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  • On the Road to a More Diverse Workforce

    Cities, counties and states from coast to coast are cultivating efforts to create a more diverse workforce – one that mirrors the communities which they serve in terms of race, ethnicity and gender. Among the efforts they’re embarking upon include trying to identify and reduce implicit racism among the people who are doing the hiring; cultivating public-facing images and messaging to emphasize how diversity is a priority in their workplaces; strengthening pipelines to communities that haven’t traditionally been well represented in their agencies; and even reaching into high schools and middle schools to expand their pool of potential employees. This is critically important. As we reported in Route Fifty, according to data from a MissionSquare Research Institute survey, in 2021 only 38% of the cities responding found their workforce to be reflective of the community when it came to race and ethnicity. Though 56% of cities surveyed by MissionSquare in another report indicated that diversity, equity and inclusion are a top or high priority, only “42% have a formal program in place,” according to Gerald Young, the senior research analyst there, although more may have an informal program. Last month, we spoke with Linda Misegadis, Senior Government Strategist for UKG about just this issue. The first in that series, which you can watch here, covers topics including questions of explicit versus implicit racism; ways to avoid implicit racism, which can make it difficult to expand the workforce in an equitable fashion; efforts to put forward an image of a city that appears welcoming to people of all races, ethnicities and genders; and developing a pipeline for people who have not traditionally found jobs in government to do so now. ​ Take a look. And if you enjoy it, don't wait, as next week this will be replaced with the second in this series of interviews. #StateandLocalGovernment #StateandLocalEmployeeDiversity #Equity #Inclusion #MissionSquareResearchInstitute #RouteFifty #StateandLocalGovernmentHumanResources #StateandLocalGovernmentEquity #PublicSectorEmployeeDiversity #ImplicitRacism #ExplicitRacism #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentWorkforce #LindaMisegadis #UKG #BarrettandGreene #BarrettandGreeneInterview #CityGovernmentEmployeeDiversity #EmployeeDiversity #PublicSectorHumanResources #EmployeeDiversityData

  • What's Next for Evidence-Based Policy Making?

    By Elizabeth Linos, Emma Bloomberg Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School and Faculty Director, The People Lab. ​ ​ The crises of the past few years have brought with them a rallying cry for more evidence in government; a call to “follow the science” and “lead with data.” And governments have responded. Public sector leaders from local governments all the way to the White House have celebrated the use of evidence in practice, and many are building the infrastructure to infuse data into day-to-day operations. For those of us who sit at the intersection of research and policy, this has been a noticeable shift. Evidence – rigorous, nuanced, and policy-relevant evidence – is not being produced in ivory towers alone but also in federal agencies, through community-led efforts, and across cities and states. ​ But as researchers and practitioners continue to collaborate to produce evidence on the most critical public sector challenges, it’s time to ask: What happens next? How do we go from documenting “best practice” to adoption of evidence? If we want evidence-based policymaking to meet its promise, we have to move beyond one-off demonstration projects to transformational use of evidence at scale. My work with Stefano DellaVigna and Woojin Kim has begun to document the size of this challenge in cities across the US. Between 2015 and 2019, over 70 city departments conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs) – the gold standard of evaluation – in collaboration with the Behavioral Insights Team. These projects tackled a range of pressing challenges ranging from how to diversify the police to how to improve code enforcement. In many ways, these pilot projects were perfectly poised to make evidence adoption easy. First, the trials produced evidence on what works in the relevant government department. Almost 80% of trials identified a strategy with a positive impact, and almost half had both statistically significant and positive findings. Second, departments were testing low-cost interventions that had already received political, communications, and legal approval as part of the pilot project itself. So the types of innovations being tested were, at the very last, feasible at scale. Third, the cohort of cities that were doing this work were part of What Works Cities – a groundbreaking initiative that brought together cities that were already committed to using data and evidence to improve public policy. ​ Still, when we followed up five years later to see which of these best practices had been adopted, we found that less than a third of trial results were adopted by the very department that conducted the trial, beyond the timeline of the original pilot. The most surprising finding? The strength of the evidence did not matter. Put differently, the decision of whether to move forward or not after the end of a pilot program was not based on evidence-based information. ​ Despite this major investment in producing rigorous evidence, and truly committed public sector leaders, the single most important factor in predicting a department’s adoption of a new strategy was whether the tested strategy was a tweak to a pre-existing process, or an entirely new process developed for the specific innovation. Some 67% of strategies built into pre-existing processes were adopted, compared to just 12% of strategies based on new innovations. If we’re not seeing evidence adoption at scale, it seems organizational inertia may be the culprit. ​ The good news? Behavioral scientists know a lot about how to combat inertia. If we start thinking about the process of evidence adoption as a series of individual micro-hurdles – in the same way we think about how to get people to go to the gym, or to show up on election day – the challenge of evidence adoption becomes a manageable one. ​ My hope for 2023 is to see more evidence on how to overcome these hurdles using what we know about how humans actually behave. How do you make sure a busy public sector leader sees and understands the science? How do we make sure scientists are asking questions that a government has asked or providing evidence on the outcomes that matter most? How do we bring in the communities most affected into defining success metrics? And ultimately, how do we streamline these processes so that using the evidence becomes the default and not the exception? ​ We don’t have the answers yet but addressing these bottlenecks for evidence adoption requires the same level of data-driven attention we give to creating the evidence in the first place. Without this final step, all the effort and resources devoted to evidence-based policy making will miss their full potential. The contents of this guest column reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of Barrett and Greene, Inc. #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformancManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformance #EvidenceBasedDecisionMaking #EvidenceBasedPolicyMaking #DisappointingUseofEvidenceBasedPolicy #ElizabethLinos #PuttingProgramEvidenceIntoPractice #RandomizedControlTrials #RCTs #EvidenceBasedDecisionMakingShortcomings #PoorPilotAdoption #StateandLocalGovernmentInnovation #InnovationInertia #BehavioralInsightsTeam #StefanoDellaVigna #WoojinKim #StateandLocalEvidenceAdoption #DataBasedDecisionMaking #WhatWorksCities

