Challenges Found in Local Government Can Be Conquered

On October 10th 2013, The Performance Institute was proud to be the only think tank invited to participate in the annual Mid-Atlantic Performance Management Consortium meeting, a roundtable and mind-melding event geared towards local city and county performance officials. Featured panelists included Dr. Marc Holzer (Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Rutgers University), Michael Ward (Director of New England StatNet), and Allen Lomax (Director of the City of Alexandria Community Indicators Project), among other distinguished guests. The audience was comprised of about 60 local government performance leaders, and the conversations were both engaging and thought-provoking.

The Consortium, organized by the Fairfax County Office of Performance and Strategy, builds on previous work that Fairfax had conducted with governments around the region for more than ten years.  Interest in re-starting these efforts with greater participation and vigor, stemmed from the model of New England Stat Net, which is bringing local governments together regularly to discuss their data, best practices, and strategies for improvements in everything from firefighting to libraries.

At the forefront of the day’s sessions was an open discussion of a survey, conducted prior to the meeting, which aimed to set peer benchmarks and identify organizations’ biggest performance challenges. The study revealed that the biggest issues facing local government performance professionals was data availability and quality, getting senior leadership buy-in for robust performance programs, and the actual development of measures and benchmarks to accurately track agency goals. Executives from across the region, including from Virginia Beach, City of Alexandria and Montgomery County, shared their success stories to get over some of these performance management hurdles.

Stephanie Phillips, Director of Managing for Results at Chester County, also shared some of the work that her county has been executing to link resource allocation decisions directly to performance measurement.  Audience members heard Chester County’s approach to a wide range of activities, including strategic prioritization, goal-setting , adapting the county’s budget process and program evaluation.

The Performance Institute is participating in ongoing discussions with the Consortium’s leadership on plans for continuing forums, research and other strategies to advance performance throughout our region’s local governments.


By: Jon Desenberg & Andrew Goodwin

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