What Works Cities Sprints

What are Sprints?

Sprints are two- to eight-week-long opportunities to work with our expert partners and a cohort of peer cities on a variety of foundational data practices. Each Sprint is directly tied to one or more of our Certification criteria, and your participation (and that of any of your city staff) will help you accomplish milestones to achieve points toward becoming certified. 

 

How do Sprints work?

Below is a full calendar of the Sprints that will be offered in the the coming year. You can register to join Sprints via the links below their description. Sprints are only available to city staff if your city has completed a Certification Assessment. The team of cities working on the same Sprint will be provided with one another’s contact information to work through challenges and share solutions together. If you work toward achieving Certification criteria during a Sprint, you can be rewarded for your progress. Cities that complete Sprints get:

•     At least one point closer toward being a Certified city!
•     Opportunities from What Works Cities to highlight your progress publicly;
•     Digital badges to show off your achievements; and,
•     A quarterly progress report and leaderboard showing how your city is performing and progressing and where you stand compared to a team of cities like yours.

 

Am I eligible to participate in Sprints?

A city must have completed a What Works Cities Certification assessment before any of the city’s staff are eligible for any What Works Cities support, including Sprints. The results of cities’ Certification assessments are used to understand how your city is performing and determine what support (through resources, expert partners, and a network of peers) we can offer and recommend for you to advance.

 


SPRINTS CALENDAR

Workshopping RFPs Using Results-Driven Contracting Strategies
Start Date: April 3, 2019
6-8 weeks

Procurement is one of the most powerful, yet overlooked, tools in government. Cities spend between one third and one half of their budget through contracts on critical functions, like repairing roads, housing the homeless, or modernizing government by adopting new technology. Yet, too often, procurement is treated as a back-office task rather than a fundamental reflection of an agency’s strategic vision. In this Sprint, led by the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL), you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to use your contracts as a tool to achieve your city’s desired goals and outcomes.  The GPL will share the contracting strategies and solutions that they’ve learned from their What Works Cities projects over the past three years. Three cities will have the opportunity to work directly with the GPL to apply results-driven contracting strategies on a single RFP. The results of the RFP workshop will be presented to the full group of participants at the end of the Sprint.

What to Expect:

•     April 3: Two-hour Webinar: An Introduction to Results-Driven Contracting Strategies (open to all)
•     Cohort Workshop Sessions: 3-4 video/phone calls to help three cities implement results-driven contracting strategies on an RFP. This includes reviewing drafts of RFP sections prior to calls.
•     
Mid-May 2019 (6-7 weeks later): One-hour Webinar: Three cities present their updated RFPs and lessons learned (open to all)
•     
GPL RDC Solutions Book
•     
RFP Guiding Questions Worksheet

Recommended Participants: Cities with an upcoming key procurement or contract (high dollar amount, impact on residents, and/or of strategic importance) that they are interested in actively workshopping with the goal of orienting it toward results. City staff charged with drafting and reviewing procurement documents.

Achievable Criteria: 3 Results-Driven Contracting criteria

•     Your local government defines strategic goals and desired outcomes for key procurements, contracts, and/or grants.
•     Your local government measures outcomes, impacts, and/or cost-effectiveness for key procurements, contracts, and/or grants.
•     
Your local government structures procurements, contracts, and/or grants to align the vendor’s incentives with the local government’s strategic goals.

Register for the Workshopping RFPs Sprint by April 3 here! If you are interested in being one of the three cities that workshops an RFP, email us at madeleine@results4america.org and jennifer_north@hks.harvard.edu!


Developing a Data Governance Team
Start Date: May 13, 2019
4 weeks

A data governance board is a group of people who work together to develop an organization’s policies and practices in order to treat data as a strategic asset. Join WWC partner the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University for a Sprint designed to help you build the best data governance team. We’ll walk you through how to determine the best focus area that your team should consider supporting, executing, and/or developing policy around.

