Measuring What's Working:
Alternative community assessments

by Joe Flower


This article was published as part of the Healthcare Forum's Healthy Communities Action Kits, Module 3, in 1994
International Copyright 1994 Joe Flower All Rights Reserved
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For some of those partners that we want to work with us in rebuilding a community, the economic and philosophical arguments will be self-evident. Some of them are way ahead of us. Others will need some encouragement, some demonstration that the effort will make a difference.

To make that demonstration, we need numbers that go beyond simple profit margins and short-term return on investments. Luckily, the tools to produce the right kind of community assessments are available. "I put a lot of faith in alternative community indicators that make clear the costs of doing what we are doing," says Hazel Henderson. "Corporations can improve their balance sheet by down-sizing and firing people, but communities can't do that. People in communities can be involved in designing their own indicators that measure real effects on the quality of life, as Jacksonville, Florida, has done. Every place is going to have different measures, and they may have little to do with macro-economic indicators. The `Sustainable Seattle' measure, for instance, includes the number of salmon in the rivers as a kind of mine canary, an indicator of the larger quality of life. Once you get the prices right, things become a lot clearer."

Jacksonville, Florida, has built one of the most effective efforts to measure the health of a community - and it is willing to share its experience. Marian Chambers, the executive director of the Jacksonville Community Council has a workbook for people who want to use it, so that others don't have to do the spadework. It gives the whole process, from building your own list of priorities, to moving the goal posts to get even better, once you have succeeded at your first goals.

"Target 2000," Marian Chambers, Jacksonville Community Council, 904 356 0800, 904 632 7679

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