray Holden
Director of Development
Holden Publishing
UK Office
Horton House
Exchange Flags
Floor Five
L2 3PF
Phone: +44 (0)845 6025280
Fax: +44 (0)151 2445401

Read more ...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Un-Missable Data Displays Part Two: Noise Pollution

First it was air quality indicators on balloons. Now it's noise pollution on billboards. Data you can't avoid seeing.

The Noise Awareness Blog is highlighting an advertisement campaign in Europe (for a quiet washing machine, I think). The campaign has put up giant billboards that measure the decibel levels in the street and display current decibels in an LED display. Like this:

From the blog:

Also in London AEG-Electrolux has erected a giant poster to monitor the noise level ‘live, as it happens’ on a busy road: Old Street Foundry in Shoreditch.The poster is sited above a local night club and on a main route to local schools and local people have already started to take an interest - instead of just walking past the poster they are stopping and looking for a while before walking on. Local school kids are taking it a step further and are deliberately shouting at the sign in unison in order to make the numbers change. The Manager of the night club is finding the poster helpful too – he taking photos of the sign in the early hours of the morning to show the local council that he is not making too much noise!

(Hat tip: information aesthetics)

Read more ...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Health Indicator Trendlines

From XKCD via the Bacon Salt Blog:

OK, so I like the idea of telling a story with a graph. And I like bacon. And I thought this was funny. And I am trying to justify putting this picture on a community indicators blog. Any help here?

(You might also enjoy the last panel of this webcomic. Jokes about people making graphs aren't as funny as jokes using graphs, however.)

Read more ...

Audio Conference: Performance Reporting

From the July 23, 2008 • AGA Education News:

Everything You Wanted To Know About Performance Reporting, But Were Afraid To Ask!

Aug. 20 Audio Conference

AGA, in conjunction with the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) and the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) is pleased to announce a new and increasingly important topic to our audio conference schedule—Everything You Wanted to Know About Performance Reporting, But Were Afraid to Ask!

Is your government thinking about producing a performance report for internal and external use? Do your constituents want to know more about the government’s activities and accomplishments? Does your legislative body need information that can help make the tough budget decisions? Does internal management need performance measures to gauge the success or failure of its programs? With transparency and accountability as the watchwords for effective, efficient and honest government, performance reporting should be on the political agenda of any official who wishes to convey how and on what government is spending tax dollars.

To share their practical experiences in performance reporting, three performance report preparers will explain the positive results achieved with their use of a performance report. Join Drummond Kahn, CGFM, CIA, Director, Audit Services, Portland, Oregon; Rebekah Stephens, Planning and Performance Coordinator, Metro Nashville, TN; and Mike Taylor, CPA, CIA, City Auditor, Stockton, CA, as each of them discuss how their governments are using the performance reports. First-time AGA Certificate of Achievement in Service Efforts and Accomplishments award recipients, Ms. Stephens and Mr. Taylor, will also explain why their municipalities needed a performance report to drive changes within government. Mr. Kahn will share how the Portland, Oregon performance report has matured over the past 17 years and how it is being used to improve government services today.

Please join us for two hours of lively discussion about this important and timely topic. In addition to the speakers’ commentary, there will be approximately 20 minutes for Q & A so that the participants can ask the speakers questions and share their own experiences.

Date: Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Time: 2– 3:50 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time

Learning Objectives: To obtain an understanding of how performance management and reporting can improve transparency and accountability

Prerequisite: Familiarity with performance management and reporting

Advance Prep: None required

CPE: Two credits

Field of Study: Accounting (Governmental)

Cost: $249 per site (UNLIMITED ATTENDANCE) if you register on or before Friday, August 15, 2008 and $299 thereafter.

SPECIAL PROMOTION: Government agencies and CPAG members who register five or more office will receive a 20 percent discount ($200 per site)

To Register: Register online, print the registration form or print the special promotion registration form.

This audio conference offers important information to almost everyone in the accountability profession. Please share this program announcement with others in your government, chapters, educational institutions and private firms. Remember, there is no limit to attendance per phone site. If you have any questions regarding registration, please contact Maria Lucas at 1-800-242-7211 ext. 308 or . Questions regarding the program should be directed to Raymond Harris at ext. 339 or Evie Barry at ext. 324.

Read more ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't We Drive More Than We Walk?

When I posted the follow-up article on Walk Score, an alert reader pointed me to Drive Score. This site allows you to enter an address and get a score based on the number of businesses within drivable range. (Since I just proved that South Dakota is within "drivable range" of Florida, the How It Works page helped me understand what is being measured.

