A roadmap to develop inclusive regional economic indicators


In 2020, Brookings Metro led an Inclusive Economic Indicators Lab to help three regions – Indianapolis, Memphis, and Orlando – develop compelling and influential indicator projects that use metrics to drive more inclusive local economic outcomes. Like their counterparts in a growing number of cities and metropolitan areas across the United States, Lab participants adopted a vision of economic success defined not only by the amount of economic growth, but also by the distribution of that growth among residents of a region, especially those who have historically faced economic exclusion.

This roadmap distills the experiences and lessons of the Lab, offering a flexible framework and sample case studies that can help interested regions to develop an inclusive indicators project and understand the choices inherent in this process. The framework identifies three phases, starting with the steps for set the conditions for success by identifying key stakeholders and agreeing on common definitions and motivations for pursuing inclusive economic growth. Regional leaders then create the indicators project, refining a shared vision, identifying indicators and metrics, and testing and refining each iteratively. From there they put indicators to work by strategically communicating results and integrating indicators into as many organizational strategies as possible.

Overview of the inclusive indicators roadmap

Phase 1: Define the conditions for success

Undertaking a process to measure inclusive growth can help leaders in a region better define desired outcomes and deepen collective commitment to pursue them. In this first phase, a “central organization” leading the development of an indicator project fosters a shared understanding of what inclusive growth means, why it is an important vision, who should be involved in its start-up and what role. the measures themselves will play a role.

Key steps taken by central organizations during phase 1:

Commit to inclusive economic growth: Connect with a wide range of regional actors to ensure that the project reflects the values ​​and goals of organizations focused on growth (e.g. business, economic development) and equity (e.g. philanthropy, community development).

Identify key stakeholders and roles: Assess regional actors for their potential impact on inclusive growth within the region and the influence that grassroots organizations have on the activities of these organizations, focusing on the stakeholders who rank highest in both dimensions.

Establish the purpose of the indicator project: Decide whether the project will be an economic inclusion ‘atlas’, using metrics primarily to communicate different dimensions of inclusive economic performance, or a ‘strategic scorecard’ that changes the way key actors deploy their resources to inclusive, measurable economic outcomes.

Read more about Phase 1 and the definition of the conditions for success on page 5 of the full report.

Phase 2: Create the indicator project

After having defined the conditions for success, the successful projects proceed in phase 2 to the development, creation and testing of the indicators themselves.

Key steps taken by grassroots organizations during phase 2:

Develop a common vision and framework: Articulate a shared vision of success for the region and translate this vision into a set of key themes that form a solid framework for indicators. The vision and framework ultimately help guide the high-level shared aspirations in the strategic work of individual organizations towards achieving those aspirations.

A model that links a shared vision to a shared responsibility

A model that links a shared vision to a shared responsibility

Identify the indicators: Select indicators that capture the desired high-level results and the main drivers of those results that align with the project framework (referring to the Brookings Metro Inclusive Economic Indicators Inventory). With stakeholders, facilitate decisions about the geographic and demographic specificity of the data, comparing it to other regions, assessing changes over time, and committing to long-term indicators or remaining open to them. evolution.

Test and iterate: Engage key stakeholders to test understanding of data, solicit feedback on what it reveals, test vision and framework, build buy-in and engagement, and identify other organizations performing crucial work to make progress on the indicators.

Read more about phase 2 and the creation of the indicators project on page 12 of the full report.

Phase 3: Putting the indicators to work

Indicator projects are ultimately successful if they help change behaviors – in public policies, private sector practices, and philanthropic investments – in ways that foster inclusive economic growth and prosperity.

Key steps taken by grassroots organizations during phase 3:

Communicate continuously: Successfully launching the indicators publicly, but also committing to continuous awareness raising: presenting and informing regional leaders about indicators, seizing opportunities to connect indicators to pressing local issues and considering using “real-time” data To fill in the gaps between the regular updates of the indicators.

Unite around ambitious but achievable goals: work with relevant stakeholders to set a number of shared targets based on the indicators, using benchmarks to set annual targets to improve regional performance on key inclusive economic drivers.

Integrate goals into organizational plans: Integrate these objectives into organizational plans and key performance indicators of relevant stakeholders, including grassroots organizations themselves. Post progress over time to maintain accountability and visibility.

Cars in Indy

Read more about Phase 3 and the key steps taken by grassroots organizations on page 23 of the full report.

Embedding inclusive economic indicators into a region’s DNA is more of a civic-building exercise than a sprint for empirical accuracy. While each region can approach the exercise from a single starting point, the Brookings Metro Inclusive Economic Indicators Lab revealed experiences and good practices that we believe are relevant for any region considering using indicators. to foster more inclusive growth.


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