Tuesday, October 12, 2010
How do you create a collaborative data collection and performance reporting system involving a range of stakeholders in communities, watersheds, or land restoration efforts?

Jeff Tryens, the former director of the Oregon Progress Board, conducted a survey for Metro, which is Portland, Oregon’s area regional government, to find out.  He surveyed over two dozen existing programs to identify best practices in developing and using community-level indicator systems to “inform, engage, intervene, or fund” efforts to jointly improve the results communities (not just governments) seek to achieve.  This could include economic development, social safety nets, safety, education, and/or the environment.  In fact, many of these efforts are supported by foundations and non-profits, not by government.

His survey covered a “who’s who” list of community-level indicator systems, including:  the Boston Indicators Project, Maine Measures of Growth, Minnesota Compass, Spokane Community Indicators, Maryland’s StateStat, Virginia Performs, and South Australia’s Strategic Plan.

The use of community indicators has grown significantly in recent years, and there is now an active national community of practice sharing best practices, the Community Indicators Consortium. This effort has spurred the development of a national indicators system.  Some states (and potentially new governors) might find Tryen’s results of interest as they consider developing similar approaches to getting big things done.


He found some interesting survey results:

  • Less than half thought they were “very effective” at engaging partners.
  • “very effective” programs were more likely to be in the business of facilitating public/private alignment and less likely to be in the business of increasing public awareness
  • “very effective” programs say they involve partners in regular updates, solicit suggestions for change, and have regular dialogues with their partners about data
  • All programs say they involve partners in the initial selection of indicators
  • “very effective” programs tend to use more types of collaboration, and more often.
  • “very effective” programs use interactive websites more frequently (67% vs. 27%)

But even with effective partnering, Tryens says, “there’s no silver bullet.”  Only half of community indicator efforts self-assess their efforts as being very effective at improving community well-being overall.

His bottom line:  “Generally, groups that are very effective at partnering don’t employ strategies that are different from groups that are less effective, they just do more of it.”

Photo Credit: Downtown Portland, OR, Voice Dialogue Center