Sustaining Jackson Hole is a comprehensive, citizen-driven indicators program. Citizens set out to measure and track a wide variety of programs and issues in the community, and to create indicators for all aspects of the community.
Sustaining Jackson Hole (SJH) was borne from the belief that the more Jackson Hole knows about itself, the better its chances of making wise choices about its future, and the better the chances that future generations will enjoy the same opportunities as today’s inhabitants.
A central question lies at the heart of the annual SJH process: what legacy do residents want to leave for future generations? Put another way, what qualities about the community do residents want to sustain for future generations?
Variations on this question have been asked by thousands of communities across the country as they undergo visioning or master planning processes, but that is where SJH and other processes diverge. Many communities attempt to answer such a question by asking detailed, qualitative questions of residents; by taking photographs or documenting favorite places; or by describing intangible qualities that are important. SJH turns to objective data rather than subjective analysis to identify important community qualities and determine how well they are being sustained.
The project examines hundreds of community variables, including information that is not obviously tied to the character of Jackson Hole: average commuting time, mean high school SAT scores, fundraising rates for local non-profits, annual rainfall, and many more.
The initial planning process spanned several months in 2003 and 2004 and allowed organizers to develop strategies for the participatory aspects of the project as well as the actual data-driven research and analysis. The planning team (comprised of sponsoring organizations’ staff) identified the basic goals of the project and then separated the community’s interests and values into twelve distinct “Areas of Interest”: Arts, Environment, Resource Sustainability, Business & Economy, Health, Religion, Civic Affairs, Land Use & Housing, Social Services, Education, Recreation, and Transportation.
Each working group met independently six times in early 2004, to complete four tasks released as a final report in September:
1. Identify Organization Indicators (data that members would use to describe or characterize their own organizations)
2. Identify Area of Interest Indicators (data that members would use to describe or categorize their Area of Interest)
3. Develop a Statement of Ideal (a statement describing the Area of Interest in a “future, ideal world… defined so that progress toward that Ideal can be clearly and unambiguously measured.”)
4. Identify Ideal Indicators (data that would allow the community to track progress toward its Ideal)
Completed in 2004, this component of the project resulted in two publications with very comprehensive information about Jackson Hole and the SJH process. One of the main goals of the SJH project from the outset was to create a process that wouldn’t end, but would rather grow and improve over the years; the project has done so by repeating itself every year, each time building upon the large data sets, revising predictions and recommendations, and developing new strategies for implementation.