A transformation has occurred over the last 10 years in the way local government interacts with citizens. Valuable data that was once restricted has undergone a movement towards openness and transparency. Municipal leaders have learned that residents want a clear picture of legislation, decision-making practices, short and long-term goals, and strategic plans—all made easily available. With open access to data, citizens can see the changes that are happening and feel engaged. In turn, governments can have a meaningful conversation with their community, while publicly celebrating the achievement of their government’s goals.
So why does sharing data matter so much? How can government leaders overcome the fear of transparency? And what does effective data sharing look like?
Here is a guide to the do’s and don’ts of sharing data and performance.
The Importance of Sharing Data
DO: Drive Stakeholder Engagement
Local governments are accountable to councils, other levels of government, private organizations and the public; understanding the specific needs of each is critical
A diverse reporting system allows stakeholders to see data that is relevant to them. It also drives engagement by allowing governments to get better insights into what lies ahead.
By showing progress on their strategic plan, governments are able build trust with their community without having to reference complicated spreadsheets.
DON'T: Miss Opportunities to Celebrate Success
Celebrating the great work your team is doing is not only valuable for internal morale, but also integral for building trust with your community. When you actively share progress and reports with internal and external stakeholders—your work gets validated. Employees can see how they’re contributing to the greater good, and citizens can get a glimpse of the improvements and developments happening in real time.
The Barriers of Sharing Data
DO: Get ahead of issues
When you’re regularly tracking results and progress towards milestones and goals, you can see when the ship is going off course. Your data gives you foresight, allowing you to inform internal stakeholders and external audiences when something needs to change direction. It gives space for problem solving and course correcting. Sharing this information proactively, along with the steps you’re taking towards your goals, helps to build trust with your community and makes them feel engaged and included.
DON’T: Blame Budget Constraints
The threat of shrinking budgets can put a block on transparency, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, transparency can actually help governments run leaner, save money, and see a return on investment. To implement open data measures, governments can use technology solutions like cloud-based strategy software to provide more information to more people at a low cost, and introduce automated solutions to reduce time demands on staff. As well, governments can use social media channels to communicate and interact with citizens for free.
How to Share Data Effectively
DO: Make Data Easily Accessible
One way to provide meaningful data to citizens is through public dashboards. Dashboards enable governments to share strategic progress in an impactful way that is visually accessible by the public. Dashboards refine performance data into a single platform that uses real-time updates to monitor progress. That means fewer resources are spent compiling data and tracking it in spreadsheets.
DON’T: Share Outdated Strategic Plans
It’s important that you release up-to-date information that is relevant to your community. A commitment to regular, timely updates needs to become part of your planning and daily operations. Once you have your plan in place, you can input your strategies, goals, and performance measures into a public dashboard and share progress with your community.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of sharing municipal performance data with your community and how to avoid some of the pitfalls, join the conversation during our Learn from the Experts Webinar Series on April 25, 2018.