  • How to Tell What’s on the New Governors Minds

    [Photo: Oregon Governor Tina Kotek] Generally, gubernatorial executive orders get scanty press attention. But we’ve found they’re one of the best ways to scope out both management and policy priorities before any new legislation winds its way through legislatures. They’re particularly interesting for the nine new governors as these just-after-oath-of-office actions show what’s top of the mind as their four-year stint in charge begins. By January 25, the new governors had already produced 31 executive orders. The median number is 2.5, with the record holder for executive order production found in Arkansas, where new Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who took office on January 10, had already signed 14 by January 25. Some of the issues that these new governors grabbed onto reflect both campaign promises and issues dear to them, their own background, current controversies, and headline-grabbing national problems. The choices often reflect their political party’s policy dreams and priorities, as well as their approach to governing. On her second day in office, Oregon’s new leader, Gov. Tina Kotek signed three executive orders, all focused on escalating homelessness. The most comprehensive order declared homelessness in Oregon an emergency that requires emergency actions (for example the suspension of some procurement rules). It repurposes $40 million to deal with the problem and focuses attention on a number of regions in the state, including the Portland metro area. Two other orders direct the state’s agencies to prioritize ending homelessness and sets an “annual housing production” goal of 36,000 homes. The creation of both new governmental offices and commissions are always an executive order staple and the batch emanating from the new governors is no exception. Massachusetts’s Gov. Maura Healey’s initial focus has been on climate change, with an executive order , signed on her second day in office, January 6, to create the Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience to be housed in the Governor’s office. Other newly created entities include Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s new Department of Service and Civic Innovation ; Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen’s creation of the Office of Broadband Coordinator, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobb’s creation of an independent prison oversight commission , and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s order creating the Pennsylvania Office of Transformation and Opportunity , with a mission to “facilitate the implementation of transformational economic development projects.” Multiple advisory councils and task forces were also set up. In line with her focus on homelessness, Gov. Kotek established the Governor’s Housing Advisory Council and Gov. Healey created a working group to assess the potential for creating a Housing Secretariat ; Gov. Sanders created an advisory council to advise her on outdoor recreation and Arkansas’s “outdoor economy” ; Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs created and/or reinstated three advisory bodies on homelessness and housing , elections , and water policy . The gubernatorial pen that has used the most ink belongs to Arkansas Gov, Sanders, who signed seven executive orders on her first day in office, January 10. These included an immediate hiring and promotion freeze , several orders aimed at reducing government rules , regulations and wasteful spending, one prohibiting indoctrination and critical race theory in schools , and one eliminating the word “Latinx,” “latinx,” “Latinxs,” or “latinxs” from official use in government A week later, she repealed a variety of Covid related executive orders, an action also taken by Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo , who also directed his Department of Administration to review the state’s hiring, retention and promotional rules and to work with executive branch agencies to move the workforce to “pre-pandemic, normal and customary office conditions by July 1, 2023.” The public sector workforce, currently plagued by a shortage of applicants in multiple states, also received attention, with an order from Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro to downplay the importance of college degrees , saying that Pennsylvania job postings would “lead with experience needed rather than degree requirements”. Gov. Hobbs first executive order focused on eliminating barriers to employment and combatting job discrimination , while Gov. Moore signed one creating guidelines for professional and ethical behavior, while also promoting respect for employees and the prevention of discrimination. To check out what’s happened this January in other states, you’ll find an interactive map on this website that provides links to the governor’s executive orders. Also, for more on the demographic shift that’s taken place with the new governors, see our blog post from January 5. #NewGovs #NewGovernor #BarrettandGreene #FeaturedArticle