Your Drive Score is a number between 0 and 100. The score of an address depends on how far you are comfortable driving―after all, everything is within driving distance if you have the time. Here are general guidelines for interpreting your score:

  • Excellent (90 - 100): All errands can be accomplished by car within 5-7 minutes
  • Very Good (70 - 90): It's possible to get everywhere you need within 10-15 min by car.
  • Good (50 - 70): Some stores and amenities are within 20-25 minutes driving distance.
  • Satisfactory (25 - 50): Only a few destinations are within easy driving range.
  • Disappointing (0 - 25): Virtually no neighborhood destinations within convenient driving range.

OK, that made sense to me. I also liked the How It Doesn't Work page, which showed some of the limitations of the data.

It was interesting to see what was available within driving distance of both my office and my home, with icons identifying different types of establishments -- some of them even in walking distance!

Overall, it's a nice addition to the tools available for assessing neighborhoods. Thanks for the link!

Read more ...

Quantifying Racism in Cities

The Freakonomics blog has a provocative article asking What is the most racist city in America? The author of the article, Sudhir Venkatesh, asks for input on "quantifying racism" and suggests a "racism index" might allow someone to identify which city was the most racist. (He suggests it might be Boston, as his example.)

The article is generating a number of comments, primarily anecdotal -- "I lived in this city and it was awful" -- with a few suggestions for indicators such as hate crimes or interracial marriages as potential measures of racism.

We've been talking about indicators of racial disparity over the past year or so on this blog. I'm interested in your comments on specific measures of racism in the community. How would you/do you measure racism? What would you reply to the Freakonomics folks?

We're promised a follow-up article on social science research on measuring racism, and I'll pass that along when it appears. If you have a specific project or examples of indicators that you're working on or that you think is worth sharing, please pass it on.

Read more ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Two Reports Released by NNIP

Here's a head's-up from Tom Kingsley on the NNIP Listserve:

Two reports have recently been released describing innovative local uses of parcel level data in community development. Most of the examples were done by partners in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP). The first is the final report on the five-city project NNIP did for the Brookings Urban Markets Initiative several years ago. The second came out of a project done jointly by PolicyLink and the Urban Institute for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (the final work under that project is a guide on using parcel level data being prepared by Kathy Pettit – expected to be released in September).

Data and Decisions: Parcel Level Information Changing the Way Business Gets Done, by G. Thomas Kingsley and Kathryn L.S. Pettit. (Brookings Institution, July 2008).

The accelerated development of electronic land information systems in our cities creates opportunities for important improvements in land management and community development. However, “decision support tools” are needed to assure that the new data will be brought to bear on real decision making effectively. These tools transform raw data into accessible information displays designed to inform specific actions by private, nonprofit and government actors, and may range from simple web tables to more complex analytic processes. This paper reviews early experiences in developing such tools in five cities in 2004/05 (Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Providence, and Washington DC) and concludes that their future holds promise. The choice of tools will depend on local market conditions, but in all areas, they can help in: (1) assessing trends and need for intervention; (2) deciding on the appropriate interventions for individual properties; and (3) monitoring and coordinating programs. Ideas are offered as to how local leaders can create an environment conducive to these potentials and avoid risks that could hinder them.

Transforming Community Development with Land Information Systems, by Sarah Treuhaft and G. Thomas Kingsley. (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2008).

Land information systems and internet-based databases have the power to transform community development, making it possible to harness technology to revitalize urban areas and create affordable housing where it is most needed, according to a new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. "There is vast potential in the use of technology in community development," said Rosalind Greenstein, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Economic and Community Development at the Lincoln Institute. "Using geographic information systems and Web services truly facilitates the work of planning, developing, and nurturing vibrant neighborhoods that meet the needs of today's residents." The report includes a synopsis of the evolution of parcel data systems and recent advanced applications, as well as five case studies from Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., that illustrate the use of new technology in facilitating revitalization, improving vacant lots, building on affordable housing initiatives, heading off foreclosures, or integrating neighborhood efforts into a larger regional framework.

Tom Kingsley
The Urban Institute
2100 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

Read more ...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Walk Score Ranks Cities

We've talked about Walk Score before and its use of walkability indicators for communities. Now they've come out with new rankings for America's Most Walkable Neighborhoods -- and they illustrate their article with a picture of my hometown. So I have to talk about it again, right?

If you're interested, here's Jacksonville, Florida's Walk Score. And here's how the walk score calculations work.

