The quality of life or well-being of a community is measured by many social, economic, and environmental factors. In the Charlotte region, it has become increasingly evident that these factors can only be effectively measured and addressed by crossing political boundaries and looking at the entire geographic area or region. Successful regional approaches to maintaining and enhancing the quality of life require tracking and assessing trends over time.
The Charlotte Regional Indicators Project does just that. It provides critical benchmarks measured over time and compared to state and/or national data for the 14-county, 2-state region, which includes Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties in North Carolina and Chester, Lancaster, and York counties in South Carolina. The Indicators Project provides objective, reliable, and relevant data that measure the region’s annual progress on a wide range of indicators that impact the region’s quality of life.
The Indicators Project focuses on ten theme areas: Arts, Recreation, and Cultural Life; the Economy; Education; the Environment; Government and Citizen Participation; Health; Housing; Public Safety; Social Well-Being; and Transportation, plus Demographics. Individually, the ten theme areas represent critical components of the region’s quality of life. Collectively, the ten theme areas provide a holistic framework that allows the region to better understand the inter-relationships among them.
The Charlotte Regional Indicators Project was publicly launched in November, 2007 as the culmination of more than three years of work by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute staff and more than 100 Task Force volunteers from around the region. The Indicators Project made available for the first time a comprehensive collection of quantitative measures of the region’s quality of life, showing current and historic trend data for 54 indicators in ten theme areas, in the form of an Executive Summary and Indicators Project Report, which were available both online and in printed format.
The concept for the Project first emerged in 2004, when, as part of its 35th Anniversary celebration, the Institute asked community leaders how they felt it could best serve the region. The common thread among responses was that the region needed a reliable and objective source of data to assist its citizens and leaders in addressing the many public policy challenges facing this rapidly growing region. Early support for research was provided by many individuals and organizations, in particular, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Open Space Protection Collaborative (using funds from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation).
Beginning in 2006, the Institute invested significant staff and resources in developing the conceptual framework for the project. Ten theme areas were identified, and ten corresponding Task Forces were established, comprised of local and regional experts and practitioners in each theme area. Over the course of a year, the Task Forces met to refine the theme areas, suggest specific measures and data sources, and review the final selection of indicators.
Throughout much of 2007, Institute staff undertook the task of collecting the necessary data, assessing it for quality and reliability, computing region-wide and county-level measures, compiling the inaugural Indicators Report and continuing development of the Indicators website. The Indicators Project was officially launched at the Institute’s annual issues conference in November, 2007, with the opening of the Indicators Project website and publication of the first Indicators Report, funded through a grant from the Foundation For The Carolinas. Subsequently, the Institute compiled and published County Profile reports for each of the region’s 14 counties, using updated indicators data, and developed an expanded set of economic indicators through a grant from Advantage Carolina.
Following the completion of the County Profile reports in 2009, the project underwent a significant metamorphosis, through which the original list of 54 indicators was condensed into a set of 35 key indicators, and the project began the transition from a printed report to an entirely digital presence. A major part of this process was the redesigning of the project’s website. Initially organized as an electronic version of the 2007 Indicators Report content, the website was reworked throughout 2010 to provide users with direct access to Indicators data in an interactive format and continuous rather than periodic updating of all Indicators. Another significant addition to the project in 2010 was the Indicators Partnerships with other organizations who underwrite much-expanded indicator datasets including both selected Regional Indicators and Partner-specific indicators, all accessible to the public through the Indicators website.
Through the work of the Institute, advances in technology, and the support of the community, the Charlotte Regional Indicators Project has matured, becoming a major public source for the information needed to inform positive change affecting quality of life issues within the 14-county Charlotte region.
For more information about the Regional Indicators project, please contact: