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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, July 24, 2009

Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project Releases Report

The Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project just released their 2009 Annual Community Indicators Report (PDF).

The report is straightforward and to the point -- nothing overly elaborate, with clean text and clear maps supporting the indicators. It's a solid overview of the region's challenges and strengths. The indicator set is interesting -- it looks like they made a conscious decision to exclude the more commonly-used indicators (you won't find high school graduation rates under education, for example, or unemployment rates under economy.)

Associated with the report is their new MetroPhilaMapper interactive mapping system, containing 300+ indicators. This system is designed to allow you to build your own maps based on your own geography and indicator selections. They describe it as:

"a new web resource that allows users to easily find data about all communities in the region, to view the information displayed in charts, tables, and maps, and to compare data that used to be scattered across multiple sources. MetroPhilaMapper provides over 300 local and regional indicators, including land use patterns, population characteristics, school district spending and performance, income and wage data, and crime patterns for the two-state, nine-county region."

The printed report refers often to the extended indicator set in the MetroPhilaMapper online site.

The mapping interface generates some nice graphics, but has a few bugs in the display that didn't work well (I was using FireFox). I liked how you could select the indicators your liked, and then choose whether you wanted them displayed on a map, in a table, ranked, as a scatterplot, or with more detail in a "statistics" view. I also liked how you could save your project and come back to it later.

What I thought was unfortunate is the data timeliness -- household income data was available for 2000, annual wages for 2004. Similar patterns were seen in data availability in other areas. I hope the data is brought up to date soon -- more current data is available in the printed report, and I don't understand the data gaps in the online version.

In all, however, both the report and the mapping tool are worth a look.

(HT: MPIP on Twitter)


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