Philly City Hall
The Philly City Controller's Office unveiled the beta version of ProgressPHL on March 22. Photo: AL DÍA Archives.

What is Philly’s new social progress tracker?

The Philly City Controller’s Office launched a beta version on March 22 and it is a treasure trove of neighborhood-by-neighborhood data.


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On March 22, the Philadelphia City Controller’s Office, now under the direction of Acting Controller Charles Edacheril, released a new, one-of-a-kind dashboard being billed as Philadelphia’s tracker of social progress.

ProgressPHL is the name of the new dashboard, which is still in its beta form, but it can be used by anyone to gather data on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis on a whole slew of topics — from internet access and eviction rates, to crime rates, voter registration, and a lot more. 

In a release about the dashboard, the Controller’s Office said it could be used to inform the talks set to begin surrounding Mayor Jim Kenney’s newly-proposed $6.1 billion city budget for Fiscal Year 2024.

“The City Controller’s Office promotes the effective and efficient operations of Philadelphia government, recommending best practices and modernizations when possible,” said Edacheril in the release. “This is a tool that all city departments and agencies can utilize to better understand the diverse needs across every neighborhood.” 

So how does it work? 

The new ProgressPHL dashboard establishes what it calls a ‘Social Progress Index,’ that assigns a score (from 1 to 100) for all 372 populated neighborhood tracts (based on U.S. Census data) in Philadelphia. 

The index was first conceptualized in 2013 by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative. It is used to assess the social and environmental performance of different countries, and complement more traditional methods of national performance like gross domestic product. 

How are the scores determined?

The social progress index scores for every neighborhood tract in Philly are the average of three scores the tract gets in what the dashboard calls dimensions. Below each dimension are four components, and beneath every component, where the most granular level of data is found, are between three and six indicators. In total, there are 47 indicators measured on the ProgressPHL dashboard. 

It sounds vague right now because it is, but let’s keep going.

Much like social index scores are approximately the averages of the three dimension scores, the dimension scores are approximately the averages of the four component scores. All three are also scored on the same 1 to 100 scale. 

When it comes to indicators, it is the raw data the Controller’s Office collected in the research process, so it is displayed however the source material was measured. To obtain the component score from the different indicators, that raw data is plugged into a formula laid out in a deeper methodology report that places it within the 1 to 100 scale.

The raw data itself comes from individual studies and institutions like the American Community Survey from 2015-2019, the CDC, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, just to name a few.   

In practice

The three dimensions defined by the ProgressPHL dashboard are as follows — Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. They are based on three questions that offer insight into social progress:

Are people’s essential needs being met? (Basic Human Needs)

Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain wellbeing? (Foundations of Wellbeing)

Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential? (Opportunity)

As an example, the four components under the Basic Human Needs dimension are: Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Water and Sanitation, Shelter, and Personal Safety. 

Under Personal Safety, the three indicators measured are the Motor Vehicle Accident Rate, the Property Crime Rate, and the Violent Crime Rate.

When using that example, the Violent Crime Rate for all 372 neighborhood tracts of Philadelphia are visualized all in the same place using the ProgressPHL dashboard, along with the previously-mentioned Property Crime Rate, Motor Vehicle Accident Rate, and 44 more sets of data as one gets to explore the beta version of the platform.

It’s a lot to digest, but leaders at the press conference yesterday said goes a long way in reducing inequalities across the board in Philadelphia.

“ProgressPHL provides a shared language for Philadelphians to describe their lived experiences and observations within and across neighborhoods,” said Dr. Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah of the Social Progress Imperative. “This data tool celebrates the city’s progress so far, illuminates what needs improvement, and helps catalyze stakeholders' coalitions to work together in dismantling structural inequities around issues such as health, education, housing, and transportation.”


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