What to Expect:

•     May 15, 2019 Kick-off Webinar
•     Reading and worksheets


Recommended Participants: Staff responsible for managing city data

Achievable Criteria: 1 Data Governance criteria

•     Your local government maintains a documented list of data governance responsibilities and meets at least quarterly to carry out those responsibilities.

 


Comms for Cities: Chief Executives Edition
Start Date: June 10, 2019
4 weeks

Chief executives’ public commitment to driving progress by using data is one of the strongest predictors of a city’s success in building a well-managed local government. That’s because leaders are uniquely positioned—at the helm of City Hall and in the public spotlight—to set, drive, and build support for a strategic vision. And at every step, public communication has a key role to play. Whether your city is just getting started on using data or already has compelling examples of impact to share, communicating your progress is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate your government’s commitment to delivering results. This Sprint, led by What Works Cities Associate Director of Communication Kristin Taylor, will introduce you to best practices in the field and examples of how other chief executives have put them to use effectively. You’ll also learn about a range of communications tools at your disposal—from owned and earned media to public appearances and speeches—and help you brainstorm ways to start using them in your own city.


What to expect: 

•     Pre-webinar reading and worksheet
•     June 19 webinar

•     
Post-webinar reading and worksheet
•     
July 1 closeout video call

Recommended Participants:  Executive leaders and their deputies; public information officers or other communications personnel who staff/prep executive leaders; staff (in particular, open data program managers and/or departmental data stewards) who want to support their executive leaders to communicate more effectively about data work

Achievable Criteria: 1 General Management criteria

•     Your mayor and/or chief executive uses data and evidence to publicly communicate the work and impact of government.

 


Conducting a Data Inventory
Start Date: August 12, 2019
4 weeks

City data is an incredible asset, and knowing what data your city collects leads to efficiency, increases accountability, and eases citywide reporting, decision-making, and performance optimization. Data inventories are a great way to figure out what data are being collected (and if there is any duplication among departments), determine what systems are in use, promote transparency, and develop data publishing plans. In this Sprint, experts from the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University will help you understand fully the importance of inventorying and the open data program, and will guide you on how to begin to inventory your city’s data.  

What to Expect:

•     August 14, 2019 Conducting a Data Inventory Kick-off webinar
•     A data inventory guide
•     
Templates to get started

Recommended Participants: Staff responsible for managing city data

Achievable Criteria: 1 Data Governance criteria

•     Your local government maintains a detailed and comprehensive data inventory that makes its data more discoverable and accessible.

 


Evaluation Foundations
Start Date: September 16, 2019
6 weeks

Why do evaluations matter? City governments take responsibility for providing a wide range of necessary services, and resources are often limited, so every dollar is a trade-off! Through evaluation, we can build an evidence base and continually improve, rather than making the same mistakes over and over (perhaps without even knowing it). If ineffective programs are bad, unintentionally harmful programs are worse. Evaluation helps us avoid both. This Sprint will give you an introduction to low-cost evaluation and past examples of the Behavioral Insight Team’s (BIT) work. Experts from BIT will provide you with examples, tools, and activities focused on how to use existing touchpoints and resources to design practical evaluations to answer important policy questions in real-world contexts.

What to Expect:

•     September 18, 2019 Webinar: Introduction to Evaluations
•     Resources (including sample policies, staffing / operating models, job descriptions, budget guidance)
•     
2 rounds of office hours for calls with BIT experts for Q&A and support
•     
Document review from a BIT advisor

Recommended Participants: Any interested city staff and elected officials

Achievable Criteria: 4 Evaluation criteria

•     Your local government has a policy or ordinance that encourages the use of rigorous evaluation methods for practices, programs, and/or policies.
•     Your local government has defined standards, methodologies, or tools to help staff rigorously evaluate practices, programs, and/or policies.
•     
Your local government requires that, as a condition of funding, new or renewed programs will be rigorously evaluated.
•     
Your local government has a designated leader and/or team responsible for helping departments conduct experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations.

