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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sustainable City Rankings

There's a new set of sustainability rankings out from The rankings are based on a set of 16 indicators of sustainability, from water supply and land use to traffic congestion and green building practices. The complete methodology, including data sources, can be found here.

I'm not charmed by ranking systems in general, and a weighted index doesn't really get my heart pumping. Too much subjectivity posing as objectivity. But I really, really liked the site's openness in providing not only the methodology (including the indicators and the weights, with some rationale for the reasons for the weighting), but also the data sources used (and additional reading/resources where applicable).

This particular ranking was brought to my attention by the reactions of people in my community (Jacksonville, Florida) to their placement in the rankings. Local environmentalists, on seeing Jacksonville ranked 23rd out of 50, were "not ecstatic" (see article in The Florida Times-Union.) Apparently the ranking gave credit for good intentions -- policies enacted -- before the results of a cleaner environment were measurable (or even much had been done.) While we've been pretty pleased to see the policies put in place (and have had a hand in doing so -- see the followiing studies: 2007: Air Quality: Energy, Environment and Economy; 2006: River Dance: Putting the River in River City ; and 2002: Making Jacksonville a Clean City), we want to see the positive outcomes as well.

Take a look at the rankings, and see if your city is there. Then let me know -- did they get it right? And did you get any good ideas for better indicators/data sources in the process?


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