CIC Conference


I attended and spoke at the Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) conference in Washington on Saturday, June 28th.  About 150 people were in attendance from all over the country, as well as a handful of international attendees.  The CIC is a group of people who are committed to building, monitoring and leading communities through the use of indicators (DATA!!!!).  I wholeheartedly applaud their mission and was delighted to be a part of the conference. 



  1. The focus of community indicators work should be on impacting people’s behaviors…through awareness of the indicators.  It’s very easy to get focused on the numbers and not remember that the point is to impact people’s decisions. 
  2. Met many people whose organizations were doing a great job of documenting their community’s indicators in written reports.  Great use of tables, graphs, text, footnotes.
  3.  The technology for reports (Excel and Word) seemed like it could be improved upon by making it more internet-based with the use of online database systems (ie Data360), as well as blogging software.
  4.  The dominant frequency of the reporting appears to be annually which, from a business perspective, seems infrequent; however, most of the indicators projects are being done with very limited resources, often by organizations completely outside the governmental organization.  (United Way is a big supporter of indicator projects and their were numerous attendees from the United Way.)  Additionally, most projects are constrained by the organizations that are collecting the data (what I call the “haystacks” or the “Data Keepers.”  Most data is only tracked annually and, more challenging, most data is not released until several months (or even years) after the end of the reporting period. 

People I met:


Joseph Goldman- –

  • organizes town meetings – 100 people to 20,000 people per meeting
  • world trade center – jacob javits center \
  • multi screens, 10 to a table – key is facilitators
  • instant feedback, via wireless at each table and polling keypads\
  • meetings are 7 hours straight, no breaks (no organized breaks)
  • produce reports at the end of each meeting that they hand out to participants
  • “theme team” is part of the organizing team who glean information from each of the tables and then post information on big screens, like an electronic flip chart of what is happening – insights and key questions from each table get filtered out to the group
  • reminded me of “The World Cafe”
  • cost is $20k to $2million per meeting

Mary Parks – Hall County indicator project –

part of Georgia-wide effort

  • multiple years in the making
  • very good document – graphics and text
  • wants to build some indicators that are not part of the Georgia-wide effort
  • wants to be able to have their indicators available 24×7 on the web

Deanna Zachary –

    • what constitutes interpretation?  (agreement that that providing the raw data is not interpretation…)
    • some debate amongst participants about whether there should be a common set of indicators across all communities?  a woman from Boston thought that there should be one set of indicators, Deanna was more hesitant, saying that each community has unique situations and may want their own special indicators
    • reminded me of the accounting world, which developed a set of principles for reporting (GAAP), but GAAP does not state precisely how a financial statement, even when audited, should be organized
    • i asked Deanna whether mayors of cities were taking on indicators as their own…some were, most were not…my sense is that indicators are a newer thing for communities.
  • Chris Hoenig, State of the USA (I did not see his talk, but heard about it) multi-year, high cost effort (need additional funding), view their role as simply to provide the data, not to interpret – primary state based at this point.
    • they will offer their metrics and their framework to communities
    • Deanna wondered what the role of community indicator groups would be in the face of such a large national effort
    • Chris does not view their role as interpreters but instead as an organization that will provide the data
  • John Craig, President, Pittsburgh Regional Idicators (
    • they pay for some data
    • tables and access to actual raw data seemed very good
    • interesting decisions about which counties to include in Pittsburgh indicators
  • Chris Briem, Regional Economist, University Center for Social and Economic Research, University of Pittsburgh
    • use of Census tracts for internal Pittsburgh planning use
    • heavy GIS element
    • planning department has shrunk
    • dealing with a shrinking city
    • figuring out city planning decisions with GIS software (where not to locate a school bus pickup location…ie not near abandoned buildings)
  • Alex Michaelos, University of Northern British Columbia, direct of “Canadian Index of Wellbeing”, multi-year effort to build an index for the all of Canada.
    • they are making judgments about various indicators, positive and negative indicators, boiling it down to an annual percentage change, had 14 critical issues in building the indicator, data regularly not available for multiple years after the fact (the whiskers effect)…how can anything be relevant if it is not timely?  work with statistics canada
    • have not yet determined weighting methodologies…for now they are just developing the metrics for 8 different domains
    • when they do get into weightings, they will have challenging comparisions to make, like how to weight a murder rate relative to air quality
    • he thinks that indices are effective, primarily because the media is interested in them
    • big value in creating the index is the conversations he has had with people about what is important
  • Desmond Spruijt, President, Mapping Worlds
    • He does web development work for the World Bank, South Africa and other organizations, as well as developing the Mapping World site.
    • Maps that can be re-sized to reflect the magnitude by country…most powerful chart was the resizing of HIV in our world to show that India (6 million cases) and South Africa (5 million cases) is where the most cases presently exist.
    • His sites all load very fast.
    • Show.  He’s just developed a new product called “Show” where he shows global incidences of a wide range of indicators. Built in flash/php/mySQL.
    • His program is quite beautiful.  He shows % differences by showing different colors for each country. Does not show %’s by changing sizes.
    • Has challenges when a country changes or has different definitions, like China and Taiwan. His solution is to not change the data but to change the graphing.
    • Adjustable maps (he had a different name for this) are the key to setting up a new mapping area, like the 50 United States or the US counties.
  • Tom Paper, Data360 –
    • I presented my case for “The Democratization of Data”
    • Trends of democratization on the internet, including the democratization of data
    • Forces which are inhibiting the democratization of data
    • Principles necessary for the democratization of data to flourish
    • The most important principle necessary:  interpretation
    • Bottom line and my request to others is that they share their data!
    • See pdf of slides presented here:  cic-conference-28-june-2008

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