Accelerating the effective use of data by governments

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Performance Based Budgeting (June 2016 Office Hours)

Many cities see “performance-based budgeting (PBB)” as a fundamental and powerful practice in their governing transformation. But how do you turn an existing budgeting process into one that is performance-based (or at least performance-informed)? Who is doing it well? What can cities realistically expect from performance-budgeting efforts? What are the key things to get right…

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Data Points Podcast Episode 7 – Applied Math and City Data in Baltimore

“The problems and the data are alike in city work and astronomy,” according to this episode’s guest, Tamas Budavari, Assistant Professor of Applied Math and Statistics at Johns Hopkins University. Tamas is working to apply the same solutions he built to answer how the universe was formed to understand how housing becomes vacant and blighted…

Settling the “Gotcha PerformanceStat” Debate

Gotcha is a word that often unsettles many managers in performance management programs. For the most part, managers get frightened about anything performance if there is a gotcha connotation. People who are less favorable of “strict” and collective accountability practices often dismiss the value of Stat programs. They would easily agree with Norman Vincent Peale’s…

How to Budget Responsibly: Evaluating Budget Proposal Metrics

Budgeting is hard. It requires difficult choices and frequently leaves government leaders open to criticism. What if there was a way to make the budgeting process more engaging, transparent, and straightforward, allowing cities to get ahead of this criticism and defend difficult choices? It’s called performance-based budgeting: allocating funds based on programmatic results that contribute…

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Data Points Podcast Episode 6 – Visualize Data Like a Pro

Data visualization is a hot topic. Everyone wants visualizations that are simple, fun, and easy to understand. But where should you start when visualizing your data? This week we talk to Jon Schwabish, a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute and data visualization guru, to discuss his thoughts on how to get in the data…

Don’t Build A Dashboard Until You Read These Three Tips

If you’re thinking about building a public, online performance dashboard to update your constituents, you’re not alone. Dashboards are a popular way to get a bird’s eye view of city operations. It’s easy to see their appeal and to understand why almost every city manager and mayor I have met during the course of our What…

Oh, the places we’ve been!

The GovEx team travels all over the country visiting What Works Cities, but it’s not all work all the time! In our downtime, we explore the cities we’re visiting. A delicious meal or a walk through downtown can be a great way to get to know a new place. This is also a team that…

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Untangling 311 Request Data

One of the datasets most commonly shared by governments is non-emergency service request data. However, despite there being some clear common threads between jurisdictions, this information is largely a tangled mess. With some simple analysis and a partnership with the Open311 community, we hope we can change that.

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Community Engagement: Of the people, by the people, with the people

After school care, suicide prevention, pothole repair, national defense. Government does a lot of good for people. But as governments look to engage their communities, the fact that they are designed to do for people gets in the way. Community engagement is not about doing *for* people, it’s about doing *with*. Community engagement is a pillar of the open data movement. Almost…

Being ‘Sensitive’ about Data Sensitivity

Open data is great because it’s open. But not all data is meant to be open. A lot of it is “sensitive.” What could be “open data” is often classified as “sensitive data” to protect the personal information and identity of individuals. Sensitive data may be restricted from publication, or it may be cleared for…

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Data Points Podcast Episode 1 – Flint’s Water

GovEx Director of Performance and Analytics Carter Hewgley joins us to discuss the important issue of lead poisoning across the country. His experience at FEMA and at the District of Columbia government gives him a great perspective on what can be done at both the national and local level to combat this issue. Check out…

WWC Summit Recap (May 2016 Office Hours)

On April 19th & 20th, city government leaders from across the United States met in New York City for the first What Works Cities Summit. In this office hours, we recap some of the highlights of the summit with colleagues from Anchorage, Buffalo, Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma. We discuss who made impressions, what’s has been happening post-summit,…

Raifman GovEx Travel Infographic

Traversing the Globe for Cities

I love air travel. I love the commotion of an airport and its city-like infrastructure and society, pondering the life story of my fellow passengers, and the planes themselves as marvels of human innovation. And at least some of my spare time is spent thinking about the aviation sector, whether its looking for opportunities to…

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Welcome to the Data Points Podcast

Welcome to GovEx Data Points, a podcast focusing on all things data and government! This is our first ever episode, so thanks for listening. In this episode, we’ll walk through some background information on GovEx and provide an introduction to what we plan to cover in future episodes. The podcast is brought to you by the team…

A look at what we're reading this week.

Reading List for May 1

As you no doubt know from previous GovEx blog posts, we are both avid readers and Slack users. Every week, we pass around numerous topical articles related to how governments use data to make smarter decisions and improve outcomes for their constituents. But why keep these interesting tidbits locked inside our own Slack channels? Are…

Eight Ways We Slack at GovEx

I wasn’t a Slacker until I joined GovEx, though plenty of people in my network were raving about it. I love text chat and used various instant messaging and online presence tools over the years. I was excited to join an organization which prefers communication tools beyond e-mail. Here’s how we make it work.