Look up your own city. Pretty neat, right? Here's a use of data to tell a story in ways that make you think differently about your city. (Now if they just had some bicycle indicators to add to the picture, my joy would be complete.)

For more, see also this column by The Numbers Guy in the Wall Street Journal.

Read more ...

Best Whatever Cities by Money Magazine

You've seen the lists -- Top 25 Hottest Cities. Top 25 Cities for Singles. Top 25 Coolest Cities. Top 25 Cities to Live. Top 25 Friendliest Cities. Each of them develops some set of indicators as criteria, adds a trendy label, and then ranks a bunch of cities according to the desired index. It's gotten to the point where some magazines look like they have to have a Top 25 Cities list in every issue in order to meet their publication deadlines.

I was amused to see at a new kind of resource. It's their Best Places to Live city comparison tool. Add your city (or comparison cities) to a list they have generated, and compare the indicators you want to -- in areas such as financial, education, housing, quality of life, leisure & culture, weather, health, and "meet the neighbors" (which contains some demographic data like age and educational attainment and also stuff like the average amount spent on vacations.)

With this tool, you can mix and match your own indicators to create your own "Best Cities" criteria. You can create a "Best Highbrow Cities" list by combining education attainment, educational opportunities, libraries, and museums. Or Most Fit. Or Most Affordable. Or Safest. Or any of these other listings (which already exist out there in some format, I'm sure, but which you can create on your own.)

It's an interesting tool. Can you create a constellation of indicators that tells an interesting story? Would you like to share your own "Best Cities" ranking criteria?

Read more ...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Job Opening: Research Analyst / Database Specialist

From the NNIP Listserve:

Research Analyst / Database Specialist

Boston area regional planning agency seeks Research Analyst for the Metro Boston Data Center. The Research Analyst will collect and organize data, conduct analysis, and prepare data for presentation in print and electronic formats. BA required; 3 years exp. and data software experience. Salary range Mid to high $40’s. Excellent state employee benefits package including health insurance. Position open until filled. Review of applications will begin on August 1, 2008. Please see complete job description at

MAPC is an EOE/ AA employer. Submit application materials to

Read more ...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

American Human Development Project

The American Human Development Project is an interesting data resource and attempt to create a national indicator set to "stimulate fact-based public debate about and political attention to human development issues in the United States and to empower people to hold elected officials accountable for progress on issues we all care about: health, education, and income."

The site includes a report, The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009; a set of interactive maps that let you select indicators like SAT scores, army recruits, or obesity rates; and the most intriguing (and awfully-named) section, the Well-O-Meter.

The Well-O-Meter starts off with a series of questions about yourself. Some of them are odd -- after asking my gender, it also asked if I were a woman who received annual gynecological checkups AND if I were a man over 40 who had annual checkups. Income and education were asked in two separate ways. Overall, it was an interesting set of questions -- made as interesting but what wasn't asked as by what was. At the end, it gives you a score, and then plots your score against some comparatives. So while race/ethnicity and region of the country are factors the Well-O-Meter think are significant for health differences, it asks about neither for you personally.

It does ask about family characteristics, health events, and life expectancy -- which is quite interesting, since the purpose of the site otherwise seems to be arguing for public policy debates about shared community characteristics.

I thought you might enjoy playing with the site and seeing what information it has on your community. The attempt to link you personally with the larger community/national picture is an intriguing concept, though I suspect it would have been more useful to place the individual answers within the geographical context that the site is mapping already.

What are your reactions to the site?

(Hat tip: Media General News Service -- read the article!)

Read more ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Indicators on Balloons: Un-missable Data Display has proposed a new way of displaying data in real time for community benefit. They're putting air pollution data up in the air so that people can see it from 20 kilometers away. From their website:

Aérophile has just installed an entirely new captive balloon concept in Paris, one that has no equivalent anywhere in the world. This larger-than-life tourist attraction takes on a civic angle by becoming an unheard-of, spectacular means of information on air quality.

For the first time ever worldwide, air can be seen. Using a revolutionary lighting system, the balloon now informs city dwellers in real time on atmospheric pollution, via two distinct indexes :

  • Ambient air quality, reflected through general illumination of the balloon using three projectors located upon the envelope’s equatorial plane, with better night time visibility.
  • Air quality near major traffic arteries, using a high-power rotating laser beam that sweeps the envelope’s southern tropical plane.

