Better, Faster, Cheaper

The Core Features of the Data-Powered City

By 2050, more than 75 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas. But without substantive changes in governance, city halls will be unable to meet the needs of this growing population.

Infusing government operations with the latest technological advances is no panacea, but it suggests the most promising way out of business-as-usual governance. The data-driven revolution cannot come soon enough. Too many local governments are mired in century-old, rule-bound structures that stifle collaboration and problem solving. And citizens, whose trust in government is at an all-time low, have little sense that they can play a role in the social fabric of their cities. READ MORE

When Citizens Decide How Public Money Is Spent

Inspired by successful efforts in Brazil and other countries, several American communities have undertaken pilot efforts to allow citizens to directly decide how public funds are spent in their neighborhoods. However, one of the biggest concerns raised by critics of this approach is that not enough citizens actually participate to make the efforts meaningful and legitimate.

How to address this concern? Expanding the use of social media in the participatory budgeting process holds promise, according to a new report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government. READ MORE

A Better Way to Manage Government’s Underutilized Property

Government owns 10 to 30 percent of the footprint of most cities, and the public sector is the nation's largest property owner. But property management is hardly a core function of government, so it's not surprising that many jurisdictions don't even have an accurate inventory of their own property. The data is often scattered across the various agencies in charge of different parcels.

Much public land is underutilized and expensive for taxpayers. The Office of Management and Budget estimates, for example, that it costs about $1.7 billion per year to maintain and secure underutilized federal properties. For municipal governments, there's also foregone property tax revenue and wasted opportunities to use the land to support local economic development. READ MORE

Public Employees’ Pension Dilemma

The story has played out repeatedly in recent years. As unfunded pension liabilities rise, financially stressed local governments seek to move employees toward 401(k)-type retirement systems to get out from under crippling long-term commitments, but public employee unions fight to maintain their defined-benefit plans.

As the municipal landscape becomes more fiscally precarious, public employees might want to rethink the traditional strategy. READ MORE

An Essential Guide to the ‘Stat’ Revolution in Government

The concept of the "Stat" program" -- created by Bill Bratton and Rudy Giuliani in New York City and taken to new levels by Martin O'Malley as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland -- appears in a variety of forms. While some state and local governments merely appropriate the "-Stat" suffix as an inoculation against public complaints, others pursue this performance-management technique rigorously in a way that enhances public accountability and drives organizational improvement.

PerformanceStat book coverTranslating performance measurement into true productivity gains is the subject of a new book of intensely relevant case studies by my Harvard Kennedy School colleague Robert Behn, The PerformanceStat Potential: a Leadership Strategy for Producing Results. Each of its 16 crisply composed chapters stands alone -- indeed, this book is a veritable encyclopedia on the management practice that has come to saturate the public sector since its first incarnation two decades as the New York Police Department's CompStat. Then and now, as Behn points out, its success depends on four fundamental principles: "accurate and timely intelligence shared by all"; "rapid deployment of resources"; "effective tactics and strategies"; and "relentless follow-up and assessment." Behn is aggressively comprehensive in teasing out the key operational components that spur these aphorisms into action -- and produce results. READ MORE