  • Measuring Broadband Funding: A New GAO Report

    As the federal government hands out money to states and localities for broadband services (and other infrastructure as well), one question has been in the back of our minds: How well are the feds measuring the performance of these investments. We got a partial answer earlier today, with the release of a Government Accountability Office report, that makes it clear that the answer is sometimes “not well enough.” The report focused on the work of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which manages two grant programs that work to expand broadband access. As of September 2022, it had announced about $1 billion worth of grants awarded. But, reported the GAO, both of the programs fall short of the basic standards for good performance measurement. For example, the NTIA set a goal for its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) to extend affordable broadband to 200,000 households, but the performance goal and measures “do not reflect the primary function of the program, funding broadband use and adoption projects.” To our minds, this is a critical shortcoming. It’s not very useful to create goals and measures that aren’t pertinent to the central functions of any program. This is kind of like an archer who keeps aiming for the bullseye – but isn’t looking at the right target in the first place. The archer may feel good about himself, but he’s never going to win a competition. Moreover, the report pointed out that NTIA's goals for both the TBCP and the larger Broadband Infrastructure Program, included terms such as “reliable” and “affordable” that are not defined and therefore are not fully quantifiable. Wrote the GAO, “NTIA officials said that the agency was still developing goals and measures. Without comprehensive goals and measures, NTIA will be unable to track its progress.” This sounds very familiar to us. Over the course of time, we’ve heard repeated complaints – often in performance audits – that terms being measured are not well defined, and as a result, the measurements may have minimal value. To be fair, the GAO had some positive things to say, as well, about performance measurements and the NTIA grants. Notably, for both grant programs, “The performance goal and measure reflect what is to be observed without significant bias or manipulation.” Given the large amounts of money being delivered here, there could easily be a temptation to stack the deck, and the assurance that hasn’t happened is good news indeed. #NewGAOReport #Broadband #StateandLocalManagement #StateandLocalPerformanceMeasurement #StateandLocalPerformanceManagement #NTIA #GovernmentAccountabilityOffice #BroadbandUse #StateandLocalPerformance #PerformanceAudit #StateandLocalPerformanceAudit #NationalTelecommunicationsandInformationAdministration #IntergovernmentalRelations #PerformanceMeasurement

