by Charlie Rosendahl, management analyst, and Melissa Kraft, chief technology officer, Denton, Texas
A “Data Academy” training opportunity in Denton, Texas, has proven to have lasting value for the staff who participated and for the organization as a whole. The training was one step in the city’s commitment, led by City Manager Todd Hileman, to improve the use of data to tackle tough challenges in municipal operations.
Fifteen staff members from across departments took advantage of a Data Academy provided by the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence (GovEx). We made the connection through the city’s partnership with What Works Cities, a network of 100 cities focused on the improved use of data under the auspices of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Because of this connection, the session was provided at no cost.
Before the Data Academy, we thought carefully about the core audience for training—who should participate and what we wanted them to take away. We selected the participants based on their roles throughout the organization as “data stewards” whose jobs involve measuring and evaluating performance data.
Participants spent a day in the Technology Services computer lab, focusing on data collection, analysis, and visualization. They didn’t stop there, however. The session sparked a continuing employee-driven initiative to:
- Meet periodically to exchange ideas and support one another.
- Develop a common vocabulary to assist in communication.
- Schedule “lunch-and-learn” sessions on a regular basis.
- Identify and find additional training in areas where they want to improve.
- Engage other staff and get them involved.
The session also inspired us to explore additional formats for sharing our performance data with the public through our existing Strategic Performance Dashboard.
Our enthusiasm for the Data Academy experience was captured in the article “So You Want to Start a Data Academy” by Eric Reese on the GovEx website. As we told the author, the session “really sparked an interest from our staff. We received good feedback . . . and the group has planned to continue meeting up to further their learning experience.”
Data-Driven Decision Making: Las Vegas Gets Results. This 2016 article demonstrates how Las Vegas, Nevada, used data to make key decisions that led to improved traffic conditions among other improvements.
Open Access Benchmarking. ICMA facilitates software-neutral benchmarking that puts cities and counties in the driver’s seat.
How Local Governments Are Making Data-Driven Decisions. In 2015, ICMA published an article that detailed examples of innovative data-driven decisions made by local governments.