Just how vibrant are we? Research setting baseline for Elkhart County

Building vibrant communities in Elkhart County has always been the ongoing goal, but it’s challenging to know how you’re doing when you’re not sure where you started.

With that question as a backdrop, more than 50 community leaders from Elkhart County’s business, non-profit, municipal and community development realms met on Thursday, July 25, to hear more about how to, well, measure vibrancy.

The setting for the discussion was a community room in the sprawling 171,000-square-foot Elkhart Health & Aquatics Center, one of the largest projects listed in Vibrant Communities’ Action Agenda assembled in 2016.

And with more projects being completed and momentum building in Elkhart, Goshen, Nappanee, Middlebury, Bristol and Wakarusa, it was time for the Vibrant Communities movement to define how it would keep track of vibrancy.

How to measure vibrancy was the topic of the day at a Community Champions Roundtable on Thursday, July 25, 2019, at the Elkhart Health & Aquatics Center.

Working with Indiana University South Bend’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Vibrant Communities organizers developed a survey of Elkhart County residents as well as the gathering of demographic data about the community.

The data includes everything from economic performance measures to educational attainment, health factors, crime and safety, and housing. That will be matched with the results of a survey in which Elkhart County residents are asked to rank the area on topics such as community pride, social offerings such as arts and culture and parks, and openness of residents to others.

  • Marshall V. King, a free-lance journalist who wrote the Love Where You Live series for Vibrant Communities in 2018, attended the gathering and wrote a column for the South Bend Tribune. Read Marshall’s thoughts on the metrics.

The survey so far has 371 results from 4,000 sent to randomly selected addresses in Elkhart County. While that number of survey results gives a good baseline, IUSB researchers intend to review the demographics of the respondents and fill in gaps that may exist to assure that the survey sample is representative of Elkhart County’s population.

By sometime this fall, it’s expected for the data and survey results to be available on the Vibrant Communities website.

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