Our Idea: Let’s create a Digital Dashboard that communicates how Minneapolis is performing by neighborhood and city-wide in real time.

Digital Dashboards are real time reports generated by technology that consolidates reporting information from a variety of sources and instantly presents a unified picture of how a city is reporting against historical and planned metrics. These Digital Dashboards can provide detailed analysis of key issues that the city wants to track and while simultaneously presenting a timely snapshot of activities, trends, and performance indicators down to the neighborhood level. We have already seen dashboards in the form of traffic performance apps, so why can’t we use technology to upgrade how we see and manage our city?  

The idea of Digital Dashboards is NOT new.  In fact, other cities are already trying out approaches. Check out Boston (http://www.cityofboston.gov/mayorsdashboard/) where the Mayor’s dashboard includes real-time performance metrics for human and basic services, city services, public safety and homicides by neighborhood.  Or Detroit (http://www.detroitmi.gov/Detroit-Dashboard) with its dashboards covering performance vs. aspirational goals for employment, economic opportunity, job training and college bound students. There is a real opportunity for Minneapolis to have the nation’s leading dashboard approach, learning from these and other cities who have already tackled the first steps of establishing dashboards.

Why do we think this is a good idea?

First, Digital Dashboards help us establish a real-time, fact-based culture. Digital dashboards focus our attention on solving the most pressing issues as they are happening, and provides a way to be pro-active as we see issues developing in real time. By dealing in facts presented broadly to everyone, our conversations can move from political spinning and selective access to the information, to a more informed electorate and all hands on board to help with a solution.

Second, Digital Dashboards provide a faster and more citizen friendly way to communicate in real time. These dashboards can dynamically present score cards on the key metrics we all agree that we should be tracking. And the dashboards will highlight where we are making progress and where we are falling behind—and need to go back to the drawing board.  Dashboards can also communicate the progress on projects like Nicollet Mall construction or street repairs, without leaving our citizens wondering what is happening and when to expect results. This would be a vast improvement to what is happening today where almost every interaction includes hand-wringing about the Nicollet Mall project status.

Third, Digital Dashboards are transparent. In many cases in both the private and public sector, the transparency provided by the real time Digital Dashboards has led to a more open culture where information is not guarded and shielded but widely-shared. That would also be an improvement for Minneapolis.

Fourth, the best use of Digital Dashboards require that the reports track performance vs. history andvs. goals. In other words, Digital Dashboards usually require clear, transparent goal tracking. And that would also be an improvement for Minneapolis city-wide and by neighborhood.

So…Where is Minneapolis?

 Why are we lagging in setting and communicating in real time with our citizens?  Why are we slow in using the power of technology to upgrade how we communicate in real time and transparently?  Why aren’t we moving from being reactive to proactive at the speed of technology?

We believe the Digital Dashboard idea is simple but requires leadership.

 Let’s lead by being 100% transparent about the city’s performance by placing easy to understand reports with metrics at the fingertips of every citizen and every city employee.  Let’s lead by providing city-wide summaries and allow everyone to ‘drill down’ to neighborhood specifics using the same dashboard. And let’s lead by making these visual reporting tools accessible by a computer, I-pad or mobile phone, 24/7.

Please join this and other conversations we are having on how Minneapolis can put the progress back into progressive.

Tom Hoch

Tom Hoch