Enhancing Civic Participation with Performance Dashboards
The communications team for the City of Arlington, Texas, aimed high with its goal for a new local government website: they envisioned a modern online destination for citizens that was engaging and informative and provided an unparalleled level of transparency into the status of municipal performance. Armed with internal spreadsheets of departmental metrics and a checklist of features for the city's new website, the team began to explore how it could tackle this ambitious initiative.
The city already tracked its metrics using dozens of spreadsheets compiled from each of its departments. These records were comprehensive but opaque. They leaned heavily into industry jargon and were often difficult to digest for internal stakeholders, let alone citizens. Though hosted on a publicly accessible server, the spreadsheets were neither readily available nor a user-friendly option for understanding high-level community initiatives.
City of Arlington, Texas
Create a public-facing web destination that gives citizens access to performance metrics.
The ArcGIS Performance Management solution was leveraged to create a web destination showing quarterly departmental metrics.
The Your City at Work destination has improved transparency, enhanced public participation, and established the city as a leader in communication.
Jay Warren, director of communications and legislative affairs, saw the need to transform this resource into a modern interface that would improve transparency and simplify civic participation. He identified and enlisted the necessary resources for creating a dedicated website, but the plans lacked a key component that Warren wanted: a public-facing web destination for performance management that was powered by departmental KPI metrics.
He connected with the city's information technology (IT) supervisor, Thomas Konzel, and explained the team's goals. The IT department had been leveraging GIS for years for a variety of initiatives including land zoning, public health, and spatial analysis, often building custom applications for each project. Konzel says that, at one point, "We realized that we needed to streamline what we do to manage the system and make services available." That's when they began to utilize ArcGIS Solutions, which allowed them to deploy preconfigured software quickly and with limited resources, then customize if and as needed.
Around the same time that Warren and Konzel began strategizing, Esri was gearing up to release its newest batch of solutions, including maps and apps designed to meet common challenges for local government. The new release included the Performance Management solution, a configuration of ArcGIS Dashboards designed to display organizational KPIs.
"It was fortuitous timing—Tom knew that Esri had this new feature coming out, and Esri showed it to us at the exact right time in our project. It all really just flowed together," explained Warren. With the Performance Management solution, the team could now check everything off on its list and provide constituents with a level of transparency that met the team's high standards.
Esri's Performance Management solution was an easy choice for city leaders. It provided a positive user experience with the features they needed, and the solution was already included in their software agreement at no additional cost. Through the Advantage Program, a collaborative consultation for strategic GIS use, Warren's team members saw the full potential of what they could do. After outlining the task list, two IT team members with limited ArcGIS experience stood up the solution. "They were able to learn on their own how to build a page and add the content, add the cards, and put everything together," says Warren.
In the summer of 2019, Your City at Work was launched with dashboards for code compliance, youth and family support, economic growth, regional mobility, and more. Each performance dashboard includes several tiles that measure the most recent quarterly metrics against the departmental target. It allowed the City of Arlington to truly tell the story of what internal teams and departments have accomplished and what's to come—and provide citizens with new ways to engage and communicate.
With the Performance Management solution, the City of Arlington created and deployed a comprehensive dashboard at no additional cost and with minimal expertise. Your City at Work has transformed the way city leaders communicate with residents, and they have continued to incorporate custom elements as they scale. It has also allowed constituents to provide feedback to staff and representatives.
In addition to the enhanced civic participation, the City of Arlington has also been recognized for its success in providing a comprehensive digital experience for residents. The city was awarded a Gold Certification by What Works Cities in 2020 thanks to its efforts. Bloomberg Philanthropies' Results for America also acknowledged the city's work by honoring it as the inaugural winner of the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers.
"[Civic participation] is a good thing. Even if it's critical, it gives you the opportunity to course correct. I think that acknowledging that we're not always perfect and we can improve is a good thing," says Warren. By creating an informational resource and initiating a dialogue with the community, the City of Arlington will be able to remain a leader and role model for other local governments.
If I were to describe it in a word, it would be implementability.