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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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 21, 2009

Canada's Social Indicators Show Poverty Is Greatest Challenge

The Conference Board of Canada released their report card on social indicators for Canada, and addressing poverty remains the top concern.

The gives letter grades to Canada and 16 other "peer countries" for 17 indicators of Society, divided into three main categories: Self-Sufficiency, Equity, and Social Cohesion. The framework for understanding these indicators, as well as the indicators chosen, is interesting--take a look (click on the image to make it larger):

From their website:

Self-sufficiency is assessed by two indicators that measure the financial autonomy of individuals within the economy and society. For most people, employment participation is probably the most important means of achieving self-sufficiency. Canada’s relatively low unemployment rate implies that our economy is doing a good job at ensuring that people who want to work are able to do so. But the situations of two vulnerable sub-populations—youth and people with disabilities—are often masked by the overall numbers.

Equity has two broad dimensions: equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. Opinions on what is a “fair” or “just” distribution of resources vary widely, and it is difficult to obtain measurable and comparable information on equality of opportunity. One indicator can be seen as a measure of equality of opportunity—intergenerational income mobility. It assesses the likelihood that individuals can break out of the income class into which they are born. The remaining five equity indicators focus on equity of outcomes: elderly poverty, child poverty, working-age poverty, income inequality, and the gender income gap.

Social cohesion is assessed through indicators that:

The Conference Board also releases a separate report card for Economy, Education and Skills, Innovation, Environment, and Health. The framework is interesting, and the indicators are a fascinating set.

When you look at the display layout, the combination of letter grades and colors make it easy to quickly see where the problems are. What's even more interesting is to use their radar chart to look at the indicators against peer averages.

Take a look and see if your country is included in the peer comparisons. When you click on the specific indicator (in the left-hand column), you get more charts, maps of the data, and quite a bit of contextual information and research (footnoted) about the indicator. This setup provides clean, clear messages to a target population -- which is different, perhaps, than some of the target populations served by community indicators projects. However, the report as structured looks very helpful in setting priorities for national policy.

There's a great deal to learn from this report, and I highly encourage you to take the time to prowl through the data and the reasons why these indicators were selected.

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