Civic Progress

Redefining Competitiveness as Progress

As our interest in (and ignorance of) civic affairs declines, partisan noise muffles thoughtful voices. As we opt out of the civic enterprise, more power flows to wealthy elites. To realize America’s promise, we must systematically exploit new networks and technology—one community at a time.


What Millennial Mayors Are Doing for City Hall (1-31-18)

TitleWhat Millennial Mayors Are Doing for City Hall (1-31-18)
AuthorAndrew Small, freelance writer in Washington, DC and former editorial fellow at CityLab

Will millennials have the opportunity, capacity and right stuff to lead?

Key Findings

A wave of bright, young leaders is rising across the country, from Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend (IN) to Mayor Lydia Mihalik of Findlay (OH) to Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami. Millennial leaders possess many characteristics that public executives need to face the future—the humility to be admit ignorance, the courage to ask questions, the ability to multi-task and the willingness to share and borrow great ideas.

Envisioned Landscape

Distressed or stagnating local jurisdictions, like South Bend was in 2012 when Newsweek labeled it one of “America’s Dying Cities,” will test our local leaders. But they also will offer exciting opportunities for the untested idealists of today to become the proven leaders of tomorrow. A youthful public executive office offers hope to voters, an opportunity to replace nostalgia with foresight, to see old problems with new eyes, to trade caution and certainty for innovation and experimentation.

Proposed Actions

The torch of leadership is inevitably from one generation to the next. Millennials are no different. They may surface first in local government, but their service as Mayor or County Executive will likely be a stepping stone to higher executive office. We should embrace such rising stars and help them take the next step.

One More Thing

If we believe in government and care about its quality, we must think more about how to enhance its leadership. Supporting young, emerging leaders can take many forms, but one way is to provide them with the systems and tools they will need to attain their vision for their communities and restore public faith in government.

The Future of Community Indicator Systems

TitleThe Future of Community Indicator Systems
AuthorJ. Benjamin Warner, President & CEO of Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI)

Which measures matter & who decides which measures matter?


1.The community indicators movement, invigorated by 30 years of experience & local innovation, will evolve from democratizing data to galvanizing civic progress.

2. Efforts to develop standard global progress measures, led by OECD & UN, will continue.

3. Demand for creating a uniform, national well-being index for US, one that surpasses traditional indicators like gross domestic product (GDP), will continue to grow.

4. Several factors (e.g., technology & data availability, literacy & visualization) will enhance our capacity to measure civic progress, but some factors (e.g., data proliferation) will make it harder to select effective measures.

As Is:

1. Community indicator systems distill data in ways that help civic groups shape priorities, assess conditions, forge strategies & take civic action; they are a vital component of any effective community change model

2. Community indicator systems, while evolving, are not without defects, e.g.:

     Political pressures can distort decision-making, threaten funding & undermine efforts to sustain a broad civic progress agenda

     Some systems are designed to preserve, advocate or promote rather than to address long-term civic needs

     Some indicators are excluded that could illuminate cross-cutting issues, prompt unconventional thinking or suggest innovative solutions

3. When issues defy easy measurement, some leaders shoehorn clumsy proxy indicators

Jacksonville, Florida

1. Nation’s oldest community indicator system, “Quality of Life Progress Report.”

     System designed to measure progress over time, not to compare other cities

     Initial system included 83 measures covering economy, public safety, health, education, environment, mobility, government, social & culture

     System since expanded to measure other aspects of community life (e.g., poverty impact)

     Indicators & methodologies continually revised as better data become available

     Annually, leaders use data to highlight negative trends & mobilize civic action

2. Citizen input critical to success & growth of indicator system, e.g.:

     Indicators selected by citizens & informed by experts

     Citizen input used to improve data usability for laypersons

     Multiple presentation options offered (e.g., simple briefings, detailed reports & interactive web-based mapping) to accommodate diverse audiences

3. Biggest challenge facing system is securing support from political leaders without sacrificing system’s political independence (never championed by single official).

To Do:

1. Design indicator system to promote needed civic change, not leaders or institutions:

     Build system that serves interests of entire community & represents vital constituencies & geographic units, not just civic institutions or political incumbents

     Select reliable indicators with direction (i.e., highlight performance gaps, spot future trends & suggest needs for improvement)

     In selecting indicators, strike balance between possible & practical, rigorous & familiar

2. Create unifying index for aggregating data, simplifying complex issues, connecting citizens to data & enhancing system utility for compelling civic change.

3. Use system to tell vital stories, anticipate civic problems & spur civic change.

4. Diversify civic leadership groups not only to better visualize civic progress, select measures & set priorities, but to ensure that the entire community’s interests are served.

Our Take:

We agree that the challenge facing communities is not so much to bring more data to citizens, but better data. With better data (& more compelling stories), communities can track their progress. The Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) offers training & research to help communities build civic tracking systems & share their experiences. We also applaud CIC’s effort to integrate community indicators with government performance measures. Ultimately, this initiative could yield a powerful platform for spurring civic progress in every community.