Thinking of starting a Tracking-Progress site in your community?

What is a Tracking-Progress site?

A Tracking-Progress site measures important indicators of a community’s social, economic, environmental, political, cultural and physical well-being. By tracking past and current information on these indicators, a site provides insight into the overall health and direction of a community. According to the American Planning Association (2003), “Community indicators are bits of information that, when combined, generate a picture of what is happening in a local system…”

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to having a Tracking-Progress site for your community. The data dashboard gives businesses, organizations, schools and governments the ability to measure and track progress in their community, resulting in more evidence-driven discussion, decision making and planning. They can unite groups around a goal, help people to understand their community, and inspire change.

Communities can also measure their contribution to the overall success of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by ‘localizing’ indicators, supporting the larger data environment driving international efforts to build a more just, sustainable world. One of the key principles of the 2030 Agenda is that countries, regions, and communities set their own priorities and objectives within the broader framework of the SDGs in a bottom-up approach.

What is IISD’s experience developing sites?

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has over a decade of experience working with partners to gather, contextualize and visualize data for decision making. IISD’s Tracking-Progress sites have won awards, driven mainstream media coverage of community issues, informed major corporations’ CSR plans, assisted community non-profits’ funding proposals, and influenced civic governments to adopt the SDGs as their overall development framework.

Mayor Bowman

In early 2020, Mayor Brian Bowman announced Winnipeg would adopt the SDGs as the civic development framework, citing Peg as an excellent tool for gauging priorities. 

How can your community start a site?

Your goals for a Tracking-Progress site will determine the strategies you should take, and the amount of work needed to be successful. If you are interested in starting a site in your community, please consider what you would like to accomplish by having a Tracking-Progress site. Do you want to:

  • Inform policy and decision making;
  • Set targets and goals for community improvement;
  • Increase community pride and engagement;
  • Attract new businesses;
  • Engage the private sector in strategic corporate giving;
  • Enhance collaboration to address public issues;
  • Provide tools to encourage action; and/or
  • Increase public knowledge about key economic, environmental, social and cultural issues.

While none of these benefits are mutually exclusive, identifying your intentions from the onset allows your site and action plan to be tailored to deliver specific outcomes.

Median Income Excel Spreadsheet

Updating a fully built site only requires uploading spreadsheets with new data.

What technical expertise is required?

IISD assists organizations starting a site – whether they are governments, universities, non-profits, or charitable foundations – for a launch period of three to six months. During this time, IISD provides the technical support to build the Tracking-Progress site as well as training modules to manage the site after launch. IISD also provides institutional knowledge of what has worked well in other communities, including indicator selection, community engagement, and relationship building with data providers.

Running a fully built Tracking-Progress site is simple, requiring only basic Excel skills to upload new data when it becomes available. IISD intentionally designed the Tracking-Progress template to be “resource light” so under-resourced, time scarce development professionals could operate a site regardless of their technical background.

Building a sustainable Tracking-Progress site

A Tracking-Progress site is important for well-being measurement and goal setting in a community. However, any organization or coalition wanting to launch a site (including governments, NGOs and academic institutions) must have a sustainable base of resources to ensure long-term success. There are several criteria to consider:

1. Human resources: At least one knowledgeable person who can update data on a regular basis and share the information with the public. There are two pillars of a Tracking-Progress site: data and communications. These are two important skill sets to have on your team.

2. Multiple partners: Having the support of multiple branches of government, citizens’ groups and/or charitable organizations is ideal. This will increase the utility of the site and improve the odds for securing ongoing funding. Some examples of key partners are:

  • Local governments (Planning, Economic Development, Culture and Tourism branches)
  • Local charities (United Way, Community Foundation, Rotary, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, etc.)
  • Chambers of Commerce or business improvement groups
  • Local health authorities
  • Social services and anti-poverty groups
  • Local universities or colleges

3. Community data availability: Access to regular, reliable data is critical to the success of a Tracking-Progress site and may involve intentional relationship building if your organization is not a data custodian. Data sources can include:

  • Administrative data from local government
  • Public transit authority reports
  • Law enforcement groups’ data
  • Economic development and business improvement organizations’ reports
  • Regional and national statistical agencies’ data
  • Use reports from community and seniors’ centres, food banks and shelters
  • Disaggregated data from organizations serving specific communities in your region

In addition, data should be available for a range of at least 10 years prior, if possible. While this will not be the case with all data, it is helpful for identifying trends at the onset of the project.

While it is not necessary for a Tracking-Progress site to meet all the above criteria at the onset, it is important to keep these resources in mind moving forward. This project is aimed at helping communities to develop a sustainable site. In identifying areas of strength and potential barriers to success, we can work with communities to build technical capacities as well as develop strategies to overcome any perceived obstacles, including ongoing funding, developing partnership models or community outreach.

Start building your Tracking-Progress site today

IISD is committed to helping governments, academic institutions and NGOs establish Tracking-Progress sites in their communities. If you would like to establish a site in your community, email [email protected] to learn how our low-cost, hands-on training and user friendly tool works.

Download this resource here: Tracking-Progress Sustainability Criteria Overview