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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Citizen DAN Proposal Intrigues Me

There's an interesting proposal up for the Knight News Challenge awards this year. The proposal is for something called "Citizen DAN", with DAN standing for Public Data Appliance and Network.

You can read the proposal here, which includes external links for more information.

Here's a short description of the project:

Citizen DAN is an open source framework to leverage relevant local data for citizen journalists. It is a:

■Appliance for filtering and analyzing data specific to local community indicators

■Means to visualize local data over time or by neighborhood

■Meeting place for the public to upload and share local data and information

■Web data portal that can be individually tailored by any local community

■Node in a global network of communities across which to compare indicators of community well-being.

Good decisions and good journalism require good information. Starting with pre-loaded government data, Citizen DAN provides any citizen the framework to learn and compare local statistics and data with other similar communities. This helps to promote the grist for citizen journalism; it is also a vehicle for discovery and learning across the community.

Citizen DAN comes pre-packaged with all necessary deployment components and documentation, including local data from government sources. It includes facilities for direct upload of additional local data in formats from spreadsheets to standard databases. Many standard converters are included with the basic package.

Citizen DAN may be implemented by local governments or by community advocacy groups. When deployed, using its clear documentation, sponsors may choose whether or what portions of local data are exposed to the broader Citizen DAN network. Data exposed on the network is automatically available to any other network community for comparison and analysis purposes.

This data appliance and network (DAN) is multi-lingual. It will be tested in three cities in Canada and the US, showing its multi-lingual capabilities in English, Spanish and French.

What has me most excited is not just the project itself, but the growth in open-source solutions to data presentation/management for community indicators programs. These should lower the barriers to entry for many communities to establish/maintain a useful indicators set, and help spur increased innovation in both what we measure and how we use what we measure.

As more of these solutions move from the drawing board through testing and implementation, we'll share them here. In the meantime, I applaud the many folks out there doing good work to make my job both easier and more effective.

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