You might say Eastern Washington University’s Community Indicators Initiative is always trending. Co-developed with several community organizations and now managed by the university’s Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis, the initiative serves a variety of public and private interests that rely on the data from specific trends websites to make key planning decisions.
This month, the community indicators initiative turns 10 years old. For Patrick Jones, the executive director of the Institute who also helps create each trends website, the anniversary is a proud milestone. He’s co-developed eight indicators projects, from Spokane to Fresno, California.
Jones has been with the EWU Institute since its inception, and he knew from the beginning EWU was equipped to team up with various community organizations to get the indicators project off the ground.
“The Institute had the capacity and the mandate to operationalize the indicators site,” says Jones. He says a large grant in 2006 from the Inland NW Community Foundation enhanced start up efforts.
The vision for each project is first to inform and second to help create a healthy, vibrant community by making local data available in several key areas including: culture and recreation, demographics, economic vitality, education, the environment, health, housing and transportation and public safety.
The first initiative was the Spokane Community Indicators project, which Jones’s staff still oversees today. They also manage trends websites in Kootenai County, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Grant County, Northeast Washington and Chelan-Douglas counties.
“The Spokane project is the one that has gone the farthest from measurement to moving the needle, via Priority Spokane,” adds Jones. “I’m very proud of how Priority Spokane has catalyzed a huge jump in the high school graduation rate, by our funding and by our collaboration with Spokane Schools and committed community based organizations. I’m hoping that our other communities will use their indicators project to move the needle in the areas of their greatest concerns.”
Jones says the Spokane site has served a variety of sectors over the years – including local and federal governments, private banking and real estate as well as many nonprofit organizations. The press and grant writers consistently rely on the Institute’s trends websites for information. Jones also frequently gives talks to various groups who rely on his websites.
“We have been involved with Dr. Jones and EWU’s Community Indicators program for over a decade,” says Mark Hurtubise, President and CEO, Inland Northwest Community Foundation. “To have an outstanding third party, like EWU, objectively inform us as to the health of a region and whether our collaborative grant-making initiatives are effective is indispensible to our efforts with other regional leaders to improve our communities.”
Later this fall, the Institute will launch a new trends website in northwest Washington, Skagit County, a sign the initiative is still trending in the right direction.
“Since we work for a public institution in the state of Washington, I would very much like to see us bring the tool of community indicators to other counties and regions in the state,” says Jones. “While every project is a bit different, the Institute has the capacity to undertake more projects.”