 


Open Data Policies
Start Date: October 28, 2019
4 weeks

Public policy is essential because it demonstrates public commitment to lasting change. An open data policy should establish formal governance processes to make public data-sharing institutional and sustainable. Open data policy can not only help cities establish what data will be public or kept private, but can also help build public trust by demonstrating the city’s commitment to lasting transparency and accountability. Cities can go one step further and use policy-drafting to begin engaging residents in conversation about what open data they would like to see. Join the Sunlight Foundation for this quick Sprint that will lead you through the process of generating your own open data policy. 

What to Expect:

•   Sunlight’s Open Data Policy Hub
•   Sunlight’s Guide to Crowdlaw

Recommended Participants: City staff, particularly from cities just starting out with open data

Achievable Criteria: 6 Open Data, Data Governance, and Stakeholder Engagement Criteria

•     Your local government has a publicly available, codified open data policy that commits to data transparency and proactive public disclosure of local government data and data practices.
•     Your local government has a documented process for publishing open data.
•     
Your local government maintains a documented list of data governance responsibilities and meets at least quarterly to carry out those responsibilities.
•     
Your local government has and carries out documented policies or practices to improve data quality.
•     
Your local government has documented policies or practices to protect the privacy and confidentiality of government-held data.
•     
Your local government tracks and documents insights about open data users and open data applications, and incorporates user needs into the design and implementation of its open data and transparency practices.

 


Building a Resident-Centered Open Data Program
Start Date: January 13, 2020

8 weeks

Many open data programs take on the impossible task of trying to make all data usable to all people, but when you design for everyone, you often end up designing for no one. Understanding specific community actors and their specific open data needs is critical to bringing about impact through applications of open data. This Sprint will teach participants how to incorporate user-centered design into open data programs by walking through user research processes to develop user personas and open data use cases. Cities will learn best practices in ethnographic interviewing, as well as learn about the elements of a user story and how to create one. Cities can use this approach to start analyzing demand and tailoring data and information for impactful uses, as well as capturing and telling stories that illustrate open data’s benefits to the community.

What to Expect:

•   Understanding the Tactical Data Engagement (TDE) Framework
•   Using Sunlight’s Roadmap to Informed Communities
•   
Developing preliminary user personas and use cases
•   
Sunlight’s maturity model for open data use

Recommended Participants: City staff, in particular, open data program managers and/or departmental data stewards; community engagement staff; public information officers

Achievable Criteria: 4 Stakeholder Engagement criteria

•   Your local government tracks and documents insights about open data users and open data applications, and incorporates user needs into the design and implementation of its open data and transparency practices.
•   Your local government provides clear how-to guidance to help residents access and use city data.
•   
Your local government supports efforts to educate, activate, or upskill partners (e.g., civic groups, vendors, service providers) to better understand and utilize administrative and performance data to deepen community impact.
•   
Your local government provides a clear process for partnership and collaboration with data users for the purpose of creating, revising, and/or improving the local government’s open data policies and practices.


Questions?

Reach out to Madeleine Weatherhead at madeleine@results4america.org.

 


PAST SPRINTS

Trial “In a Box”
January 16, 2019 – February 20, 2019

Does your city struggle to collect taxes, fines, or unpaid bills? Or maybe your city has an incredible service but faces a challenge in encouraging residents to sign up? Perhaps you want to promote energy or water conservation? Or you want to recruit a diverse group of people into your workforce? Behind each of these goals for your city are a set of decisions you hope your residents will make and, consequently, a set of opportunities to test how your interaction with residents impacts behavior toward your desired outcome. Behavioral science is the systematic study of how people think about the world and how they make decisions, and the expert partners at the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) work to ensure that realistic models of human behavior are used to make better policies and services. In this Sprint, you’ll have an introduction to BIT and a hands-on opportunity to use our methods to address a real-world challenge, using the science of decision-making and the tools of randomized field experiments. Join BIT for webinars, calls, and resources with step-by-step information on how to run your own trial to test a redesigned email communication. Our experts will support you and guide you through how to launch your trial, analyze, review, and scale what works!

