What Works City Feature: Memphis, TN

Focusing on data transparency

The Opportunity
The population for the City of Memphis has been decreasing for several years, an issue recognized by Mayor Jim Strickland as the City’s number-one challenge. When Mayor Strickland assumed office in 2016, he expressed concern that the public seemed to have lost faith in city government. This, he stressed, underscored the need to increase the effectiveness of city services and systematically build trust with the public.

Mayor Strickland believed the only way to accomplish those goals was to collect data, identify areas to improve, measure progress, and share results with the public. As such, the City strengthened its performance management program and analyzed the data it had on hand to identify gaps in service delivery. These efforts seem to be paying off, as there is currently more than $11 billion invested in recent, current, or future development happening in the Greater Memphis Area, most of which is occurring within city limits.

While this early success appears promising, making data-driven decisions has caused some challenges in the City. Departments are “siloed,” data integration is a huge problem, and there are a lot of manual processes involved in extracting data. The City had tremendous interest in creating a platform that could centralize data storage and access but no policy to mandate that centralization or process to involve the community.

Mayor Strickland asked What Works Cities to help the City improve its use of data and evidence; specifically, the City sought assistance with the creation of a platform to centralize data storage and with developing a policy to formalize the City’s commitment to open data.

Our Work Together
What Works Cities experts at Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation worked with city staff to develop and adopt an open data policy driven by feedback and input from community stakeholders.

What Works Cities and Memphis worked together to develop and adopt an open data policy driven by feedback and input from community stakeholders

Summary of Key Accomplishments
The process of creating an open data policy has laid the groundwork for the City to incorporate data and evidence in further aspects of its decision-making. What Works Cities and the City of Memphis worked together to accomplish the following:

Executed and announced an open data policy alongside community stakeholders
• Memphis posted its draft open data policy online for public feedback, . That feedback was integrated into the policy and will be reflected in future practices of the City’s open data program.
• The City used the development of its open data policy as an opportunity to experiment with new forms of public collaboration, including engaging residents in creating service models that better meet their needs.
• Mayor Strickland signed and announced the open data policy in conjunction with the release of a public dashboard, which will serve as the City’s open data portal and allows residents to monitor the City’s performance in five priority areas: jobs, public safety, good government, youth, and neighborhoods.
• Memphis has taken a significant step in building the framework for open data in the City, making transparency an even larger component of how it operates.

What’s Next
With this work, Memphis has built a critical foundation for using data and evidence to deliver improved results for its residents. The City should continue to build on this work by incorporating stakeholder feedback into its open data program and using the newly available data to enhance its performance management system.