The City’s Department of Animal Services used data to track progress toward its goal of ensuring more shelter animals find homes, now nearly 94% of animals are adopted, up from just 46% in 2014.
Dispatched a paramedic and a health doctor in a cherry-red SUV to evaluate callers, bringing the screening exam to the patient to make travel easier through the Rapid Assessment Decision and Redirection (RADAR) data program.
Took a holistic approach to data using video analytics, installing cameras around the city to monitor trash collection, potholes, and a wide range of factors impacting city life.
Momentum Gets Going
The City’s approach to tech and data began in 2011 when Memphis was chosen to be one of the first five cities to receive a Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team (i-team) grant.
Then-Innovation Director Doug McGowen began leading a small group of creative thinkers working side by side with the Mayor and agency directors to rethink and revamp major policies in areas of gun violence and neighborhood economic vitality. After the initial success of the City’s i-team work, McGowen realized something most all innovation leaders encounter: Individual programs may see dramatic improvements, but the underlying systems and operations of government will not sustain success without a solid performance management system in place. McGowen holed up in a windowless conference room in City Hall while he talked with all city departments to map out a rudimentary performance management program.
The program has gained steam under the leadership of Mayor Jim Strickland. Even before officially taking office in 2016, he had already promised residents to measure results, share outcomes, and hold the City accountable by using data. During his first days on the job, he made his way to McGowen’s stuffy conference room, and what he saw there was the core of a turnaround strategy for the City. He promoted McGowen to Chief Operating Officer, one of the most important jobs in the City, and tasked him with building a performance dashboard that would invite residents into City Hall.
Tackling the Basics
Memphis’s Good Government Dashboard may have its roots in the Innovation Office, but Mayor Strickland and McGowen knew that the new data system needed to prioritize the basics of service delivery before it could take on glitzier projects, such as mobile apps. “This may not seem sexy or be all that visionary,” Mayor Strickland explains. “But people want 311 and 911 calls answered; they want blight cleaned up, and they want potholes filled.”
The seriousness of data and performance becomes clear the minute you step into one of the monthly dashboard meetings the Mayor holds on the 4th floor of City Hall. Directors from across the City’s departments convene to analyze service delivery numbers displayed on a wide screen for all to see. What’s evident at these meetings is the meticulous attention to the fundamentals of performance.
For example, when Mayor Strickland took office, police recruitment had not been keeping pace with attrition, and staffing was at critically low levels. The City revamped its public safety recruitment and retention practices, and Human Resources now reports monthly on officer staffing, attrition, and recruitment. Another instance of data illuminating a service gap has been in the City’s Department of Animal Services, which has been tracking progress toward its goal of ensuring more shelter animals find homes. Now nearly 94% of animals are adopted, up from just 46% in 2014.