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How to Shape Your Future With a Community Scorecard

01/05/2008


Human fascination with the seemingly sixth sense ability to predict the future has always been prevalent and may initially conjure images of gypsies peering into crystal balls, reading palms or tarot cards; or clairvoyants scrupulously examining the shapes and patterns of the leaves in their tea. But what if forecasting the future was actually possible? What if you could determine what you wanted your future to look like - and then work towards making your own predictions a reality? It may be easier than you think.

A community scorecard is an effective benchmarking and measurement tool that can help First Nations and other communities establish where they are now and where they would like to be five, ten, or even 25 years down the road. Although not as awe-inspiring as psychic powers, it can help to concretely determine what your goals and objectives are; identify areas that need improvements; and determine what actions need to be taken, or behaviours established, in order to achieve those goals. 

In addition to helping you plan and achieve future goals, a community scorecard can help your community and its leaders maintain focus, measure the progress of programs and services, improve success rates for government proposals and submissions, develop community pride and increase accountability and openness.

How does it work?

Each community begins by determining which issues are important to them, such as paving roads in their community, preserving their language and culture, or increasing the number of high school graduates. In combination, all of these issues can be measured and assigned a score based on percentages. For example, you could measure the percentage of high school students who graduate in the community or the number of people who speak a native language.

Once the percentages are determined, the community is assigned a score for each of the priorities they have chosen. The score for each community will be unique, as each community will have different goals and therefore the measurement criteria and indicators will vary. The score becomes an indicator when the numbers are considered in comparison relative to either: other communities, or trended chronologically over time.

If one of your goals for the future is to improve the overall health of the people in your community, you would begin by asking questions to determine what the current health status of the population is. You may discover a high number of people in your community with diabetes. Although this disease is common across the country, the rate of diabetes in your community can be compared with other similar communities to determine relevancy. You may discover you have a lower rate of diabetes than other First Nations communities, but a higher rate than the provincial average. If you decide one of your priorities is to decrease the rate of diabetes in your community to be on par with the provincial average, then you must determine action items to be implemented to achieve this goal. Action items and responsibilities are assigned to specific individuals in the community who are held accountable for their success, and the process to reach your goal begins.

This process is repeated with every issue deemed a priority by the community, and the numbers are compared with other communities and benchmarked over time. It can be applied to many quality of life indicators, such as financial, educational, health, employment, income, and infrastructure.  

Using the community scorecard method of measurement, you can determine where you are currently, and how you compare with other communities. Once you determine what your goals are and where you would like to be, you can identify areas of discrepancy between present and future to develop an action plan for bringing your community to the level you desire. This process can play a vital role in helping to make your community more accountable – and in control – of its future.