5 Lessons from the best data-driven cities

Innovation Delivery Team

Article: 5 Lessons from the best data-driven cities

April 24, 2019. Bloomberg Cities.

City of Memphis achieved 2019 Silver Certification of What Works Cities:

In this article by Bloomberg Cities, Memphis is highlighted as one of the top cities across the US using data to improve practices and deliver better services for residents.

“Memphis received Silver-level Certification through What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps U.S. cities use data to deliver better results for residents. Achieving Certification signals that Memphis has aligned its practices and policies with a rigorous national standard for applying data and evidence to the work local governments do.”

The lesson from Memphis: the importance of a data-driven culture across city leadership to achieve and uphold standards for good governance. Former Innovate Memphis Director, Doug McGowen now serves as the Chief Operating Officer and embeds the principles of data-driven governance across all departments.

“1. A data-driven culture comes from the top.
When you see a city excelling at using data, you’ll almost always find something else: a mayor or city manager who takes it very seriously.
Not that city leaders at the highest levels have to be data nerds. But they do need to establish data-driven government as a core value in City Hall and communicate why that’s important to staff, residents, and other stakeholders. They also have to hire people with data chops to do the work — and to give them support in a role that, when done right, cuts across every agency in the organization.

Strickland is a good example of all of this in action. He campaigned on a pledge to use data to deliver better results for residents, and followed up on that by holding monthly meetings with department heads to assess performance data on everything from crime to library attendance. “Numbers spur competitiveness,” he said, “and they increase your focus on core issues.” [Read more here about the work in Memphis.]

Mayor Strickland promoted the city’s innovation director, Doug McGowen, to chief operating officer, and asked him to create a continuously updated data dashboard. That tool not only serves as the basis of those monthly performance meetings, but it also provides Strickland with news to share in a weekly email newsletter he sends to residents. “This may not seem sexy,” Strickland said, “but people want 311 and 911 calls answered, they want blight cleaned up, and they want potholes filled.”
“Data excellence isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about what a city does with those numbers and how, with a heightened focus on data-driven management, they can improve the lives of their residents. “Whatever issues your city is struggling with, whether it’s filling potholes or addressing homelessness, the fastest and best way to get better outcomes is by using data,” she said.”

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