Connecting state and local government leaders
In a guest article, Kate Bender, Deputy Performance Officer in the Kansas City, Missouri, Office of Performance Management, discusses how hard facts plus citizen perceptions leads to prosperous communities.
Opening public-sector data is increasingly driving breakthroughs in data-driven government. In Kansas City, Missouri, for example, creative data scientists are integrating open, online public data with citizen surveys to produce a rich and innovative perspective on citizen satisfaction with city services.
In a guest article, Kate Bender, the Deputy Performance Officer in the Office of Performance Management in the City Manager's Office in Kansas City, Missouri, discusses how hard facts plus citizen perceptions leads to prosperous communities.
Measuring local government performance is extremely important as public sector organizations across the country try to improve the quality of life for citizens in meaningful and cost-effective ways. That’s why many cities and counties utilize citizen surveys to assess whether they’re doing a good job.
These surveys provide us with an excellent sense of how citizens view their local government. People are asked to rate different city or county services. Sometimes, they’re asked to list the services that need the most improvement. In many instances, they’re asked if the government is moving the city or county in the right direction. And, frequently, they’re asked if the city or county is a good place to live.
Data analytics also allow us to slice citizen survey responses by age, gender, neighborhood and other demographic breakouts, all of which help to sharpen our understanding of taxpayer perceptions.
But despite their value, citizen surveys are too often put on the shelf and forgotten. Or they’re simply not integrated into strategic planning efforts. In my opinion, this is unfortunate – and it’s a wasted opportunity to get critical and actionable performance feedback.
Keeping this in mind, our performance management team in Kansas City, Missouri’s City Hall has found a way to maximize the usage and extend the relevance of local government’s citizen survey data.
We do this by analyzing the citizen survey data in tandem with the open data from our 311 call center, which receives over 100,000 service requests a year. Combining the multiple data sets provides us with greater context when we’re evaluating our performance. It also enables us to form hypotheses about what’s really going on in our community, leading to better solutions as well.
Let’s say, for example, that the citizen survey data on its own tells us that street maintenance and infrastructure issues are a high priority with taxpayers. But the survey also indicates that citizens are dissatisfied with the city’s level of service in this area. Viewed in isolation, these results would be cause for concern and significant remediation. One could imagine a policy solution being proposed such as passing a special city or county tax whose proceeds would be dedicated to widespread street resurfacing.
But, if we place the trackable 311 open data side-by-side with the citizen survey data, a deeper, richer and more nuanced picture emerges. In this hypothetical case study, we see that residents in two adjacent neighborhoods have been calling and lodging complaints about potholes—and they’re saying that the street repairs aren’t being completed in a timely fashion.
This sheds crucial light on a problem—and it helps us to laser in on a solution. Instead of proposing a new city or county tax to re-surface roads, we now focus on our road maintenance department and help it optimize crew management and process scheduling, so that all our residents (and especially those in the two neighborhoods that have been calling 311) receive efficient and effective service.
Of course, it doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes, citizen perception and customer service calls are mutually reinforcing.The public’s view that water leaks or park cleanups are being ignored, for instance, could be bolstered by a tsunami of 311 call data that reveals consistent inaction in these areas.
And when citizen dissatisfaction in a survey is confirmed by actual customer complaints, the next step for a government organization is obvious—start delivering more and/or better service to the customers that are reporting issues on 311, and, eventually, this improved level of service will lead to more citizens satisfied on the citizen survey.
The bottom line is that we need to bring together citizen survey data as well as open data on city service levels in order to make a host of governance decisions that will translate into improved results for taxpayers in our cities and counties. These are just two components of the new data-driven performance management model that I believe is essential for public sector organizations going forward.
We want our citizens to be happy with their government, and their perceptions and opinions about government’s effectiveness truly matter. Combining this crucial data on their perspectives with hard facts that can be extracted from open data will go a long way toward helping us build and sustain high-quality and prosperous communities.
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