Better, Faster, Cheaper

Infusing Government with a Data-Driven Culture

There are many different ways city leaders can utilize or even define the purpose of data. One could think about performance data as it relates to activities, like the number of potholes filled or arrests made, or how it relates to service outcomes which, like initiatives on obesity or infant mortality, require data sharing across agencies. Then there's open data, which is seen in some localities as an obligatory transparency measure and in others as real way to encourage co-production of governance.

Most municipalities have done some work in at least one of these areas. But to unleash the full potential of data, a city needs a coordinated strategy that overcomes procurement obstacles while encompassing each pillar of its data-directed work. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter set out to change the data and performance culture of his city during his two terms, which ended in January. READ MORE

Public Higher Ed’s In-State/Out-of-State Dilemma

There is no greater driver of economic opportunity than education, and public colleges and universities are a symbol of that opportunity. They educate nearly three quarters of America's more than 20 million college students at a fraction of the cost of many private universities, providing access to higher education for many who couldn't otherwise afford it and easing the often crushing burden of student-loan debt.

But public higher education is not immune to either competitive pressures or basic laws of economics, and these two forces, driven in part by declining state financial support, can combine to conflict with the core mission of providing in-state students with affordable, high-quality higher education. As it gets harder for students to get into one of the state institutions their parents' tax dollars support, those taxpayers and their elected representatives are noticing, and they don't like what they see. READ MORE

Social Media's Place in Data-Smart Governance

Cities can produce great value from social media, but only if they start talking a little bit less about themselves and start listening more to their residents. It's become common for public officials and city agencies to have active Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat accounts through which they broadcast information and gather feedback. But municipal use of social data shouldn't be limited to a communications team telling voters about city hall's daily accomplishments.

Good listening can take the shape of encouraged feedback, but it can also work on a more ambient level. In urban areas, geo-tagged posts across a variety of platforms form dense clusters of valuable information. Much of it is noise, but location-based social media data presents an opportunity. It can be developed into predictive models that enable decision support and should be a vital part of any data-smart government's analytics toolkit.  READ MORE

What More Funding Can and Can’t Do

Schools and public pension systems don't have much in common. But as Detroit's public schools teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, it's clear that at least one rule applies to both: Problems that aren't addressed in a timely manner grow exponentially worse.

Illinois is the poster child on the pension side. Even though it was clear not long after World War II that the state's pension system wasn't sustainable, it was not until 2013 that elected officials passed a reform plan. But in 2015 the state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the desperate solutions that had been enacted by the legislature and governor, ruling that they violated the state's constitution. READ MORE

The Budget-Cutting Tool Every State Should Have Handy

The recovery from the Great Recession has largely been a half-hearted one, and few see the economy improving dramatically in the near future. These realities present challenges for state and local governments that will likely require a range of responses, but giving governors the line-item veto should be seen as low-hanging fruit for the six states that don't have it.

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