  • The Sisyphus Files – Repeated Issues in Performance Audits

    Episode One: Data Quality - Over the course of years, as we’ve closely followed the work of state and local performance auditors, a somewhat bleak thought is with us. These people, whose lives are dedicated to state and local government, find themselves repeating many of the same findings over and over again, as they tackle different agencies and different issues. It seems to us that they might well identify with the woes of the character from Greek mythology, Sisyphus, who was condemned by Hades to spend endless days rolling a rock up a hill to see it plummet down again, only to start the upward climb once again. From our selfish journalistic vantage point, however, the woes of the performance auditors have long provided fodder for our work, as we see opportunities for coverage in the drumbeat of common findings in a long-term series of audit reports. The list of issues we’ve seen in multiple audits in recent months just starts with those that refer to unprotected computer access, subpar training, unreliable documentation, incomplete or confusing policies and sloppy inventory controls. In this special feature, we’re going to focus in on one significant issue that seems to crop up over and over again: shortcomings in data quality. While we’ve seen major improvements in data governance in recent years, problems persist. A few examples: In December, a performance audit of the Department of Corrections in Vermont pointed to shortcomings in the basic information collected about the “number, type, status, or outcome of prisoner grievances”. A Minneapolis audit about internal investigation processes, cited data weaknesses, including problems in “data retention and destruction” guidelines. A King County audit found “Incomplete recordkeeping, a lack of verification, and unreliable data tools” contributing to the fact that a number of temporary employees had been shortchanged on benefits that were due to them. One common data issue has to do with the adequacy and reliability of information that comes from third party organizations such as nonprofits, community boards or private sector contractors that deliver state or local services. Data requirements are often written into performance contracts, but too often the promises are not delivered. Take Virginia’s December 2022 report about the behavioral health services delivered by its Community Service Boards (CSBs). While state law provides mechanisms to evaluate performance and hold these boards responsible for delivering behavioral health services, those mechanisms are “rarely used” according to the report from Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Why? Because the data emanating from the boards aren’t adequate to document consumer experience and the outcomes of the care they receive – problems that inhibit state oversight. As the report summary states, Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services “has no formal processes or data to understand critical aspects of CSBs’ service delivery and consumer outcomes, such as preadmission screening or discharge planning.” Anyone following the sorry state of mental health in this country can immediately see the significance of this finding. Virginia’s community service boards prioritize individuals with serious mental illness and those numbers were 20% higher in fiscal 2022 than a decade before. CSB work is particularly vital in rural areas, where other professional help is be limited. Another example. In December, the Minnesota Legislative auditor released an report about managed care companies that deliver personal care services. Although the companies generally met legal and contract requirements, “a number of instances of noncompliance” were cited in how they reported “encounter data”, which provides details on the actual visits to clients needing personal care services. That data is used for lots of things, such as how clients are served, rate setting and forecasting future needs. These are just a couple of examples of the multiple repeat findings that occur in performance audits regularly. That’s why we follow these documents so carefully and know that while they are of particular significance to the individual entities involved as they provide a often neglected view of broader management problems from coast to coast. This is the first in an occasional series of website features, which we’ll be dubbing “The Sisyphus Files.” Next up: Unprotected computer access. #Featured #BarrettandGreene #StateandLocalPerformanceAudit #StateandLocalPerformanceManagement #PerformanceAudit #StateandLocalGovernmentDataQuality #PublicSectorDataAnalysis #PublicSectorDataQuality #PublicSectorDataGovernance #StateandLocalPolicyImplementation #CommunityServiceBoards #ContractData #NonProfitData #UnprotectedComputerAccess #SisyfusFiles #RepeatAuditFindings #SubparTraining #UnreliableDocumentation #ConfusingPublicSectorPolicies #StateandLocalProcurement #GovernmentOversight #CommonwealthofVirginia #StateofVermont #VermontDepartmentofCorrections #CityofMinneapolis #MinneapolisAudit #KingCounty #KingCountyAudit #PerformanceContract #VirginiaJointLegislativeAuditandReviewCommission #VirginiaDepartmentofBehavioralHealthandDevelopmentalServices #MentalHealthServices #MinnesotaLegislativeAuditor #ManagedCareCompanies

  • Nine New Governors and a Generational Shift

    Out of the 36 gubernatorial elections last November, 26 resulted in the return of an incumbent while only one, Nevada’s Steve Sisolak, lost. That left nine new governors taking office, not an earthshaking number, but enough to make us curious about the demographic shifts in the new cadre. Our efforts turned up some interesting facts that we wanted to share. Perhaps most intriguing, the new group is dramatically younger than the governors they’re replacing. This is probably inevitable for all elections, as older officials are term-limited or choose not to run for re-election and are often replaced by younger ones. But the change has been somewhat more extreme among the nine new governors who were elected in November than we would have anticipated based on past experience. In fact, the average ate of newly elected leaders in Arkansas, Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon and Pennsylvania is 52, as of today’s date, as opposed to 65 for those who are leaving office. To put this another way, only one of the new governors would qualify for Medicare, compared to 5 of the 8 who are now departing. Four of the nine new governors were born in the 1970s and one in the 1980s. The youngest -- and the only one of the 50 to be born in the 1980s -- is Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who takes over the top spot in Arkansas from 72-year-old Asa Hutchinson. Sanders, who was President Donald Trump's press secretary from 2017 to 2019, is 40 years old. The second youngest governor in 2023 will be Wes Moore, age 44, who will take over the top spot in Maryland from 66-year-old Larry Hogan on January 18. As a result, the generational shift is dramatic. All of the nine governors being replaced are Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). But six of the new ones belong to Gen X (born 1965-1980) and one is a millennial (1981-1996) There’s more. The new governors represent a more diverse group than their predecessors. four of the nine are women, compared with one of the outgoing state leaders. Two of the four – Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Tina Kotek of Oregon lead openly lesbian lifestyles. Wes Moore will become the first Black governor of Maryland and the third ever elected in the United States. (The other two were from Virginia and Massachusetts). Of the nine newly elected governors, two are doctors– Josh Green of Hawaii, and Nebraska’s Jim Pillen (who is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine). And two are lawyers, Joshua Shapiro of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts’s Maura Healey, both of whom were their states’ attorneys general prior to becoming governors. Four of the others have master’s degrees, with one in crisis management (Nevada's Joe Lombardo), one in social work (Arizona’s Katie Hobbs), one in international relations (Wes Moore), and one in international relations and comparative religions (Maura Healey). Sarah Sanders has a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in political science. For the record, the nine new governors, who will soon be added to our website feature “Guide to the Govs” after they’ve all been inaugurated on January 18, are: Arizona: Katie Hobbs (D), replacing Doug Ducey (R) Arkansas: Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), replacing Asa Hutchinson (R) Hawaii: Josh Green (D), replacing David Ige (D) Maryland: Wes Moore (D), replacing Larry Hogan (R) Massachusetts: Maura Healey (D), replacing Charlie Baker (R) Nebraska: Jim Pillen (R), replacing Pete Ricketts (R) Nevada: Joe Lombardo (R), replacing Steve Sisolak (D) Oregon: Tina Kotek (D), replacing Kate Brown (D) Pennsylvania: Joshua Shapiro (D), replacing Tom Wolf (D) NOTE: This column has been revised to include Arkansas Governor Sanders, who was inadvertently left out when it was first published on January 5. #Featured #BarrettandGreene #NewGovernors #Governors #StateandLocalGovernment #StateandLocalGovernmentManagement #StateGovernmentCulture #PublicSectorLeadership #StateLeadership #GenerationalChange #FutureofGovernmentJobs #WesMoore #MauraHealey #TinaKotek #JoshuaShapiro #JoshGreen #JoeLombardo #KatieHobbs #JimPillen #StateofArizona #StateofMaryland #StateofMassachusetts #StateofNebraska #StateofNevada #StateofOregon #StateofPennsylvania #NewStateAdministrations #GubernatorialDiversity

