C-4 Trouble in River City

(Selecting and Using Indicators for Different Purposes)
 

General Description
The purpose of this exercise is to provide participants with experience using indicators for different purposes - assessing system conditions, policy/program evaluation, determining whether projects or activities are on track.
 
This exercise can be used as it is or it can be tailored to a specific community or organization by modifying the material to be more specific to the group's circumstances. Tailoring this exercise would involve the following steps:
 

  1. Identify a key problem for your community (in this case it is water, but it may be forest health, unemployment, loss of farmland, etc.) and write a brief (one paragraph) description of the local community and the specific problem.
  2. Identify existing information and construct a few indicators related to the key issue/problem.
  3. Come up with several different groups that represent local interests (e.g., environmental group, economic development group, and city council). Briefly describe each group's position and activities related to the main problem/issue.
  4. Create a table similar to the one below, where the columns correspond to the indicators (A, B, ) and the rows represent the different interest groups.
  5. Remember that the objective is the same as in the sample exercise: to gain experience using indicators for different purposes - to assess system conditions, policy/program evaluation, determine whether projects or activities are on track.
  6. As the groups go through the exercise they choose relevant indicators from the list that will help them make better decisions. Each group puts a checkmark in the cell that corresponds to the selected indicators in the table.
C-4 Figure 1

Objective
Have experience using indicators for different purposes - assessing system conditions, policy/program evaluation, determining whether projects or activities are on track.
 
Scenario - Trouble in the River City
Trouble is brewing in River City. The river that runs through the town, for which the town is named, has been getting lower and lower. The river is the source of water for the town's residents and businesses. It is also home to a number of rare fish and mussels. Last year it looked like the river was about to run dry but there was a rainy spell and tragedy was narrowly averted. Included are some graphs with information about various aspects of the water situation:
 
A - River City Water Use 1940-1999
B - Per Capita Water Use
C - River City Water Use
D - Quarterly Water Bills for Sample Households
E - Water Use by Industry
F - Deep River Seasonal Average Flow Rate
G - Monthly Water Withdrawals
H - Number of Water Service Customers
 
This exercise will be done in small groups: each group will be given the same set of indicators but will be assigned different tasks to accomplish with these indicators. The purpose of the exercise is to see how effective different types of indicators are for different tasks. The groups and their assigned tasks are:

  • Group 1: Save Our River (SOR) - the local environmental coalition that is concerned about the condition of the river. Some members are primarily concerned about protecting rare species, while others are primarily concerned with the supply of drinking water. This group is developing a campaign to raise awareness and inspire action. Pick three indicators that will be useful in the campaign. Be prepared to state why you have selected these indicators, and to state whether they are system, program/policy, or activity indicators.
  • Group 2: City Council - most of the town council members have been convinced by SOR that there is a serious problem. This group is trying to decide what policy changes to make. Pick three indicators that will be useful in determining what policy changes to make. Be prepared to state why you have selected these indicators, and to state whether they are system, program/policy, or activity indicators.
  • Group 3: A neighborhood group that meets on a monthly basis to discuss issues of concern. This month the group is talking about water because one person in the group is also a member of SOR. Pick three indicators that could help households identify actions that they can take to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Be prepared to state why you have selected these indicators, and to state whether they are system, program/policy, or activity indicators.
  • Group 4: The River City Economic Development Committee - River City has an unemployment problem in addition to a water problem. This group is making recommendations to the Town Council on a program to attract businesses to the River City Industrial Park. Pick three indicators that are useful in selecting the type of development that will best fit the town's circumstances. Be prepared to state why you have selected these indicators, and to state whether they are system, program/policy, or activity indicators.
  • Group 5: River City News (one year later) - the local newspaper is reporting on the success of actions proposed or taken by City Council and the other groups. Pick three indicators that will be useful in showing progress or lack of progress. Be prepared to state why you have selected these indicators, and to state whether they are system, program/policy, or activity indicators.

Instructions:

  • You have 15 minutes to look over the different graphs and decide which three will be most useful for your group to accomplish its task. For each indicator, be prepared to say which level it is at: system, program, or action indicator. Use the matrix below to record which graphs your group selected. Use "S" to show that the selected indicator is a system level indicator, "P" to show that it is a program level indicator, and "A" to show action level indicator.
  • If there is information that would be more useful than the indicators provided, feel free to make up your own charts and graphs using the flip chart. For any new indicator, try to describe where the data would come from, how it would be collected, and who would be responsible for managing it.
  • When you are done, send someone up to record your group's selection on the flip chart page at the front of the room.
C-4 Figure 2
 
 

Communities Committee Home • ToolKit Home • © 2003 Sustainable Measures Inc., American Forests