Since 2015, the City of Seattle has been working quietly on a number of programs to make our government more data-driven, results-oriented, and innovative. We passed a new open data policy that balances transparency and privacy. We are shifting to a new model for performance management, both within the City and with our contractors. We are using design thinking to explore new approaches to big issues such as youth unemployment and homelessness, with a 5-person team in Mayor Murray’s Office of Policy & Innovation dedicated to one project at a time. What has made such big changes possible in such a short period of time? The common thread is Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Inspired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s experiences using data and design thinking to improve that city, Bloomberg Philanthropies has created a number of initiatives that make it possible for other cities to explore what “works.” These include What Works Cities (hyperlink: http://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/about/), a national initiative for mid-sized cities to improve use of data and evidence in decision-making, and Innovation Teams (hyperlink:http://www.bloomberg.org/program/government-innovation/innovation-teams/). Under Mayor Murray’s leadership, our city is taking full advantage of both. Seattle is one of the pilot cities in What Works Cities and currently has an Innovation Team in its second year of operations.
On May 26, Seattle IT hosted a panel discussion at the local Impact Hub to share the work these groups are doing with the broader public. The panel was moderated by Candace Faber, the City’s Civic Technology Advocate, and featured:
- Tyler Running Deer, Seattle’s Organizational Performance Director, who has been leading the City of Seattle’s engagement under the What Works Cities program,
- Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Innovation Fellow with the Government Performance Lab at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and
- Tina Walha, Director of the Innovation Team in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation.
The City of Seattle joined What Works Cities in August 2015 as one of eight cities in the first national cohort, setting goals for three projects: to research and establish a Citywide Open Data policy and program; to design and develop a Citywide, central organizational performance program; and to explore, analyze, and establish a pilot results-driven contracting practice to improve the outputs and outcomes of contracted services to the public.
The first two projects are complete from the What Works Cities perspective, having now been institutionalized in the City through dedicated full-time positions in Seattle IT and the Mayor’s Office as well as new roles for existing staff across departments. The performance team is working on a strategic framework and a toolkit to help city departments better use data and information to manage services and programs, anticipated to be complete by mid-2016. The third project, led here by Chrissie Grover-Roybal, is still in progress, and reorients the structure and management of homeless services contracts to focus on improving outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
The Innovation Team spent its first year examining strategies to increase access to opportunity and decrease the impact of violence among Seattle’s young Black men, ages 14 to 24. This year, the team will be focused on addressing Seattle’s homelessness crisis. To learn more about the Innovation Team, check out http://murray.seattle.gov/innovationteam.