  • Fostering Financial Literacy in New York State: How's It Going?

    ​ ​by Thomas P. DiNapoli, Comptroller, New York State Across America, people are facing uncertainty in economic times, with rising inflation and interest rates, and the threat of a recession looming. As New York State Comptroller, I track how these economic forces impact New Yorkers’ financial well-being and our state and local economies. ​ During these difficult economic times, financial literacy is a critical tool to help individuals and families safeguard their money and build wealth through better management of their finances. That is why my office is focused on ensuring New Yorkers have access to the resources they need to strengthen their financial literacy. ​ Unfortunately, I’ve found New York has a lot of work to do. My office recently released a report on consumer debt that highlighted New Yorkers’ rising debt. A few of the alarming findings: ​ The average household in New York was carrying $53,830 in debt at the end of 2021; although less than the national average of $55,810, it is a new high for the state. While mortgages comprise the largest portion of this debt, my report found that New Yorkers’ student loan and credit card debt per capita were well above the national average. ​ New Yorkers’ per capita student loan debt of $6,180 was 11th in the nation in 2021 and marks an increase of 335% since 2003. While the rate of growth lags the national average (432%), the growth trajectory has been unrelenting and has been rising exponentially faster than personal income growth during this time. ​ Per capita credit card debt was $3,520 in 2021, putting New York as the 7th highest in the nation. Credit card balances comprised 7% of household debt, higher than the national average of 5.5%. Credit card debt can be a particular challenge to household finances. Because the interest rates on credit card debt are significantly higher than for other types of borrowing, it can create significant financial stress when credit cards are used for routine expenses. Though borrowing may be a necessity for some households struggling to make ends meet, when individuals go overboard it can become an unnecessary and painful burden. ​ One way to avoid such unfortunate decisions is heightened financial literacy, which can mean the difference between a wise decision with long-term benefits and an unsound decision that produces setbacks. In 2021, New York state enacted legislation that created a single repository of links to all state agency and authority financial literacy information and programs. Furthermore, all agencies and authorities are now required to provide relevant financial literacy-related education information to Department of Financial Services (DFS), which is responsible for posting the information on its website. ​ I recently conducted an audit that examined how New York state is living up to its goals for promoting and providing financial literacy educational tools to New Yorkers. The audit examined the financial literacy offerings of five agencies, with responsibility for programs that impact critical and vulnerable consumer groups including DFS. A comprehensive financial literacy program requires a coordinated effort among all applicable entities. For the agencies we audited, although we found that some collaboration exists, there does not appear to be a coherent strategy or overarching plan to coordinate these efforts statewide, nor is there a shared understanding or definition of “financial literacy.” Such a plan, if well-implemented, would likely provide a more comprehensive level of service to New Yorkers. Additionally, fewer than 15 of the state’s 100-plus eligible entities were represented on the clearinghouse website that was supposed to provide a one-stop location for New Yorkers to learn about financial literacy. Financial literacy is key to helping individuals and families safeguard their finances and build wealth, and state agencies should play a role in providing critical information to the clients they serve. For example, as New York’s senior population grows, the elderly are being targeted by criminals at an increasing rate. According to the FBI, over 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion, a 74 percent increase in losses from 2020. However, in response to our request for information on their financial literacy programs, New York State Office for the Aging officials denied involvement with any efforts that fell within our definition of financial literacy, which we adopted from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and communicated to all five audited agencies. My report offers recommendations for improving not just agency collaboration but their efforts to enhance financial education and literacy. However, financial literacy does not erase economic and social inequities that can leave many struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. Efforts to increase financial literacy alone are not enough; they must go hand in hand with policies and initiatives to alleviate poverty. My office has been doing this by making New Yorkers in need a focus of our audits and reports. Through this lens, we are tracking poverty trends in our state and whether agencies are effectively and efficiently providing our most vulnerable neighbors with the services and resources they need to thrive. New York is not alone in having its work cut out for it when it comes to financial literacy. I remain committed to ensuring our government is doing all it can to help New Yorkers get the skills and tools they need to make financial decisions that empower themselves and their families. ​ The contents of this guest column reflect those of the authors and not necessarily those of Barrett and Greene, Inc

