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Know Your WWC Criteria: Setting Measurable Citywide Goals

Blog Post
What Works Cities certification provides a national standard for management of local governments using data and evidence. In this blog series, we highlight WWC certification criteria and what the City of Portland is doing to achieve them.

Performance & Analytics Criterion #1: Setting Measurable Citywide Goals

In this month’s exploration of the What Works Cities 45 criteria for managing with data and evidence in local government, we return to the foundational area of Performance & Analytics.

Performance & Analytics covers a set of strategies that local governments can use to discover how to improve, then insert those insights into operational decision-making. This month’s featured criterion describes how effective governments set the stage for successful performance analytics efforts by documenting key citywide priorities or goals. Performance Analytics (PA) criterion #1 states:

Your local government identifies strategic goals, aligns a diverse set  of measures with those goals and uses data to evaluate progress toward them.” 

A blue banner across the top of this infographic reads "Certification Criteria" and shows the What Works Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies logos. Icons arranged in two rows read "Data Governance," "Evaluations," "Performance & Analytics," "Open Data," "General Management," "Repurposing," "Results-Driven Contracting," and "Stakeholder Engagement."

Setting goals is so foundational to using data and evidence, 86% of cities our size across the country met this criterion in 2020. By proactively stating citywide goals, our government can better direct its analytics efforts towards solving the problems that matter most to members of the community. PA #1 requires that priorities be citywide, time-bound, specific, and measurable – in short, that the goals set by the government identify a commitment on which progress can be evaluated. Given the many external forces that can hinder a city’s progress, it’s a bold move to declare a publicly stated goal along with metrics, targets, and an associated timeframe. But it’s necessary to know the goals if a city is actively using performance data to inform resource allocation, hiring, or service delivery. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there!

With this in mind, Portland’s City Council has scheduled a work session in January to proactively set priorities for FY 2021-22. Having clear, agreed-upon goals at the Citywide level will enable bureaus to focus their resources and attention to the "needle movers" in these areas. Working together, we can make noticeable progress for the Portland community!

We know that goal-setting and strategic planning at the bureau level is a critical part of this process as well. So, does your bureau set measurable strategic goals and align performance data to track them? 

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