For years, Fresno's lackluster standing in various measures of quality of life -- low income, high unemployment and poverty rates, lagging educational attainment, crime rates and more -- has been cause for hand-wringing and concern among local nonprofits and civic-minded individuals, business owners and organizations.
But data needed to understand the issues are often complicated to find and scattered among different agencies. It is difficult to get a comprehensive glimpse at community characteristics and hard to develop coordinated, citywide solutions.
On Wednesday, the Fresno Business Council and Valley Public Television unveiled their new "Fresno Community Scorecard," a website that curates data from more than 150 different measures of civic well-being on a single, wide-ranging online platform.
Using information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state Employment Development Department, and an array of other federal, state and local agencies, the scorecard is intended to stimulate community chatter about areas where improvement is needed and inspire action to "move the needle" on trends over time.
"Fresnans now have a tool to understand current reality, organize to change what we don't want, and recognize our strengths so we can build upon them," Fresno Business Council CEO Deborah Nankivell said.
The scorecard, developed over the course of about a year, divides community characteristics for Fresno and Fresno County into eleven broad categories or "buckets," including demographics, agriculture, culture and recreation, economic vitality, education, income and poverty, health, community safety, family stability and infrastructure issues such as transportation and energy.
Within each of those categories, visitors to the website can find details -- presented in interactive, easy-to-read charts -- on how Fresno stacks up against statewide and national averages. The information is being wrangled by data analysis and technology consultants at Eastern Washington University in Spokane.
While earlier efforts to illustrate Fresno's condition have often created static "snapshots" at the time the work was done, Nankivell said, information on the new scorecard website will be updated within seven days each time a reporting agency releases new data.
"We want people to land here and find trends and current data," Nankivell said. "We've built this to last."
Having a diversity of information couched in one place, she said, is designed to inspire collaboration among different interest groups. "We want to teach people about the interdependence of all of these issues and make them think about what's in those other buckets."
Community activist Alan Pierrot, a physician and one of the organizers behind the scorecard, said that community activists and political leaders can use the neutral, unbiased data as a rallying point for exploring problems and seeking solutions instead of relying on rhetoric or hunches. "Shining light and gathering data does change behavior," Pierrot said.
Paula Castadio, president and CEO of Valley Public Television, added that the website can also be responsive to suggestions from users. "We have the ability to add more indicators," she said, provided there is a reliable source capable of compiling and providing consistent long-term data.
Castadio said nonprofits can drill into the data to discover specific community needs and use the information to support applications for grants. Businesses and philanthropists can also examine specific issues as a way to understand the greatest areas of need for their charitable efforts.
©2014 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)