  • The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good: Mini-RCTs

    “Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been called the gold standard for identifying the impacts of public service-delivery procedures,” write Harry Hatry and Batia Katz in a new report from the Urban Institute. But they can be very expensive and time consuming. This makes them “impractical for many public service agencies, especially small government agencies and most NPOS,” write Hatry and Katz, “These problems have deterred agencies in local, state, or federal governments and NPOS from using the procedures. Fortunately for some, there’s growing interest in a far simpler version of RCTs dubbed “Mini-RCTs,” which can be used for internal agency decision making (even if they don’t have sufficient rigor to be used as clear evidence for external use). In both RCTs and Mini-RCTs, the report explains: · Comparisons are made between service recipients who receive a new or modified service-delivery procedure and service recipients who did not receive the procedure. · The selection of clients into each group is done randomly · During the trial period, conditions are controlled so that none occur that could significantly affect the validity of the comparisons. Hatry and Katz write that Mini-RCTs can be used for a number of purposes that are particularly timely right now, including determining the value of emerging new technologies; ways to recruit customers or volunteers and approaches to raise program revenues. Some of the elements of Mini-RCTs include a willingness to get findings that fall short of ultimate outcomes but can use “intermediate outcomes that are somewhat easier and cheaper to measure . . .” and “indicate meaningful progress toward the end outcomes sought." In addition, they can abbreviate the length of the trial used and the number of participants involved. Of course, there are tradeoffs. As the report states, “The larger the number (of participants) the more accurate the findings will be, but the cost of data collection will be higher.” The report concludes that, “Mini-RCTs have the potential to yield many small-scale benefits that add up to major national improvements in the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of public services—by providing more accurate information on what service-delivery practices work and do not work. A major additional benefit is that Mini-RCTs can stimulate innovation and creativity by giving decisionmakers at organizations the option of testing changes before fully implementing them. Ultimately, Mini-RCTs in public service program management could broadly benefit service delivery and help customers across all types of organizations.” #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformance #EvidenceBasedPolicyMaking #UrbanInstitute #HarryHatry #KatiaBatz #MiniRCT #StateandLocalGovernmentManagement #PublicSectorDataAnalysis #StateandLocalPerformanceMeasurement #PublicSectorProgramEvaluation #PublicSectorManagement #GovernmentInnovation #MiniRCTs

  • Let’s Talk Performance!

