Frequently Asked Questions

About ACT Rochester

What is ACT Rochester?

ACT Rochester is a community indicators program. Its purpose is to change the culture of community problem-solving and associated decision making through the use of credible, independent and timely data. This is accomplished when people LEARN about key issues, CONNECT with others in the community, and ACT to promote change.
A community indicators program of Rochester Area Community Foundation, ACT Rochester provides an objective assessment of the area's nine-county region's performance on key indicators of well-being. The robust website creates a "one stop shop" for data and analysis, over 100 indicators, as well as links to more than 300 community initiatives and resources. Center for Governmental Research conducts the research and analysis provided on the site. More than 200 local organizations and many individuals provided input and guidance into the design of ACT Rochester. 
ACT Rochester is more than a warehouse for data. Staff is engaged in local initiatives to encourage the development of goals, targets and accountability so that our community can better identify and measure progress.


Are there other cities that do similar work?

Yes, over 1,000 communities around the world have undertaken indicator initiatives. The very first indicator project, Quality of Life in Jacksonville: Indicators for Progress, was started over 20 years ago in Jacksonville, Fla. Indicator projects have been established in large regions like Southern California (population 17.1 million) and in small ones like Burlington, Vt. (population 39,000). Some notable examples include Boston, Mass., Spartanburg, S.C., and Toronto and Ottawa, Canada.

Who participated in the development of ACT Rochester?

ACT Rochester began as a joint venture of Rochester Area Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Rochester. A task force, comprised of board members from both organizations, guided its development. Funding was also provided by the Gannett Foundation and the Center for Governmental Research, Fund for the Public Interest. CGR provided most of the data and analysis. In addition, more than 100 members of the community participated in meetings to help select appropriate indicators. In 2012, ACT Rochester became an intiative of Rochester Area Community Foundation.

What do you mean by the Rochester region and how did you decide what areas to cover?

A region generally refers to a central city and the surrounding areas that support that city and are supported by it. Sometimes this is thought of as an economic region or market area. Definitions of the Rochester region range from a single county (Monroe) to a larger area of up to 10 counties. For this project, we have selected a nine-county region: Monroe, the five adjacent counties, along with Seneca, Wyoming and Yates counties. The ACT region, then, includes the following counties: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates. In 2017, ACT Rochester added data for the three other cities in the Finger Lakes region besides Rochester – Batavia, Canandaigua and Geneva. Most indicators have data for this nine-county region and its four cities. However, in some instances, data is not available for all areas.

About the Data

What is an indicator?

An indicator is a measure that helps to describe an economic, environmental, social or cultural condition over time. An indicator is usually expressed as a rate or percent, such as the infant mortality rate or the unemployment rate.

How did you select the indicators?

We used a two-step process to select the indicators. First we convened 12 community meetings to identify indicators in each topic area. More than 100 people contributed their thoughts and produced a list that exceeded 280 indicators. Then we asked the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) to pare down the list based on its knowledge of available data sources. In the end, we chose 113 indicators that had many years of data at a county level, a consistent definition over time and a source whose data collection process we thought was reliable.

What criteria do you use when selecting a community indicator?

The Center for Governmental Research suggests that the criteria include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following:

  • The data should be available and relatively easy to access
  • It should be reliably and consistently tracked over multiple years, ideally updated at least annually
  • The data should be understandable to both the general public and key decision-makers
  • The indicator should reflect broad community goals and be tied to critical issues the region is attempting to address. That is to say, positive changes in the indicator data should reflect progress in addressing key issues and achieving desired outcomes
  • Data for the indicator should be available for multiple geographic areas (for example, all counties in a state) and should be available for the state and/or nation so that reasonable comparisons can be made to help put the data into a context
  • As a set, the indicators selected should ideally include both leading and lagging indicators

In addition, only indicators that provide community-wide data related to outcomes should be considered for inclusion; for example, data pertaining only to individual agencies or programs, and that could not be collected and analyzed for the larger community, should not be considered for inclusion.

Where does the data come from?

Much of the data comes from existing sources, such as the U.S. Census, public health agencies, police records, tax assessment rolls and community surveys. Whenever possible, we used New York state sources for data rather than data from local sources to ensure consistent definitions and to enable reliable comparisons across counties. You can find the data source for each indicator on the data table and charts provided for that indicator. Raw numbers were converted to rates and dollars were adjusted for inflation to provide a reasonable basis for comparisons.

Why is some of the data several years old?

In gathering data for ACT Rochester, we try to balance a desire for accuracy, completeness and timeliness. These objectives were sometimes at odds. For example, the media might report on a variety of valuable statistics on population and housing based on results from the American Community Survey (ACS). This survey, while timely, is based on a small sample of the United States population rather than a full count and is therefore subject to sampling error. In some cases, we are comfortable that the margin of error in these statistics is good enough to report; in other cases, we provide data from the older 2010 Census, which was based on a full count of the population and in which we have greater confidence. In addition, data from the ACS is sometimes only available for geographic areas with a population of 65,000. Thus it could not be used to gather data on the counties of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans or Wyoming, whose populations fall below 65,000.

How often will the data be updated?

We intend to provide the Rochester community with the most timely information available annually. The American Community Survey allows smaller communities (less than 20,000) to have reliable, up-to-date information on a range of demographic, economic, housing and social questions. However, information on subgroups of the population in these communities may still be limited by the sampling methodology.

I thought ACT stood for Achieving Community Targets. Do you intend to set targets for the indicators?

Yes, we expect to include targets in the future. We envision the process of target-setting as one which involves the community.

How can I find the definition of simple data terms, like rates, percents, etc?

"A Glossary of Terms" is included in the "Using the Site" section of this website. 

Why don’t you have benchmarks to other regions?

As ACT Rochester grows, this additional feature will be evaluated for inclusion.

About Community Involvement

Can I submit information that I think should be included?

Yes, please contact us by clicking on the "Contact Us" tab at the top of the page.

Will you make presentations of the data to community groups?

Yes. Engaging the community is a central priority of ACT Rochester.