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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Indicators Report: Whatcom Counts

Elizabeth Jennings, Executive Director of the Whatcom Coalition for Healthy Communities in Whatcom County, Washington (Bellingham area) sent me a note to look at their indicators website, Whatcom Counts.

The focus of the website is on community health indicators. They do some nice things with the site that I think community indicators practitioners should pay attention to.

First, they use dashboard images well to identify where the indicators are against a scale of where they ought to be. The visualizations appear as mini-dashboards, gauges marked off in red, yellow, and green, so that the message is easily recognizable, even without any numbers attached. Clicking through the image gives you the current value, the values for red/green/yellow, and a mouseover gives you a legend that explains if the comparisons are made over time, by average, or by region.

Secondly, clicking through the indicator gives you more detailed information, including what the indicator measures, why it is important, technical notes, source information, the URL of the source, the URL of the data, and a graph of time-series data. I appreciate this attention to the metadata needs of the end user, and applaud how they've taken a simplified image and combined it with more detailed data to meet needs of multiple user types.

Third, I like the grouping of the indicators by topic centers (with a broad vision of what constitutes community health), as well as providing the option to search for individual indicators. The interface for finding indicators appears intuitive and easy to use.

Fourth, i like the bringing together of multiple information formats -- indicators/statistics, reports/data, and current news. The inclusion of a "feature story" on the main page provides ways to engage with the information for those who are not comfortable extracting meaning by themselves from the data, and provides a context for understanding how the indicators interact with key community issues.

Last, I like the way the user is given options to Click -- Learn -- Act. The Act section is interesting; they've provided the following links:

ACT - Get involved. Apply information and ideas to an issue that is important to you.
Promising Practices - Find solutions
Local Resources - Get involved locally
Contribute Content - Submit content

I think this is an exciting presentation of information. Elizabeth writes:

"Since launching in 2006, we’ve been piloting how to use the site as a tool in our community convening work, not just a static source of information. Our traffic has grown from about 1,500 visits per month at the beginning of 2008 to over 9,000 in January 2009. "

I think you'll agree that they're doing some remarkable work. Take a look and let me know what you think.

And keep sharing with me your indicators projects! We all benefit when we can learn from each other.


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