What Works City Feature: Cape Coral, FL

Building a foundation of data use

The Opportunity
Cape Coral was, along with many other mid-sized Florida cities, hit particularly hard by the real-estate bust and Great Recession, which decimated the City’s single-family residential community. This, along with several management transitions prior to the current administration, began to cause fatigue among department heads and city leadership. This started to change with the election of Mayor Marni Sawicki in 2013 and a new focus on economic development.

In a cash-strapped environment, the Mayor made a commitment to using data and evidence to meet city goals. The City already made good use of performance measures, metrics, and data in its day-to-day operations that the City Manager’s office collected and reviewed in quarterly departmental meetings. However, the City had not taken the step from data collection to action, nor had this performance office been visible in any public way. Mayor Sawicki asked What Works Cities to help Cape Coral use data to provide a more transparent conversation with residents and to build on its existing performance management initiative to drive better outcomes for residents.

Our Work Together
What Works Cities experts at the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation worked with city staff to understand how open data fit into operations and to establish a plan for a future open data effort. They also worked to build on Cape Coral’s existing performance metrics by focusing them on outcomes, to refine the goals of Cape Coral’s performance management program, and to ensure it aligned with City Council activities through a clear performance management framework.

What Works Cities and Cape Coral worked together to provide a more transparent conversation with residents and to build on the City’s existing performance management initiative to drive better outcomes for residents.

Summary of Key Accomplishments
This work in open data and performance management lays the groundwork for the City to incorporate data and evidence in further aspects of its decision-making. What Works Cities and the Cape Coral worked together to accomplish the following:

1. Enhanced the City’s open data program
• By formalizing Cape Coral’s first open data policy, city staff laid the foundation for continued work to improve the use of data across the City. A strong foundation of policy will foster better and more consistent data use citywide and help to ensure sustainability of its open data program.
• By completing the City’s first open data inventory, Cape Coral discovered, catalogued, and centralized existing data sets into one easy-to-find location. A data inventory is critical to a strong open data program, and by completing an initial inventory, Cape Coral captured key information from across the City that will enable more consistent data collection and use practices.
• By launching the City’s first open data portal, it is easier than ever for residents and city staff to access municipal data.

2. Focused on cross-departmental outcomes by enhancing the City’s performance management program
• By shifting the focus of performance management toward citywide goals, Cape Coral is fostering cross-departmental collaboration to drive outcomes and improve service delivery across the city.
• Cape Coral linked its performance management and open data work, enabling better data access and use for staff and residents.
• City staff developed several dashboards that allow departments to review data quickly and make decisions accordingly. These dashboards are also shared with the public, facilitating a common understanding of performance in Cape Coral.

What’s Next
With this work, Cape Coral has made significant strides toward using data and evidence to deliver improved results for its residents. The City should continue to build on this work by expanding its focus and use of open data to all departments; implementing the procedures laid out in its open data policy; better integrating its open data, dashboards, and applications with the City’s performance management system; further refining performance management meetings to focus on outcomes; and incorporating the results of this work in the budget process. These next steps will put Cape Coral well on its way to being a leading city in the use of data and evidence in municipal government.