Neighborhood Metrics

Let’s use this thread to discuss the idea of leveraging some form of ‘neighborhood metrics’ to promote and improve the health of neighborhood associations (NAs) throughout Austin.

Ideas that people have tossed around (from 7/15 meeting and conversations):

  • FAN defines metrics/ best practices to help guide NAs
  • FAN playing role of a BBB-like org to rate NAs
  • Lobby Council to create a City-sanctioned list of best practices
  • Lobby Council to create and use a City-sanctioned scorecard for determining NA health; score can add/ take away weight from NA arguments at Council


  • What types of metrics would we target?
  • What is the primary goal for this effort (promote new+ healthy NAs, to improve the current systems, or [something else])?
  • What is a good strategy for achieving the primary goal?
1 Like

I would like to see the following be considered with regards to scoring NAs. Any barrier to voting and participation are usually the things that are the most important to me when looking at NAs anyways. Maybe a 5 star average rating where each question gets either 0 or 5 stars and then at the end averaged together?

  1. Is there online voting?
  2. Is there a waiting period for registration?
  3. Are votes announced in advance?
  4. Are dues required to vote?
  5. Are renters allowed to be members?
  6. Are property owners allowed to be members?
  7. Are business owners allowed to be members?

I really like the idea of creating a best practices guide for NAs and also lobbying city council to adopt something or at least acknowledge that not all NAs are equal in terms of inclusiveness. We should do something similar for Contact Teams.

I’m not sure that it’s a good idea for us to be rating NAs, though. I can’t see what we would have to gain from that, and I think it would just create some animosity. But maybe we could put together a spread sheet that contains information about all the NAs in Austin and let then let that information speak for itself.

Another thing that would be nice is to create a way for people to share their experiences (positive or negative) with their neighborhood association and contact team. I’ve heard quite a few stories from people that had opinions that were at odds with the NA, and they felt so unwelcome that they never returned to another meeting.

1 Like

I think that a city-sanctioned list of best practices would provide the most bang for the buck. All neighborhoods (and neighbors) will benefit from having healthy associations. If we are pushing for certain best practices, we definitely need to make sure the things we’re pushing for are backed by solid data (facts over feelings).

On the point of all neighborhoods not being equal, I think we need to recognize that a certain category may need to have a few different best practices listed in order to address different demographics.

For example, what does voting look like? For the over >75
crowd, online voting may not be the best way to capture the largest number of opinions. Neighborhoods should be made aware of the best tools to use for various demographics so that they can make the right choices for the people that are involved as well as grab the groups that are not yet involved.

COA Task Force on Community Engagement
I’d like to ask them to consider various demographics when they create a list of best practices.

I don’t think we should spend one minute on a rating system for NAs. Like Ricky says it will be seen as an attack and frankly it will be. Our focus should be on creating NA’s that meet our standard not trying to reform what exists. Our influence will be based upon what we do not how we point out the failings of others. Leave non inclusive NA’s in the rear view mirror. Let us create our best practice guidelines, publish them, live by them, and let public opinion form around that. We only have so much energy and we ourselves have so much to do to reach the standards we champion. (The minute we challenge existing NA’s we are in for a long protracted fight that will suck our energy and attention for years.)
There are council members taking a hard look at contact teams and NA’s. Let them do that and let us provide them with a model that they can embrace.

Larry, I agree, we do not want to attack existing NAs, but I would hope that our best practice guidelines would work for all NAs in Austin.

I disagree that we should leave non inclusive NAs in the rearview mirror. There are some that want to be inclusive, but have no clue where/ how they need to change. FAN cannot expect to go out and create a duplicate NA for every existing NA.

True, @NatalieGauldin! The Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association is a member of FAN and has always tended to welcome new residents, housing, businesses, etc. in the neighborhood. However, we’re interested in leveraging some of the innovative and more inclusive forms of voting and transparency. Existing neighborhood associations can definitely stand to benefit from FAN’s guidance. (It doesn’t mean that we need to “score” NAs, though.)