In Paris, data is collected by sensors set up by “Airparif” in several spots throughout the City (data complies with the new European index developed for the CITEAIR project and currently used by about thirty large cities.) Collected indices highlight the quantity of the three most harmful contaminants (Nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particles) found in the atmosphere, according to the following colour coding: red for highly polluted air, orange for polluted, yellow for mediocre, light green for clean and green for very clean.

Now, isn't that cool? Anyone have other examples of larger-than-life indicator displays?

(Hat tip: information aesthetics)

Read more ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Expert Chat: Housing + Transportation Affordability Index

Upcoming opportunity from KnowledgePlex (

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index: A New Way of Defining Affordability
Thursday, July 31 at 2:00 p.m. ET

A New Way of Defining Affordability: The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and its collaborative partner, the Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD), is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing by including the cost of transportation associated with location. Planners, lenders, and most consumers traditionally measure housing affordability as 30 percent or less of income. The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, in contrast, takes into account not just the cost of housing, but also the intrinsic value of place, as quantified through transportation expenses.

The latest release of the H + T Index, a project of the Brookings Institution’s Urban Markets Initiative, includes an interactive mapping site which provides housing and transportation costs at the neighborhood level for 52 metropolitan areas. Additionally, other key characteristics of neighborhoods are presented, including average VMT (vehicle miles traveled), auto ownership rates, employment density, and transit ridership. Recognizing the relationship between urban form, housing site selection, and transportation costs and integrating this way of thinking into the choices and decisions made by home buyers, renters, urban and transportation planners and developers are key factors in creating and establishing true affordability in housing choices.

In this chat, you will have the opportunity to learn about the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index and how it can be used by planners, housing advocates and transportation agencies.

More infomation about this Expert Chat will soon be posted here.

Read more ...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Input Needed: What Makes a Successful Set of Progress Indicators?

Kate Scrivens, in the latest Newsletter on Measuring the Progress of Societies (PDF) from the OECD, asks "What makes a successful set of indicators?" She outlines the questions that need to be answered in order to approach this issue, including how to define success, and describes the work undertaken by the OECD to report on what success looks like.

To do that, she needs your help. They're looking to complete the report by December 2008. They need examples of successful indicators projects from all over the world, run by different kinds of organizations, and ranging from international and national indicator sets to the subnational, community, and even neighborhood indicators. Here's what she's asking:

If you are an expert or practitioner in the field of indicator development, the research team would be particularly interested in hearing from you. For more information, contact Kate Scrivens;

I hope you can share your success stories with this project. Please read the newsletter article (it's on pages 4 and 5 of the newsletter) for more information.

Read more ...

Webinar: Network And Infrastructure Considerations for the Next Data Center

From CrossTech Webinars:

You're invited to a Webinar Tomorrow: Network And Infrastructure Considerations for the Next Data Center

When did you last evaluate your data center's network and infrastructure? How well are you prepared for virtualization or grid computing, lower power consumption needs, different network classes of service to support software-as-a-service and VoIP, and all the other challenges being thrown at your operation? Is your network and your infrastructure ready to support the Next Data Center?

Join Chris Brogan, VP of Strategy & Technology from CrossTech Media in a lively discussion with:

  • Fred Stack, Chairman ASHRAE TC 9.9 & Vice President of Marketing, Emerson Network Power Liebert Solutions
  • Sanjay Khanna, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Foundry Networks
  • Steve Yellen, Vice President of Product and Market Strategy, Aperture

Come learn from the experts, and learn where your data center might need their help, register now for this FREE webinar, part of the CrossTech Connect Information Series™.

Network And Infrastructure Considerations for the Next Data Center Webinar is scheduled for:
Tomorrow, July 15, 2008 at 2:00 PM EDT

Webinar Details
Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Time: 2:00 PM EDT
Cost: FREE to attend
Don't Wait:
Register Now

Read more ...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

United States of Obesity

This map (click on it to enlarge) should be a wake-up call for communities dealing with health indicators. You'll remember this map from an earlier post on the subject. The United States leads the world in obesity, and we can see concentrations in certain states (particularly in the American South.)

Here's what StrangeMaps had to say on the subject:

"Obesity, it may be useful to repeat, is not a euphemism for being overweight. It means being so fat that one’s health is affected. You are defined as obese if you have a body mass index of 30 or over (with a bmi of between 25 and 30, you are merely overweight). The US is the most overweight nation in the world, with over a quarter of the total population being obese. Obesity is a global phenomenon, however. It was recently reported that for the first time in history, there are now more overweight than malnourished people in the world."

