What gets measured gets fixed. Better indicators of progress focus attention on the neglected, slow-changing trends that are shaping our future: the health and well-being of our families, the strength of our communities, and the integrity of nature.

We are a society captivated by measurement. From “consumer confidence” to baseball box scores, we measure all manner of things. But we do not measure—or we do not measure well—many of the things that matter most.

For example, the Dow Jones industrial average and gross domestic product, regarded by many as bellwethers of progress, do not measure what people assume they do. The Dow is a running joke among stock market insiders, because it averages 30 stock prices without adjusting for the number of shares that are in circulation. And GDP can and often does rise even as economic security and environmental quality diminish.

Gauging our success by reference to such flawed yardsticks, we organize our lives and institutions to deliver these things. Conversely, we do not get what we do not count: strong communities, fair markets, and responsible stewardship.

Around the Northwest and beyond, efforts are underway to develop better gauges of progress. Sightline’s contribution is the Cascadia Scorecard, which measures long-term progress in the Pacific Northwest.

An index of seven slow-moving trends shaping the region, it is a simple but surprisingly far-reaching gauge. The Scorecard’s indicators—health, economy, population, energy, sprawl, wildlife, and pollution—provide regional status reports. By highlighting successful communities, they also give practical visions of a better future.

March 7, 2005