Colorado Center for Healthy Communities
The Colorado Index presents information on the challenges and opportunities facing Colorado as it enters the 21st century.
The Colorado Index is a
90-page document. The printed report is available for $5.00
(includes postage and handling). Please contact the Center at
calling 970.963.5502 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with
Colorado Index Project
The Colorado Index Project is a collaborative effort of the Colorado Center for Healthy Communities (the Center) with local and state partners to create a quality of life index for the State of Colorado.
This pilot project will explore, identify, and research indicators that measure and track factors affecting the quality of life in Colorado and use them to develop a preliminary index of the state's quality of life. Individual indicators will measure change in areas such as household travel behavior, educational resources for workforce development, wages and housing affordability, tax burden, rural access to telecommunication, and the rate of open space decline, preservation and restoration, and growth and development. Given the diversity of Colorado's communities (urban, rural agricultural, rural resort), the pilot project will also include regionally applicable information to better understand quality of life challenges in sub-regions throughout the state.
We recognize that creating a quality of life index for an entire state is a broad goal. We also realize that there are many ways to create such an index and have it be useful for the citizens, businesses, and elected officials in the state. Although we have outlined our objectives, challenges, and tasks for the Colorado Index Project, we welcome your thoughts on how to best to create, not only the index, but a tool to foster concrete action to improve the quality of life in Colorado.
Data and indicators describing the quality of life in Colorado are reported daily in the newspapers and television news. Across the state, many different groups and constituencies have also held symposia or conducted focus studies designed to objectively identify or prioritize public issues through indicators, particularly in the area of economic growth and development.
Over the last few years, interest in using broad sets of indicators has grown at the community, regional, and state level. Today, 15 healthy community initiatives have indicator projects with published reports detailing the challenges and opportunities facing their communities. At the regional level, the Mayor's 1999 Summit on Regional Collaboration highlighted the value of agreed upon indicators to foster collaboration in the Denver Metro region. And at the state level, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry's Millennium Blueprint Project illustrates how to use statewide indicators to detail the business community's long-term strategy for sustaining and strengthening the state's economy for the 21st Century.
In April 2000, the Colorado Center for Healthy Communities (the Center), a coordinating and policy arm of a statewide coalition of 15 local healthy community initiatives, engaged the sponsors of these various indicator efforts as well as other interested partners across Colorado. At a workshop hosted by the Center, entitled "Managing Our Future: Measuring What We Value," a proposal was put forward to jointly identify and develop indicators that best track progress and catalyze action on quality of life issues. The workshop participants explored the increasing need to create information tools that can be used to manage and connect issues related to open space and natural resources, workforce and economic development, affordable housing, sprawl, transportation, revenue structure, telecommunications, and community health. (See attached list of possible indicators related to these topic areas.)
Since the workshop, the Center has coordinated a small workgroup to synthesize the lessons learned from the workshop and scope a pilot project that would support the development of a preliminary quality of life index for Colorado. This approach reflects our recognition that incremental steps are needed to develop this index so that it can be supported and used as a tool by community and state leaders to address quality of life issues.
The Center hopes a statewide pilot index can be used to track and, more importantly analyze various critical indicators of the state's quality of life. The Center also hopes that the index can be a tool to foster concrete actions (i.e., changes in public policy, corporate principles, community planning) to improve the state's quality of life. Without an eye toward implementation of the index will not reach its full potential.
One example of how indicators can help people understand a problem, and then take concrete steps to address it occurred in Durango, Colorado. The nonprofit organization, Operation Healthy Communities (OHC), published information on a livable wage for the area in 1998. The information convinced two major banks in the community to raise their starting salaries from $7.50 to $9.00 per hour. As one bank vice-president said about OHC's indicator report, "their work enabled employers around town to see what they have to pay their employees if they want to stay."
The project partners for the pilot project include Presently, the Colorado Center, the Center for Regional and Neighborhood Action (CRNA), the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry Education Fund (CACI), and the US Department of Energy (DOE).
The Colorado Index Pilot Project faces several challenges which proposals should address. These challenges include:
Choosing good indicators
Indicators consist of data, tracked over time. They can be descriptive or prescriptive in focus. Descriptive indicators help us understand where we are now, while prescriptive indicators help identify root causes which could be changed through public policy. The utility of a quality of life index is its ability to help people understand a problem, its root cause(s), and the relationship between possible policies approaches that could improve or alleviate the problem.
Connecting Information to Action
Inspiring citizens and elected leaders from knowledge to action is not a straightforward process. Nonetheless, the Colorado Index Pilot Project's greatest potential utility is in helping citizens, business, and elected officials better understand quality of life issues in the state as well as catalyze action to address those issues. The Durango livable wage case study is a model for how information can link to tangible action. Learning from such examples is crucial to creating a meaningful and useful state index.
Indicators versus Index
In the age of information, there are so many possible indicators that the idea of a meaningful indicator can get lost in the black hole of available data. Furthermore, because an index is a collection of interrelated indicators, the Colorado Index Pilot Project must balance the need for a broad range of indicators with the need for a coherent message from the index.
Statewide Indicators and Regional Diversity
Developing a statewide index is difficult in almost any state given the diversity of cultures, economies, and geographies that exists within sub-regions of many states. To the extent feasible, the Colorado Index Pilot Project will include information from three major regions within the state: the Denver-Metro region, the northwest inter-mountain region, and the eastern plains region. Common indicators allow comparison within the statewide index.
Reinventing the wheel
Over the last few years, local governments, community organizations, and state entities have created indicator reports on the health, sustainability, and quality of life of their particular place. (Many also have web-based versions of their reports.) In Colorado alone, 15 communities have developed indicator reports, usually through an involved community process. Although the Center wants the pilot index to be a unique contribution, creating the index doesn't have to reinvent the wheel in the process.
Proposed Indicators for Index
(from April 2000 Indicators Workshop)
Sensitive Species Count
Loss of Agricultural Lands
Water availability and usage
Relationship of Revenue to Cost: Education, Water, Public Safety, Transportation, Libraries.
Cost vs. Revenue vs. Generation
Understand Distribution of Employment Opportunities and Distribution of Skilled Workers
Livable Wage and Education of Workforce
Cost of Living: Housing, Food, Child Care, Health Care, Transportation, Utilities
Wages by industry
Health Care Services
Profile of Aging Population Compare to Services Available
% Income Dedicated for Housing
Rental Cost - # Available – Break Out Low Income
Home Own Cost - # Available – Break Out Low Income
Section 8 Conversions
Waiting Lists for Affordable Housing
# of Foreclosures
Stocks, Debts, Savings Rate
Track Housing Price
Retail and Office Vacancy
Quality of Life/Future
How People Feel About Their & Children’s Future
Land Consumption and Infrastructure Compared to Population Growth
Open Space Ratios
Cost of Sprawl
On & Off Site – Social and Economic
Density of Areas Developed
Average of Total Volume to Capacity Ratio – Level of Service
# of People Telework
Transit Capacity to Ridership
Level of Satisfaction
Need Vs. Funding
Sense of Community
# of Volunteers/Opportunities
Neighborhood Watch Participation
Understanding and Tracking
Click here for a free PDF version (1.5mb)
Colorado Indicator Projects
Rocky Mountain Indicator Projects
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last update 11.23.2005