Content:

•     January 16, 2019 Webinar: Trial in a Box Kick-Off
•     Step-by-step guide for running a trial
•     Templates for interventions (emails) and tools for analysis
•     
Support call before your trial launch with a BIT advisor
•     
February 20, 2019 Webinar: [Post-trial] Reviewing Results and Scaling

Recommended Participants: Any interested city staff and elected officials. This Sprint may be
especially relevant for cities with limited previous experience conducting trials. Sprints are typically only open to cities that have completed a Certification Assessment, but we’re making an exception for this Sprint which will be publicly available for any interested local government staff.

Achievable Criteria: 3 Evaluation criteria

•     Your local government has defined standards, methodologies, or tools to help staff rigorously evaluate practices, programs, and/or policies.
•     In the past 12 months, your local government has launched two or more experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations.
•     
In the past 12 months, your local government has used the results from experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations to make different, or to newly justify, decisions.


Comms for Cities
Start Date: February 11, 2019 – March 6, 2019

Cities that build a communications strategy around their work affirm their commitment to solving local challenges; they also build trust and engagement with residents who can reinforce and expand those efforts. Led by What Works Cities Senior Communications Manager Kristin Taylor, this Sprint will help you build your local government’s capacity to use data and evidence to publicly communicate your impact. We’ll start by exploring why effective communication matters, introduce you to best practices in the field, and look at examples of how other cities are sharing their progress. We’ll also introduce you to a range of communications tools at your disposal—from owned and earned media to public appearances and speeches—and help you brainstorm ways to start using them in your own city.

Content: 

•     February 11 pre-webinar reading and worksheet
•     
February 20 webinar
•     Post-webinar reading and worksheet
•     March 6 
closeout video call

Recommended Participants: City staff (in particular, open data program managers and/or departmental data stewards) who want to communicate the impact of their work more effectively; public information officers or other communications personnel; community engagement staff. You’re encouraged to form a local team by participating in the Sprint alongside colleagues in your city and working on the exercises together; cross-departmental/functional teams are especially encouraged.

Achievable Criteria: 1 General Management criteria

•     Your local government regularly uses public communications to share examples of how it is governing using data and evidence and/or stories of progress made as a result.

 


Open Data Policies
February 25, 2019 – March 26, 2019

Public policy is essential because it demonstrates public commitment to lasting change. An open data policy should establish formal governance processes to make public data-sharing institutional and sustainable. Open data policy can not only help cities establish what data will be public or kept private, but can also help build public trust by demonstrating the city’s commitment to lasting transparency and accountability. Cities can go one step further and use policy-drafting to begin engaging residents in conversation about what open data they would like to see. Join the Sunlight Foundation for this quick Sprint that will lead you through the process of generating your own open data policy. 

Content:

•   Sunlight’s Open Data Policy Hub
•   Sunlight’s Guide to Crowdlaw
•   March 5 webinar
•   March 12 webinar
•   March 26 webinar

Recommended Participants: City staff, particularly from cities just starting out with open data

Achievable Criteria: 6 Open Data, Data Governance, and Stakeholder Engagement Criteria

•     Your local government has a publicly available, codified open data policy that commits to data transparency and proactive public disclosure of local government data and data practices.
•     Your local government has a documented process for publishing open data.
•     
Your local government maintains a documented list of data governance responsibilities and meets at least quarterly to carry out those responsibilities.
•     
Your local government has and carries out documented policies or practices to improve data quality.
•     
Your local government has documented policies or practices to protect the privacy and confidentiality of government-held data.
•     
Your local government tracks and documents insights about open data users and open data applications, and incorporates user needs into the design and implementation of its open data and transparency practices.