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The GovEx Book Club

If you’ve worked with us, it won’t surprise you that our office is full of people who spend the day reading articles and books about data and governing. But we love to read about other subjects, too! We wanted to provide a taste of what we have been reading lately. Read on to see what…

Target Setting Categories

How many runs are enough? Getting better at setting targets

Baseball is a game of numbers. As spring training wraps up and the season approaches, each team is trying to set targets for their performance this year and set expectations for success. Governments are also often asked to set performance targets. Questions such as, “How many cases will the department resolve?,” “How much money will the government…

Code Across Portal Engagement: A Retrospective

During the 2016 Code Across, dozens of groups around the world used open data to create solutions to challenges in their local communities, and the event is generating an increasing amount of data portal activity. In this post, I will dig deeper into the numbers and explore the past four years of data portal activity…

GovEx Joins the White House Opportunity Project

Last week, the White House launched the Opportunity Project, an initiative aimed at leveraging federal and city data to improve urban economic mobility. GovEx joins more than a dozen nonprofit and private sector organizations to support this initiative. We’re making ourselves available to cities that we’re currently working with to help them add data to the platform and to…

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Open Data – How Much Does It Cost?

Everyone favors knowing the cost and benefits of their actions. Knowing the cost of open data is no different. Almost each day, we all confront situations requiring us to select from many alternatives. Some of the choices can be simple; for example, choosing from a restaurant menu, deciding the color of clothing to wear, which…

How to Hire an Employee in 30 Days

When Denise McKay, Director of the Department of Personnel Management, took her new position with the City of Jackson, it took 84 days to get an individual hired. Like many professionals responsible for recruiting and hiring government employees, Director McKay was interested in reducing the number of days it takes to hire a new City…

Getting the Most Out of Your Energy Data

It takes political will, clear goals, and stamina to maintain robust databases and ensure that energy data is used in a meaningful way. When you get your monthly utility bill, it’s easy to see how much energy you used in a month or year, or to see how your consumption rates against your neighbors. But for cities, getting…

Benchmarking (March 2016 Office Hours)

One of the top questions cities ask GovEx is “how do we leverage benchmarking to improve our performance?” Benchmarking is tricky because it requires finding another city to compare yourself to, and most cities don’t have an identical twin – they have cousins. During this office hours, we highlighted multiple practitioners who have first-hand experience…

Investigating Seattle Police Department’s SeaStat

Download GovEx’s SeaStat Case Study as a PDF Table of Contents Introduction A Brief History of Stat SeaStat’s Evolution and Successes SeaStat in Practice What’s Next for SeaStat? How to Bring This Type of Stat Program to Your City/Department? Introduction “CompStat will take the police department to the next level in observing, mapping and tracking…

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Four Ways to Improve Your Stat Program

Wouldn’t it be great if your stat program could get you quick wins while also building community engagement? That’s just what the Seattle Police Department was able to do, even after a string of false starts, with its performance management program SeaStat. Through reasonable and effective improvements, SeaStat has created what SPD’s previous iterations weren’t…

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Help GovEx Gather #WhatWorks on Open Data Day 2016

Open Data Day 2016 is just around the corner on March 5th. GovEx is getting into the international hack day spirit by offering a few challenges of our own. This Open Data Day, GovEx is calling on YOU to help determine #WhatWorks throughout the international open data community. You don’t need to be a coder…

Open Data: Measuring What Matters

Introduction Open data and performance analytics are often separate practices, but are inextricable when it comes to the operations of modern governance. Open data provides the raw material for analysis and open data programs can have many goals, including increasing government transparency, sharing information to aid in decision making, engaging a broader coalition of stakeholders,…

GovEx Launches New Course

Over the last nine months, the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) has visited nearly 50 cities across the United States. These “discovery sessions” help Bloomberg Philanthropies and the What Works Cities initiative collect a national baseline that measures the acuity of cities for using data and evidence to inform policy decisions. Over the next 18…

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Baltimore’s Art Deserts

I love city life for many reasons. The farmers market on Sundays (and Saturdays if I wake up in time), lunch at the Baltimore Museum of Art or Lexington Market, local food trucks, local beer…I could go on. Opportunities for good food and culture abound in Baltimore, and easy access to both are arguably some…

Durham City and County decided to open data together as a part of their commitment to community.

Open Data Across Government Lines: Advice from Durham, NC

Open data has many benefits for governments and communities: providing new channels to engage residents and community groups, increasing government transparency, and improving internal efficiency through data sharing to name a few (shameless plug – check out the GovEx Open Data page to see more). But often important data is scattered across different agencies, jurisdictions,…

Measuring Open Data (February 2016 Hours)

Cities all over the US are actively using data and evidence in decision making, investing in what works, and improving the lives of their residents. Open data programs are a fundamental and powerful practice in this important transformation of governing. But how do you measure the impact of your open data efforts? Just as measurement…

Open Data on a Dime

Starting an open data initiative from scratch can seem like a daunting effort. GovEx has built some excellent resources, but I wanted to share my experience working on establishing a portal in the State of Maryland. Giving a first-hand account of some of the challenges we faced can help others in the same situation succeed….

