Monday, February 22, 2010

Balance sheet change ... metric of progress

Part of the genius of double entry business accountancy is the integration of the balance sheet and the operating statement. This same construct is used in the Community Analytics (CA) framework. What this means is that the change in the "state" of the community translates into a measure of progress.

The balance sheet of a community has a variety of assets and liabilities. Some of these are tangible like land and buildings, or natural resources like timber and minerals. Other assets are intangible but important like the state of health of the population, the education of the population, the level of crime in the community and such. The presence of organizations is an asset, and the opportunity for work is an asset. The lack of various things, including the lack of economic opportunity or jobs is a liability or reduction in the value of the community.

In any community the various balance sheet elements change over time. CA tracks these changes at three levels (1) in general terms (2) in a quantified way; and (3) in a way that applies value to the quantification. The first step helps to appreciate where a community is progressing or not, but does not quantify the matter. Just having this information in general terms is a big first step.

The importance of various elements can be recorded using a technique similar to the Analytical Hierarchical Process. While it may be difficult to quantify, it is relatively easy to put things in order of importance or give things a ranking.

The goal is not a simple answer. In CA the goal is to have understanding of how progress is behaving, and how progress might be improved.

This description is only a starting point ... balance sheet analysis in GAAP accounting is a big subject, and it is even bigger in CA.

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