Here's the earlier map we referred to:

How is your community using data and data display techniques to galvanize efforts in this area? Do you have indicators of adult or child obesity in your indicator sets?

(Hat tips: FrostFireZoo and StrangeMaps)

Read more ...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More on CIC Conference

Here's Tom Paper, from Data360, writing on his impressions of the Community Indicators Consortium conference.

Anyone else have notes or comments on the conference they would like to share?

Read more ...

Community Indicators and Road Trips

As I mentioned earlier, I'm on the road right now on vacation, taking a chance to see America. In between trying to figure out why kids love the Chipmunks so much and wondering where I can find internet access, I started thinking about the communities we were driving through and how different they were.

I think it was in Upton, Wyoming yesterday that some thoughts started to crystallize. When you enter the town, there's a big sign: "Welcome to Upton: Best Town on Earth". From an outsider's viewpoint, this town of 872 people didn't appear to be exceptional in any of the indicators we use in our community to measure progress. But maybe that was the point.

The week before, I had wandered through the Yampa Valley in Colorado. Besides getting back at my kids for playing Chipmunks over and over by repeating "Yampa" as often as possible (aided immeasurably by the number of times the road crossed the Yampa River), I thought about their community indicators project. Their work on civic indicators (pdf) includes measures of voter turnout, like many indicators reports, but it also looks at how they give philanthropically and how they communicate with each other about shared governance issues. To their south, the Pikes Peak community indicators project measures philanthropic giving differently, and adds in religious engagement as a measure of civic health, along with volunteering. Different communities, different measures.

I'm often asked if there is one really good standard set of measures for communities to use in their indicators reports. Certainly there are measures that show up more often in reports. The National Association of Planning Councils compiled a fascinating report in 2002 that examined common indicators framework and shared indicators among its member organizations in their social indicators reports. The State of the USA effort is trying to compile a national framework for indicators. Some data sets, because of the recognizability, usefulness, ubiquity, whatever appear to be nearly standard, regardless of their flaws (all indicators have flaws, of course.) But the collection of indicators from community to community, while sharing some common characteristics, always has some surprises.

What's even more interesting are those indicators that communities want to measure but have no data for. (We shouldn't assume an indicator is a good one because it is common -- data limitations can force us into too few options to get at what we really want to measure.) I've heard some amazing suggestions for indicators from community groups. And the struggles to measure things like "coolness" of a community or its "authenticity" are sometimes pretty rough.

I don't think there's one set of perfect community indicators, any more than there's only one kind of good community or one kind of scenic beauty in landscapes. How can you find a set of indicators that captures Yellowstone and the Columbia River Gorge and Zion National Monument? Rainfall? Foliage? Elevation? I'm in South Dakota today, having just stared in awe at four presidents on a cliff face. What if my indicators for "astounding national parks" included something about "natural vistas unspoiled by man"?

So here I am, in the shadows of Mount Rushmore right now, still thinking about community indicators. (That's what you do on vacation, right?) One more random thought: As we drove down through some fascinating geological formations yesterday in Wyoming, we saw placards announcing the ages of the rocks around us. Jurassic. Cretaceous. Philadelphian. Cambrian. Pre-Cambrian. I was filled with the wonder of seeing the incredible geologic time sequence, measured in millions and then billions of years. Such immensity of time has to put our local efforts in perspective.

Even with Chipmunks screeching "Please Christmas don't be late."

Read more ...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

PolicyMap and Mapping Politics

We talked about PolicyMap last month, and so you've probably explored their site and checked to see what data they had on your community.

Now PolicyMap has added something new -- presidential campaign political contributions. It's an interesting data set that's fun to explore for your community -- I found some fascinating patterns for my neighborhood that challenged some of my assumptions.

I like the suggested questions under the Quick Answers section under the maps. This new data set doesn't yet have the questions put in that this data answers -- any ideas?

Here's a note from Tyler Hoffberger explaining more: has now uploaded the latest campaign contribution data (current through May 20). Check it out:

PolicyMap lets you map and research (for free) the concentrations of campaign contributions for Obama and McCain in your community and in any community across the country. Makes for a great visual map to illustrate your point – and can highlight strongholds within key swingstates.

Easy to use: type in any address, zip code, or census tract and then choose a "data layer" to learn about campaign contributions and voter demographics. The campaign contribution data is under the "TRFAnalytics tab" to the right. The site also has loads of data on voter demographics by geography.

What do you think? How can you use this site to help your community indicators efforts?

Read more ...