Create and define a prevailing measure

The “Prevailing Measure” is an objective, math-based measurement of your goal. It is based on a value measured over time, and tracks the progress of that value against your target. Defining a prevailing measure can be challenging. Often, we are translating a nebulous goal like “create more jobs” into a well-defined math problem like “increase the number of jobs in our city by 100,000 by the end of 2014”. Notice the difference?

Below, we’ll walk through the first steps for setting up your prevailing measure. First, create a new goal. For this example, I am interested in the “create more jobs” example above, so I will title my goal “New Jobs”. After saving my new goal to the dashboard, click the goal tile again and click “Edit”. You can also click “Edit” from the Goal Page, shown below. 

You will see a section called Prevailing Metric Definition. This section looks a lot like a Mad Libs™ game, with drop-down menus and fill-in-the-blanks. The fields will change depending on which Action and Kind you pick. Here is where we translate our goal statement into math.

1.  Select an Action

The available actions are: Increase, Reduce, Maintain, or Measure depending on the calculation you would like to make.


 When you want the value of your prevailing measure to be higher in the future.

 Example: Increase citizen satisfaction with public transit, or increase the number of jobs created.


 When you want the value of your prevailing measure to be lower in the future.

 Example: Reduce the crime rate, or reduce the unemployment rate.


 When you want the value of your prevailing measure to stay above or below a benchmark value, or to  remain constant over time.

 Example: Maintain the number of transportation-related injuries below a  particular value, or maintain the  literacy rate above a certain value. “Maintain” can also be used in the case  of long-term goals when the  goal is to reach a particular target and then remain at that target, e.g. increase  the percent of 311 service  requests closed within 7 days to 90% and maintain that in the future.


 When you want the value of your prevailing measure to be tracked over time but without setting a target  value. This is especially useful for collecting baseline data and using that data to determine future targets,  or for related metrics that might contribute to a prevailing measure but lack targets of their own.

2. Fill out the Subject

What are you measuring? In our example, we want to increase “the number of new jobs”, so we’ll type that into the Subject field.

3.  Select the Kind of Measurement

Selecting "To" means that regardless of where we are starting, we have a known target in mind. In our example, if we knew that adding 100,000 new jobs would give us a total of 800,000 jobs in our city, we could put “To” here and use 800,000 as our Target Value (see below). Selecting "From" means that we know we have some historical data that we can use for a baseline value, and we want to change our measure from that baseline. This is useful if we want to change our prevailing measure by a percentage of the baseline value. In our example, we might know that we are starting from 700,000 jobs and we want to increase from 700,000 by 100,000 jobs.

4.  Fill in your Target Value

The Target Value is whatever value we want to reach by the end of our goal timeframe. Note that Increase, Reduce, and Maintain Actions all require a Target Value, but Measure Actions do not. When entering Target Values, do not use commas in large numbers -- GovStat reads them as strings and will give you an error! In our example, we’d enter “100000” instead of “100,000”.

5.  Fill in the Units

In what units are we measure our goal value? In our example, we’re specifically measuring “New Jobs”, but we could also say “New Jobs Created” or “Jobs Created in 2014” or similar. If our job creation data is reported in thousands, we might also say something like “K New Jobs Created” to indicate that there’s a math unit (K = 1,000) in use as well as a descriptive unit (New Jobs). Note that the Unit shows up on the Goal Tile on the dashboard, so while there is not an explicit limit to the number of characters you can use, we recommend you keep it brief for clarity.

6. Define the Goal Start Date

This is the beginning of your goal timeframe, and marks the date of your baseline measurements. The timeframe can be based on years, months, or days, and can be defined as the “start of” or “end of” an individual year or month initially. To select a specific day, select the year and month, and then go back to the first drop-down menu; instead of only showing “start of” or “end of”, it will now show all the days of that month. 

7.  Define the Goal End Date

This is the end of your goal timeframe, and represents the deadline of your goal. It can be short-term, such as a few months, or very long-term, such as many decades in the future. Currently, goals may be built out to 2060.

We now have our Prevailing Metric defined! This is the first step in creating a goal. Next, we need to attach a dataset to our goal! 

NOTE: Prevailing measures can only be created using datasets with fewer than 10,000 rows.


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