Another type of metric relates more to outcomes than to process or practices. Things like Walk Score, Transit Score, and the indicators in Imagine Austin would form a great basis for measuring neighborhood improvement.

1 Like

Stats for safety would also be a good category. Jack Darby of krimelabb can generate stats by neighborhood and APD also has some limited reporting. You can’t exactly go head to head w/ various neighborhoods on crime stats because there are many factors that lead to higher crime stats versus lower ones. But you could show stats for things like whether there are active neighborhood watch groups. When I was president of CLASP (the Citizen Led Austin SAfety Partnership), I did a survey with 550 participants. It was online. The data showed that people feared home break in’s the most. The most frequent type of property crime is car break in’s. And traffic ranked either 2nd or 3rd in something that was of importance to neighborhoods. So things like number of hit/runs, traffic accidents and deaths, pedestrian/bike accidents, etc. domestic violence is another category of calls for service. It can be very unnerving to have constant calls for service on various issues like that.

Would there be any value in surveying Austinites on the reasons why they are not involved in any NA? Has this been done?

Not sure how this would fit in. Since the city has given Contact Teams some forms of roles and responsibilities, should we think about best practices around these teams.

Late to the party here, but a few thoughts:

Larry and Ricky’s points about being antagonistic toward existing NAs are well taken. I, for one, don’t want steer FAN into a role of being divisive or judgmental.

That said, I tend to break down NAs into three categories: Established/Exclusive, Reactionary/Responsive and “on the fence”. The third is the most important one–these are neighborhoods where things are going pretty well, where there isn’t a particular ax to grind but maybe not much sympathy for ANC either.

What if FAN’s metrics were used as a service for NAs that reached out to us? Sort of similar to the “neighborhood in a box” kit. I pre-suppose that the ultimate goal for NAs is engagement by the widest diversity of its residents/business owners; there might be neighborhoods who are interested in our ideas for generating that engagement.

I started a new post about following the Task Force on Community Engagement. As I said before, I believe we can use the best practices they define.

Check 'em out: Austin existing conditions sustainability indicators

What if we could do these indicators (or a similar subset) for each neighborhood? We might even be able to work with the city’s Imagine Austin team to make it happen!

The link is not working for me, @rcauvin

Link fixed! (Apparently, Discourse doesn’t support FTP links, so I I uploaded the document to Google Drive and used that link instead.)

My earlier posting got deleted when I switched ID’s from “Phil” to “Phil_Wiley” to comply with guidelines. Believe point (2) is well covered, perhaps this can be part of a discussion on (1) & (3)

It occurs to me that these “sets of metrics” would be helpful to explain FAN & FAN NA’s to anyone, for recruiting new members to either, & for managing the evolution of new groups.

(1) Rate a given FAN NA against the FAN principles for a NA … because it promotes FAN & the NA having high standards. For public uset.
(2) Rate a given “Neighborhood” against the “Imagine Austin” … because this can become a gap analysis leading to street level & land use change recommendations we need to achieve stated “compact & connected” goals. For public use.
(3) Rate our FAN NA’s, & potentially at large “area’s”, against some internal metrics… because it can be helpful to have objectives & timelines - there are many steps from concept of a local group, to having one with an effective voice… Membership & voting participation objectives is an example as that determines how others perceive our relevance. Only for self grading & recognizing where help may be needed. Not necessarily for public use, unless a NA wants to use certain facts about their groups evolution.

Thanks all for your thoughtful comments - very helpful.

I want to record a couple more thoughts:

A NA should only claim to represent due-paying (or voting) members.

A NA should treat every resident equally. If flyers or newsletters are involved, each household should receive a copy (vs. each building structure).

1 Like

CM Renteria created a resolution that will direct the City Manager to add oversight and compliance requirements for contact teams.

I find this resolution relevant to this topic because the City’s new recommendations for CTs may be useful as we create best practices for NAs (especially communications).

We should probably start a new thread to discuss this, but I would like to see FAN involved in this issue.