Moving from Measurement to Action: A Reexamination of Greater Portland Pulse

Presentation by Meg Merrick
March 21, 2014

(Inactive) Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies   (Portland*)

Author: Meg Merrick, Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, PSU

With the recognition of the importance of data driven decision-making has come a proliferation of social and environmental indicator projects, nationally and globally. While there is considerable literature on the development of indicator projects, particularly bottom-up approaches, there is less critical analysis of their actual use. This is increasingly important as funders seek evidence of the use and effectiveness of the indicator projects they support. The Greater Portland Pulse regional indicators project, which is a partnership between Metro (the Portland area’s regional government) and Portland State University, was created to provide a set of social and environmental indicators to measure progress toward a set of broadly accepted outcomes for the Portland-Vancouver region. Its tagline, “Measuring Results, Inspiring Action,” illustrates the expectation that with the provision of statistics would come use, particularly in shaping and assessing policy.  Through its initial technical trainings and its funding outreach efforts, it had become apparent that the expectations about the ability of potential users to adopt and use the indicators for policy scoping, development, and assessment were overblown. This paper focuses on the experiences of the Greater Portland Pulse and its efforts to address these concerns. While the project has always been open to the inclusion of new and better measures through best practices literature and participatory processes, the results of the project’s self-examination has required a profound re-thinking of the project from the re-calibration of the geographic scale and visualizations of many indicators to the development of a whole new approach to its user guide and trainings to the creation of customized indicator portals.