In 1989, the State of Oregon was just recovering from a prolonged recession and was faced with staggering projections of population and economic growth for the upcoming years. To address the drastic changes that lay ahead and to take hold of its fate, the State developed a strategic plan, Oregon Shines: An Economic Strategy for the Pacific Century. Oregon Shines set forth to steer the State toward a future with a strong, high-wage economy built on a world-class work force and an exceptional quality of life. Once Oregon Shines was established, the Oregon Legislature created the Oregon Progress Board, which translated the vision into measurable results. Rather than tracking inputs, which was the common standard for evaluation, Oregon was the first state to look at outcomes, which demonstrated what programs had actually accomplished. In 1991, 158 indicators of progress were compiled in Oregon Benchmarks, Setting Measurable Standards for Progress. Oregon Benchmarks program aims to keep the State's government agencies, service institutions, and citizens focused on achieving the goals set forth in Oregon Shines.
Every two years, a new edition of Oregon Benchmarks is published, acting as a report card of state progress. The Oregon Progress Board is responsible for gathering and providing assistance in collecting the most current benchmark data. The benchmarks are divided into three categories: exceptional people, outstanding quality of life, and diverse, robust economy with specific targets in each area for the years 1995, 2000, and 2010. By 1993, the number of benchmarks expanded to 272, of which 43 are classified as critical. These urgent benchmarks include teen pregnancy, education skill levels, and air quality. In addition, certain criteria have been identified as core standards, such as adult health, public safety, and manufacturing exports. Continuously providing outcome data serves as an extremely valuable resource when making adjustments to policies, programs, and budgets. The State's policy leaders strongly support the adaptation of the benchmarks as the best way to make necessary progress.
The effects of the Oregon Benchmarks permeate beyond state agencies. The program encourages cooperation and partnership among all levels of government agencies and public, private, and nonprofit institutions in achieving outcomes or solving problems that are too complex to be tackled by a single organization. The Progress Board aids local governments, nonprofits, and other institutions in adopting benchmarks and programs that support the State's broad goals. The benchmarks intend to motivate performance throughout the State, not just to identify and punish failures, which inspires more organizations to become actively involved.
In 1992, Financial World magazine ranked Oregon sixth in state government management and stated that "no state has gone further in setting goals and creating measures to determine if they've been met than Oregon." Even as Governor Roberts reduced the size of the State government, she explicitly protected and even enhanced programs that supported priority benchmarks, which could have potentially been cut if the outcome data had not been available. The states of Minnesota and Utah have already taken steps to replicate Oregon Benchmarks by creating their own set of goals that they hope to accomplish by measuring progress through outcomes.