    A couple of weeks ago, we were invited by the National Center for Public Performance to be the inaugural panelists in its series of webinars about performance management. We were fortunate enough to have Monica Croskey Chaparro, assistant city manager in Virginia Beach, Virginia with us to ask us questions, lead the conversation and add many pertinent points from her own experience. You can find the complete video under Special Videos on the home page of our website, but here are a handful of the thoughts upon which we expanded in the webinar: · * The words “performance-informed management” are preferable to “performance-based management.” The latter implies that there can be a formulaic approach to gathering data, with the assumption that it can drive government. But in the real world, that’s just not true, and the real goal of performance management is to gather information that will be helpful in making decisions. * It’s critical to win the trust of people in the data that’s being used – both in and out of government. There’s a tendency in some cities and states to cherry-pick data that shows only the bright side of government performance, but people who actually live in those places can compare the government’s reports to the world in which they live, and when there’s a significant difference between the two, they’ll believe their eyes and not the information the government is issuing. · * There’s an important distinction between having a performance management system, that exists only on paper, and actually having it utilized by public sector leaders and managers to make decisions. This can be particularly difficult when a new administration comes in, and the support of leadership declines. · * Many efforts – notably those that have been dubbed “stat” programs can run the risk of being perceived as ‘gotcha” exercises. When government employees fear accountability exercises, they’re disinclined to buy in and that stands in the way of progress and improvement. · * It’s important to bridge the gap in the world of performance management that can exist between important research done by academics and the day-to-day decisions that need to be made by practitioners. · * While incentives for good performance can be useful, they can also result in poor data quality when the incentives lead to fudging of data. · * When a state or local government sets up a performance management system it’s important to take the next step – providing enough resources to provide staff and research. · * As time has gone on, there have been challenges to the independence of performance management offices. But without non-partisan, independent efforts, politics can prevail over fair, honest reporting. #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceMeasurement #StateandLocalDataQuality #StateandLocalGovernmentManagement #StateandLocalAccountability #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceAudit #CityandCountyManagement #VirginiaBeach #MonicaCroskeyChaparro #PerformanceData #PerformanceInformedManagement #PerformanceBasedManagement #PerformanceMeasurement #PerformanceAudit #GovernmentStatSystems #NationalCenterforPublicPerformance #KatherineBarrettandRichardGreene #ThePromisesandPitfallsofPerformanceInformedManagement #SulfolkUniversity #CityStat #StateStat #StateandLocalGovernment #IndependentGovernmentOversight

  • Keeping Focus on the Humans at the Heart of Human Services

    After 23 years in government John Eller, the director of Social Services in Mecklenburg County, will leave his government job in mid-December. A lot of changes have occurred in his years in county government, and he has a wide variety of predictions, concerns and counsel for the changes that public health and human service agencies like his will face in future years. We talked with him this fall while we were researching our future of government jobs series for Route Fifty. The issues he raised included the following: The need to preserve the lessons learned during the pandemic about benefit program flexibility: Eller has watched the federal drive to unwind pandemic-era human service waivers with dismay. “It just baffles me that we’re talking about going back to the old way, versus looking for ways to continue to innovate what we started with the flexibilities we got during the pandemic,” he says. He cites a system that is audit heavy and risk adverse with confusing, inconsistent and repetitive requirements that rob clients of dignity and create numerous barriers to underemployed individuals who may lack transportation and time due to work schedules. The importance of emphasizing human interaction even as more technology options emerge: While digital skills will inevitably increase in value, he warns of the danger of losing the softer skills that are needed to work with human service customers. “The customer must remain at the heart of the mission and vision,” he says. “The shift into a technology-driven world will impact both our staff and our customers. We value a customer-centric scenario. We value interaction and the more online you go, the less interaction you have. As public human services agencies look to be more strategic, I think they’re going to have to figure out what can, and should, be done online and what doesn’t have to be. We’re going to see this tug of war, this push and pull between the need to be more technology driven, compared to the need to balance the needs of our customers and staff.” To increase the focus on more – and not less – human interaction, Mecklenburg County leadership has a philosophy dubbed “Bringing Mecklenburg to You,” which locates Community Resource Centers that combine public and private shared services “in a seamless way” in targeted geographic locations throughout the county. “Staff can be strategically placed in geographic locations to provide services instead of working from one stationary centralized building so that services are closer to each community” – a change that will also provide a stronger sense of trust with residents. The drive to alter past human resource practices that adversely affect hiring “In order to remain competitive, we’ve got to figure out what the needs of our staff are,” he says. “The decisions about telework and flexible work schedules will be critical to attract someone who can choose this agency or another.” Eller recognizes the complexities of dealing with a remote or hybrid workplace in which employees have multiple different preferences. At the same time, he knows that workplace flexibility is important to applicants and recognizes that a job candidate’s decision to accept or turn down a job offer is often contingent on this factor. “The first thing that job applicants ask is about that detail. How many days will I have to come in the office? That’s changed everything,” he says. Eller also sees a need to lower current minimum qualifications that prevent hiring community college or college graduates because they lack several years of experience. That’s led to Mecklenburg County partnering with local universities and community colleges to allow recent graduates to qualify for public human services programs without previously required years of experience. A focus on retention and building career supports for the staff Like many other individuals we interviewed for our future of government jobs series in Route Fifty, Eller sees a significant benefit in the establishment of career ladders that provide promotions and salary increases based on successfully completing training that broadens skills. In fact, he introduced a new career ladder approach in the Department of Social Services this fall, supported by county leadership. Promotion, in a career ladder system, doesn’t require employees to wait for a job to open or require staff to compete with each other for limited open positions. It depends instead on training and acquiring new knowledge. “The way we look at promoting people is going to change,” he says. #StateandLocalGovernmentManagement #PublicSectorHumanServices #HumanServices #CountyHumanServices #AmericanPublicHumanServicesAssociation #FutureGovernmentJobs #FutureofStateandLocalGovernmentJobs #HumanServicesManagement #HumanServicesWorkforce #StateandLocalGovernmentHumanResources #StateandLocalGovernmentWorkforce #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentHiring #HumanServiceHiring #HumanServiceRetention #CountyEmployeeRetention #MecklenburgCountySocialServices #JohnEller #PublicSectorCareerLadder #HumanServiceWaivers #RouteFifty #RemoteWorkinthePublicSector #CountyGovernmentWorkforce

