Mid-Atlantic StatNet – A Decade of Learning Together
In our efforts to keep readers of the Barrett and Greene, Inc. website aware of important events in the world of state and local management, we’ll be increasingly relying on others to bring us news that we can share.
One member of our board of advisers, John Kamensky, the well-known and influential expert in the broad field of performance management and emeritus fellow at the IBM Center for The Business of Government, was kind enough to send us an on-the-scenes dispatch from Mid-Atlantic StateNet which was held October 20. It follows here:
Twice a year, county, city, and state performance officers from about 20 jurisdictions across the mid-Atlantic region gather to share similar challenges, experiences, and promising practices through a group called the Mid-Atlantic StatNet, a reference to a popular style of performance management in use across the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Each meeting is hosted by a different jurisdiction, so participants have the opportunity to visit colleagues in their home settings.
David Gottesman, assistant city manager for the city of Rockville, MD, and one of the co-convenors of this informal network, says “we’re the problem solvers.”
I’ve attended meetings as an observer since the beginning and have found them inspiring. This year’s was no different.
The group initially started with the vision of benchmarking various municipal services but quickly came to the conclusion that technical nuances and differences in measuring things like timeliness of 911 call responses varied so much between communities that it wouldn’t be practical, or perhaps even useful. So, it focused on sharing promising practices and learning about cutting edge performance and data analytics techniques used elsewhere to solve problems. Meeting topics included how communities have adapted Baltimore’s award-winning CitiStat program, how they create open data portals and measures of social equity, and how they use data visualization techniques and predictive analytics in functions such as fire and police.
While this meeting’s theme focused on the potential for using artificial intelligence tools to improve local government operations, the “no agenda” breakout sessions and lunchtime conversations tend to be the source of some fascinating insights of what is happening in communities across the region – which spans from Pennsylvania to Delaware, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. For example:
Montgomery County, Maryland’s Chris Turner described how his role is to bring data-driven insights to the public and county workforce – as a change manager located in the county’s office of public information. There, he connects county performance information, such as its 311 service requests, with the public and internally. He sees his role as a change manager that works on the organization’s goals.
Baltimore County, Maryland’s chief data and performance officer, Momen Abukhdeir, described how he is expanding performance and analytic capacity in the county government through a first-of-its-kind data fellows program. This competitive program provides an intensive one-year experience that attracts a broad range of candidates, including PhDs. Following completion of the program, fellows are connected with individual county departments to explore long-term career opportunities in a wide range of subject matter specializations. This program has attracted a diverse pool of emerging talent that not only better reflects the community’s population but builds stronger pathways to modern careers in local government.
Arlington County, Virginia is prototyping the use of artificial intelligence to improve interactions with citizens. Its Arlington Virtual Assistant is helping response to queries in its Department of Environmental Services, which handles water, sewer, and trash pickup services. This AI chat bot supports the department’s customer contact center and chooses among more than 700 frequently asked questions to respond to queries.
I look forward to the next such meeting and plan to share my thoughts with Barrett and Greene, Inc. again!