Spartanburg Community Indicators Project: A Brief History

The Spartanburg Community Indicators Project (SCIP) is a collaboration of seven Sponsoring Partners: The Spartanburg County Foundation, United Way of the Piedmont, Spartanburg County, University of South Carolina Upstate, Mary Black Foundation, Spartanburg Regional Foundation, and Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.  It reports on the progress of key issues that are the clearest indicators of quality of life in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Its goal is to report on data and community initiatives to inspire dialogue and strategy that lead to community improvements.

 

In 1987, SCIP's forerunner, Critical Indicators, was established under the leadership of The Spartanburg County Foundation’s Board of Trustees whose vision was to measure the quality of life in Spartanburg County. The board formed a team of volunteers to gather data and, in 1989, published the first Critical Indicators Report. Similar reports were produced in 1991, 1994 and 1997. These reports provided a vital resource to the entire community - influencing development decisions, assisting organizations in their planning and encouraging dialogue among citizens. 


While the reports were valuable to the community, the Foundation began looking for ways to further engage the citizens of Spartanburg County. Critical Indicators underwent a name change to become Community Indicators and the Foundation worked closely with the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce to publish Community Indicators V in 2001. The result was a report enhanced with photos and other visual design features meant to engage Spartanburg County residents. 
 
In 2003, the Foundation formed a partnership with United Way of the Piedmont. Several focus groups were held to engage citizens and, in 2005, Community Indicators VI: Strategic Spartanburg was published. The report included the culmination of many hours of discussion and research, resulting in a community-wide project focused on the quality of life for all citizens. 
 
In 2006, Spartanburg County Government was added as a key partner in the project and supported a second phase of planning built around strategies for improvement. The Improvement Plan was unveiled to the community in 2006, offering established community priorities and a framework for the future. 
 
One challenge for the project was its ability to collect and analyze data in real time as the process is expensive and time-intensive. In 2007, the Foundation approached University of South Carolina Upstate for assistance. University administrators were in the process of creating the Metropolitan Studies Institute and were excited to join as the fourth partner in this initiative. Transitioning data collection and analysis to the Metropolitan Studies Institute allowed for a more comprehensive assessment of the status of each goal through examination of a wider variety of indicators.   During this time, the project underwent a rebranding and changed its name to Spartanburg Community Indicators Project. The rebranding included implementation of a strategic marketing plan and logo development.
 
In 2014, Mary Black Foundation and Spartanburg Regional Foundation joined as partners to provide additional support for SCIP’s community engagement efforts and to strengthen the interconnected efforts of community organizations across Spartanburg County.  Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce joined as the seventh partner in 2015 to spearhead a community visioning process, one of the Project's strategic goals.
 
The Project is managed by a cabinet of committed stakeholders who represent each of the seven sponsoring partners. The program of work is led by the Cabinet with the support of a Director.  Additionally, there are seven Indicator Area Leaders responsible for the ongoing implementation of strategies to improve outcomes in each Indicator Area. They achieve these through systems and networks that engage the community via forums, projects and connections.
 
The Metropolitan Studies Institute generates reports around each Indicator Area every three years. Subject matter experts from the Indicator Area Leaders are involved in each report update and open forums are planned around each publication to share the findings.  The Indicator Area Leaders also engage the community in ongoing conversation about improvement strategies.  The identified Indicator Areas are Civic Health, Cultural Vitality, Economy, Education, Natural Environment, Public Health and Social Environment.