The Silent Elevator

I was late to a meeting when the elevator stopped to pick up two more people, one significantly older than the other, but both employees in my organization. Based on their conversation, I could tell the older gentleman spent many years delivering our programs in the field. The younger was brand new, not even finished…

Upgrading the open data infrastructure

Upgrading the open data infrastructure

It’s been nice to see some recent online discussion around the power of blockchain technologies and how they might play a role in the open data movement. Replicating bitcoin may not be the right path, but some of the benefits of blockchain, peer-to-peer technologies, smart contracts, and mp3s could be applied to enrich open data technologies, improving measurement, authenticity, distribution, metadata, and more.

Hacking the Hackathon

Your city publishes high-quality open data, and you use that data to make smart policy decisions. Done? Not so fast. Your open data also has great potential to empower residents and foster civic engagement. Not sure how this would work in your city? You’re in luck! Many cities have experimented with engaging residents through open…

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Beyond Budgeting

You can’t make budgeting sexy (although some of my colleagues may disagree) but you can make it more effective. Chattanooga, TN, has developed an innovative process that weaves stakeholders into this essential governmental function. In The Scenic City, Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO) is steeped in the tenets of: promoting a culture of performance and results,…

Culture Change (January 2016 Office Hours)

The number one question cities ask GovEx is “how do we change our culture?” Culture change is tricky because culture itself includes so many facets and factors, and most cities don’t have just one culture – they have many micro-cultures which must all be navigated and influenced differently. During this office hours, we will highlight two sets of practitioners from the cities of Denver and Chicago who are knee-deep in changing the cultures and habits of their cities. At the end of the session, you will be able to: Understand culture change in the context of data, analytics, and performance; Cite specific examples of change management efforts in two large and diverse cities; get tips on practical ways to influence culture in your city.

Strategic Storytelling with Open Data

Without context, data is just data to most people. Numbers on a screen and lines on a chart. Sure, there are people who look at a metadata description and see an opportunity for analysis: the data analysts and data scientists out there, the researchers, the civic hacktivists, the open data and performance management experts. But…

Changing Culture

Changing Culture

This practical guide helps government leaders and managers understand organizational culture and how to build cultures more adept with data.

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Rethink Heatmaps

Pew’s recent study made it clear that people want more context with their data. To meet this opportunity, governments and vendors have created tools that allow for custom visualizations within data portals, while resident civic hackers aim to share stories and ease friction through detailed analyses or apps. One commonly used, and misused, visualization tool…

How Open Data is closing Poverty

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, January…

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Responding to Open Data Concerns

This practical guide helps government leaders and managers understand organizational culture and how to build cultures more adept with data.

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Open Data Concerns

This video highlights two of the most common concerns governments express about Open Data and provides advice and real examples on how to respond to those concerns.

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Civic Data Standards

A Civic Data Standard is an open, collaboratively developed set of data schematics or semantics which facilitates interoperability between multiple providers and consumers for the public good.

13 cities chosen for $42M Bloomberg better-data initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Thursday its latest round of “What Works Cities” selections. The $42 million program ultimately will provide 100 U.S. cities with expert help to make data publicly accessible, incorporate it better into decision-making and evaluate programs.

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Performance Alignment

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this infographic to help governments align outcomes, measures, activities and resources within a performance analytics system.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this short guide to help governments understand the practices of internal and external benchmarking.

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“What is Data Science” (December 2015 Office Hours)

“What Works Cities have been told they need to make progress in “data science” practices and build “data science” teams. But most people don’t know what that term means and how it applies to the real challenges they face in their cities. During this office hours, we will explain what “data science” means and explain its relevance by introducing you to Mike Flowers, one of the nation’s leading practitioners of bringing data science into municipal government. At the end of the session, you will be able to explain “data science” to your peers; cite specific examples of its application to urban challenges and opportunities; get tips on low-cost ways to launch data science practices in your city.”

Becoming a What Works City

Michele Jolin, CEO and co-Founder of Results for America moderates a discussion with city leaders who are at the forefront of the national movement to use evidence and data to get better results for their city residents.

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Kicking off a City Hall Analytics Shop

Interested in municipal analytics? Want to start an analytics shop in your city? We’ll help you get started, earn organizational buy-in, select projects, and much more. Hear stories and lessons learned from veterans in Los Angeles, New York City, and New Orleans.

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Getting Started

Performance Management – Getting Started

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this getting started guide to assist cities in implementing performance management programs in their own communities.

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Open Data Portal Requirements

This document contains a set of sample requirements to help governments evaluate, develop (or procure), deploy, and launch an open data web site (portal).

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Getting Meta with Metadata

Open Data – Metadata Guide

Finding and working with many different sets of data requires descriptive information. This metadata guide explains the basics.

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Getting Started with Open Data

Open Data – Getting Started Guide

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this getting started guide to assist cities in implementing open data programs in their own communities.

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Bloomberg to give $42 million to help cities do more with data

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, announced that it is spending $42 million to create the What Works Cities Initiative, which is aimed at helping 100 mid-size cities make better use of data and evidence in their policymaking.

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