Advancing States' Child Indicator Initiatives: Promotional Indicators Forum . Lessons, Observations, and "Should Nots"


Following these two sets of small group discussions, the groups were asked to reflect on lessons learned, to offer observations, and identify knots with which they struggled.


  • Start with what you know. Lay out traditional indicators and ask, "what is missing, what aren't we getting?" Simultaneously, it is important not to avoid using traditional indicators. They capture things promotional indictors sometimes do not. (An example, from Toni Lang of New York, is that although the answer to the question "Do you feel safe going out at night?" is useful, crime rates are still important.)
  • Adult emotional health is a difficult area in which to find indicators (an example might be measures of coping skills).
  • Critical question is how is work done-is it promotional?
  • Because traditional indicators often take a negative perspective and promotional indicators seek to assess the presence of positive qualities, there is sometimes a temptation to flip a traditional indicator. However, flipping a traditional indicator does not produce a promotional indicator. In addition, not every indicator can be flipped. For example, there is no logical flip for the number of jobs created.
  • Social justice can be addressed if we identify indicators that are sensitive to social justice and they become operational. The composition of the group identifying indicators needs to be representative and developers need to look at data balance of SES/race/ethnicity.
  • As measures become more specific, they are more likely to raise cultural issues.
  • Trying to identify indicators to measure a dimension is sometimes difficult.
  • Report data and offer cautions when using data (however, cautions may be ignored) and produce different reports for different times.
  • Small group discussions produced a sense of common understanding.
  • Some indicators are not easily categorized (e.g., when targeting youth should access to mental health be a dimension of emotional health or community?).
  • Need to understand what we are talking about.


  • Indicators need to be linked to research.
  • What are the rules? Does it matter if indicators are flipped? Or if they are reported as bundle or as single measures? The key issue is whether the focus is on fixing problems or building assets and strengths.
  • It is sometimes difficult not to flip a traditional indicator.
  • If resources are not available to develop surveys, find other means to collect data.
  • Validity/reliability issues surround self-report data.
  • Promotional indicators are social goods, not merely protection from bad things.
  • Promotional indicators measure the building of a healthier place.
  • Promotional indicators may not be measuring an action, rather the result of an action.
  • Identifying promotional indicators can lead to other questions.
  • To avoid misinterpretation of data, be careful and precise in reporting findings.
  • Since ranking can distort data, separate reports may produce more accurate understanding.
  • It is hard to capture social justice issues.
  • Social justice includes access to power and distribution of resources.
  • Working arrangements of caregivers can influence interactions, and opportunities for interactions, among family members.
  • The costs of cultural events may be prohibitive for low-SES families and should be cautiously included in indicators.
  • Promotional indicators may raise cultural and generational issues.
  • There are different cultural ways to define volunteerism.
  • If one is working for the minimum wage, how does he or she attain greater economic opportunity?
  • If an indicator is based on science, and/or target population has been included in its identification, cultural concerns are lessened.
  • Promotional indicators measure conditions and qualities of life.

"Should Nots"

  • Do not limit the list of indicators simply because measures might not be available.
  • If resources are not available for new research, look for existing research.
  • How valid is self-reported data from youth?
  • Because performance indicators are positivistic, and come from people in power, they can have limited application to social justice.

During the large group discussion, the following words were identified that describe promotional indicators:

  • Positive
  • Strengths
  • Developmental
  • Asset
  • Relationships
  • Capacity
  • Activities
  • Process
  • Aspirations, hopes
  • Optimistic