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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.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, May 20, 2010

Call for Proposals: Integrating Community Indicators and Performance Measures

The Community Indicators Consortium (CIC), as part of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is seeking proposals to write "Real Stories" of communities, organizations, and/or jurisdictions that have tried, successfully and not so successfully, to integrate community indicators and organizational performance measures.

The Real Stories project is intended to provide real life examples of the advantages and challenges to both community indicator and organizational performance measurement projects as a result of integrating or linking these two types of efforts. The published Real Stories, from 5-20 pages in length, will be used to advance the knowledge of community indicators-organizational performance measures integration and for training and other outreach material to community leaders as a way to improve or inform decision-making and create measurable, positive change in communities.

We are looking for proposals from individuals and groups who are directly involved in these efforts as well as individuals and organizations that work with community indicator and performance measurement projects. A stipend of $2,000 will be awarded for each Real Stories published.Three-to-five Real Stories will be selected for publication in 2010.

The deadline for submitting proposals for the 2010 Call for Real Stories is June 22, 2010. Notification of selected proposals and guidelines for development will be sent on July 15th. The deadline for the written first draft is September 15, 2010.

Visit the CIC web site for more information about the Real Stories project and the call for proposals. You can also download the Real Stories Proposal submittal form for more details, or contact the Project Steering committee at


Allen Lomax and Cheryle Broom
Integrating Community Indicators and Performance Measures Co-Chairs

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Indicators, Civic Engagement, and a Bright Future in Apucarana

This morning I shared JCCI's 35 years of experience with community engagement, studies, and indicators with a group of business, civic, and political leaders in Apucurana, Brazil. That's located in the state of Parana in the south of Brazil, and is part of the same north Parana region as Londrina.

They're using indicators and community-based studies and civic engagement in tangible ways in the region. I got to meet a number of people representing organizations doing some very good work.

One of the groups that shared their work was the Social Observatory of Maringa. In order for the country as a whole to develop properly, they argued, they really only needed two things: resources, and the correct application of those resources. Unfortunately, according to their data, 32 percent of taxes collected in Brazil are lost to corruption. The people of Maringa organized and took action. Their Social Observatory goes carefully through the local government budget and finances, looking for cost reductions in what is spent, ensuring the money is spent for the public good, and checking to make sure the government received what it paid for. They have saved millions by ensuring that the costs for goods and services paid by the government are in line with the local market, that purchases are made only for what is really needed, and that what is delivered meets contract specifications. In one instance, they made sure every school had a scale they could use to measure the amounts of goods purchased, since some vendors had been significantly shorting the school system. Just by being there, they've increased the sense of risk for would-be defrauders of the government. And by catching problems up front, they save real money, since the government's approach to catching fraud seldom results in full recovery even if there's a conviction. The key to the program is 3,000 volunteer hours a year to create real transparency in government. Pretty amazing stuff.

CODEM Maringa is another civic organization focused on local development. They want to connect government and the community together to work for the common good. They use indicators to measure progress and studies to find solutions to economic development. Their challenge, like many others, is how you define "community" -- participation in these efforts appears restricted to the usual community suspects, and adding new voices to the table is difficult.

We heard from a couple of others, including the Forum Desenvolve Londrina (who intentionally patterned themselves after JCCI seven years ago and is making great progress), and then I shared some case studies around the JCCI Model for Community Improvement.

By the time we headed out for the local churrascaria, we had seen a number of examples that showed us:

1. The future of a community is too important to let happen by chance or at the whims of the few. Community involvement is critical to both design and create/implement your desired future.
2. Community indicators are critical tools for measuring progress, creating shared community priorities, engaging institutions in solutions, and evaluating the results of changes made.
3. Civic-minded people are the same the world over, no matter what language they speak.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Community Indicators in Londrina, Brazil

I'm spending thisweek in Londrina, Brazil as a follow-up to earlier conversations and visits about effective community indicators. When I return, I'll share something of the dialogue and exciting work happening in this area.

What's really interesting to me is the continued validation of the efficacy of community indicator systems in created desired community change. There's something about the process that transcends culture and geography (though some of the discussions we've had about different perspectives on community governance and civic engagement in different countries show that location/culture/history does matter in the design/implementation of the indicators system and the model of change built around it.)

As the GAO continues its efforts to document the state of indicators systems in the United States and to support the development of a Key National Indicators system, this message of the universal importance of broadly-available community-informed public data systems for decision-making and action is an important one to recognize.

Anyway, those are the kinds of things I'm thinking about right now. A full report comes later.

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