State and Local Evidence-Based Data-Driven Policy Movement Plows Forward

The City-County Building in Denver

The City-County Building in Denver Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Highlights from the Denver kickoff event for Route Fifty’s Roadshow series.

DENVER — Panelists at the kickoff event for Route Fifty’s Roadshow series on Tuesday celebrated what they characterized as a growing movement across state and local governments around the country to produce and practice increasingly efficient digital-age, evidence-based, data-driven public policy.

Speakers at the event, held at the Denver Art Museum, talked about building workplace cultures that approach policymaking as a scientific endeavor—an approach, they argued, that will lift government over typical hurdles such as uninspired leadership and shifting political winds.

“Most exciting is that states are digging in,” Dube said. “They’re defining levels of evidence, inventorying their programs, comparing program costs and benefits.”

Julia Richman presented her perspective as chief innovation and analytics officer for the city of Boulder, just northwest of Denver.

“We’re building a culture around analytics, where each person is a leader and each person can innovate,” she said. “It’s not top-down. It’s enabled.”

“States are actually doing something about this,” said Sara Dube, director at the Pew-MacArthur Results-First Initiative, citing a national report that the organization published in January that ranked state governments based on the progress they’re making toward evidence-based policymaking.

Michael Kalin, senior advisor at the Behavioral Insights Team, a government consultancy, said that eroding hesitancy or fear of actually finding out what works was an essential part of the movement.

“To identify what works is also to identify what doesn’t work, and you have to be comfortable with that,” he said.

Kalin talked about a plan in Colorado to try to get businesses to file their taxes online.

Environmental causes are popular in Colorado, so one pitch considered by staffers asked businesses to “go green” and forsake paper submissions. They also tried a pitch based on data that informed businesses that the majority of their peers were filing online. The pitch was based on peer pressure.

It was the second pitch, tracked closely, that resulted in more online filings.

“It surprised us ... Life is like high school,” he joked, adding that the point is not to defend this or that policy proposal, but “to find out what really works.”

Speakers championed carefully tailored randomized trials—low-bore, short term, inexpensive trials.

“If you’re basing your policy on anecdote or intuition, then all perspectives can seem equally plausible,” said Kalin.

“Inefficient government is really expensive. Better to spend dollars on things that work, not on things we think we should be doing,” said Richman, “...We’re trying to build a culture of quick succeeding and quick failing.”

“Be the person who asks, ‘How do I know this is effective?’” Dube said.  

As more than one attendee at the conference noted, the message of the burgeoning evidence-based policy movement lands on the ears with an ironic charge, coming as it does at a time when policymaking on the federal level seems a chaos of false starts and changed directions, where ideology and corporate interests seem to take turns steering the ship of state. 

“It’s a mystery what’s going to happen with the movement we’ve been building,” Dube admitted with obvious reluctance. She was answering a question from a member of the crowd about the influence of the new administration in Washington, D.C. “Folks in the field are just determined to keep it up and keep working hard,” Dube said.

Speakers argued that being transparent and accountable and dedicated to making solid data and information more accessible to the public is a meat-and-potatoes way to combat negative feelings about government.

“We had 90 people at a city council meeting last week,” said Richman. “Our residents are really engaged, really in our business… So we want to foster dialogue that matters—and in the environment of ‘alternative facts,’ we have to have a fact-based conversation for it to work.”    

It was a variation on a theme worked up by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. He spoke in the punchy lines that can make or break a politician.

“The reality is, you have to be transparent. You have to tell people where you are and keep showing up… You have to meet [the public] we’re they’re at,” he said.

David Edinger, chief performance officer with the City and County of Denver, talked about the disappointing nature of first-blush approaches to “open data” policymaking.

“We called it the ‘false promise of open data,’” he said.

Better first to discover what kind of data the public is interested in and then deliver it in a format that’s easy to engage.

Edinger said Denver residents were really interested in tracking where their cars had been towed, accessing trash pickup schedules and finding out where their street’s snowplow was in real-time.

“We’re building a demand data perspective. What do people want to see?” Richman agreed. “Cemetery datasets… Datasets on people who don’t move,” she added with a laugh.

John Tomasic is a journalist based in Boulder, Colorado.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Field Crews Eliminate Paper Workflows in City of La Mesa
La Mesa, CA, USA
Orlando Protects Citizens During Heavy Rain Events by Optimizing Water Data Intelligence
Orlando, FL, USA
Small city of Baldwin, GA with <5K residents reduces info calls to City Hall by 50%
Baldwin, GA, USA

NEXT STORY: Infrastructure Spending Fuels Big State and Local Procurement Gains

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.