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NDSU Extension Service, Published March 14 2012

NDSU developing statewide social indicators website

FARGO - North Dakota State University and Wilder Research of St. Paul are teaming up to develop North Dakota Compass, which is a website that will provide users with a set of reliable, objective and uniform social indicators useful in identifying issues that affect North Dakota.

"A basic vision of North Dakota Compass is to promote civic engagement," says Richard Rathge, who is heading the project for NDSU and is a professor in the Departments of Agribusiness and Applied Economics and Sociology and Anthropology. "Thus, residents are encouraged to become an active part of this exciting new venture. Visit the advance website at http://ndcompass.blogspot.com and volunteer to serve on a committee or nominate someone to serve. Use the online polls to indicate which issues should be priorities. Offer opinions about the new website and how it can best serve communities."

When the North Dakota Compass website is fully operational, data across a broad spectrum of important issues, such as the economy, aging, youth, health and housing, will be available. In addition, the website will serve as a repository for localized data and research.

The North Dakota Compass project is being modeled after a similar project in Minnesota that was developed by Wilder Research.

"Wilder Research has successfully created a nationally recognized, and many argue the 'gold standard,' of social indicators websites," Rathge says. "Instead of having to reinvent the wheel, Wilder Research is willing to share its technical expertise in helping North Dakota produce its website. We recognize the model has the potential of being equally, if not more, impactful in North Dakota."

Other impacts include:

* Reducing duplication of effort in social indicators data collection

* Producing efficiencies in decision making by providing an easily accessible common database

* Encouraging collaboration by creating a venue for resource sharing

* Establishing accountability and quality control measures by creating a common metric and baseline for assessments/evaluations

* Increasing civic awareness of the challenges and opportunities within North Dakota

* Advancing accurate reporting with objective and comparable data indicators

The rollout of North Dakota Compass will occur in three phases. Through March, committees will be created to guide the development of the website. By the end of April, committee members will have identified which social indicators will be used in the site. Soon after, the site will go live with theme areas being added in a staged process as they are finalized. Efforts then will be dedicated to working with communities to incorporate locally relevant information.

Initial funding for the project came through grants from the Bush Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation and Dakota Medical Foundation. Additional grant support is being sought to sustain the effort.

"North Dakota communities are facing several challenges and opportunities created by an aging citizenry, out-migration of young people, the oil boom and other similar issues," says Elli Haerter, North and South Dakota manager of activities for the Bush Foundation. "As North Dakotans contemplate how to ensure their future vitality, they recognize the importance of access to accurate and meaningful data. As a result of the NDSU and Wilder partnership, citizens will be able to confidently craft bold and sustainable solutions to their tough problems."