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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Introducing Neighborhood Nexus

Flattery gets you everywhere. I received this nice note from Marcus Estes over at

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta just launched a new community indicators project serving the citizens of great Atlanta. It's called Neighborhood Nexus:

I work with OpenSourcery, the web company that developed the technology for them. It involves a few innovations, including a custom spreadsheet
upload tool that allows them to change the indicators they're tracking merely by changing their spreadsheet, without having to rely upon a tech company for more development work.

We've open sourced it, and we're seeking additional partners to help us improve upon the software for use in other areas. Please give Neighborhood Nexus a little much-deserved attention on your (wonderful and informative) blog, and let me know if you see opportunities for us to use this software to help other organizations.

Naturally, I went to the site to explore Neighborhood Nexus. I saw quite a bit I liked.

1. Getting to the data is quick, easy, and intuitive. Select an indicator, then a level of geography, and bam! the table is there for you. Minor quibble: using a tiny yellow font in the headers against a graduated blue background mad them really hard to read, though the result looked pretty. The options on the left to change measures, years, and filter out geographies were simple to use.

2. Learning more about the data involved clicking on a Data Sources button, which had some information, and following that up by clicking on the Glossary button. Even then, I was left with some unanswered questions about just what some of the indicators were measuring, and to get that information I needed to follow the links to the data source providers. I liked that I could find the information. I did, however, remind myself once again that at some point those of us who work with indicators need to get together to devise a core set of metadata standards. Maybe we can have that conversation at the CIC conference in Seattle.

3. Full, interactive maps are coming soon, according to the site. In the meantime, they have some nice maps they've created using some of the indicators on the site. I liked the concept (and execution) of the map of "where Gen-Xers live."

4. They also provide a neighborhood factbook that compiles the indicators by neighborhood into a set of PDF documents.

There's a survey for site users to describe what indicators are missing and how the site might be improved.

Overall, a good site, with more in development. What makes this site something to really pay attention to is that it was built as open source software, and is one of the early efforts to bring open source solutions to the community indicators community. There are other open source efforts underway. We should be paying close attention to this trend to see how it plays out.


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