  • “You Might Be Right”, A B&G Report Podcast Recommendation

    In the tension-filled political week before the midterm elections, we were particularly grateful for a relatively new podcast called “You Might be Right,” a mostly weekly, sometimes biweekly show that features two former governors from Tennessee talking about a wide variety of issues. The particularly refreshing part of this show for us is that Governor Bill Haslam is a Republican and Governor Phil Bredesen is a Democrat, and they talk to each other about complex issues in the most civil terms without attack or easy soundbite. In the first months of the show, produced at the Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, guests have been invited to explain their positions on opposite sides of such topics as the Affordable Care Act, Charter Schools, the National Debt and the Affordable Housing crisis. The governors ask questions, talk about the issues, and occasionally reflect on their own leadership experiences, leaving listeners with lots to think about and no easy answers. The Affordable Care Act discussion, for example, which aired on October 26, gave the governors an opportunity to question Nancy-Ann DeParle, one of the architects of the Act during the Obama administration and Larry Van Horn, a Vanderbilt professor, who has been a noted critic of it. At its conclusion, one of Phil Bredesen’s comments deftly summed up his reaction to the discussion, making a key point about the nature of the podcast at the same time. “Most problems benefit from picking and choosing a little bit from different ideologies. And I think both of us have had the experience of doing that. So, I looked at both of these not in terms of one is the right answer and one is the wrong answer, but what can we glean from each of them, which can be useful in solving the problem.” The show’s title is based on the late Senator Baker’s belief that solid answers to vexing problems emerge when listening to someone on the opposite side. “In politics, the competition for ideas, the competition for the right to serve is fundamental and it is political. But it must be accompanied by a decent respect for the other fellow’s point of view. Because if you don’t do that, the whole system falls, it collapses, if you don’t admit that the other person may be right from time to time.”' New podcasts are generally posted on Wednesdays, with access to episodes here. We like the fact that transcripts are also available as it’s sometimes tricky to tell which governor is talking if you don’t come from Tennessee and have a solid familiarity with their voices. Listen and see what you think of this B&G Report Recommendation. And if the spirit moves you, suggest other podcasts that might be of interested to those of us who are dedicated to state and local government. #DedicatedtoStateandLocalGovernment #StateandLocalPolicyImplementation #IntergovernmentalRelations #QuotesaboutGovernment #BarrettandGreeneRecommendations #PolicyImplementation #PolicyOversight #PodcastRecommendation #StateofTennessee #HowardBakerJrCenterforPublicPolicy #GovernorPhilBredesen #GovernorBillHaslam #AffordableHousing #AffordableCareAct #YouMightBeRightPodcast

  • THE B&G Reading List

    Periodically, we make a request in the B&G Report for recommendations of books that provide worthy reading for people who are interested in state and local government. We're back again, and are asking readers to send us new nominations. A few months ago, we went through this exercise and published nine of the titles that came in. It’s important to note that we decided not to include books that were suggested by their own authors. While we know many of these authors personally and think their books were worthy of inclusion, it doesn't feel like it is in the spirit of the effort to include books by recommenders who so obviously had a horse in the race. (For example, we didn’t bring up our most recent book, about performance management, and so we’re playing by our own rules). Following are eight titles. We’ve linked them all to Amazon.com for ease of purchase if you’re so moved, but we’d like to encourage you (as much as we use Amazon.com ourselves) to consider patronizing your own local bookstore. We're waiting to hear from you. The Unheavenly City: The Nature and the Future of Our Urban Crisis, by Edward C. Banfield, recommended by BJ Reed, Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska Omaha The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America, by Alan Mallach, recommended by Alan Ehrenhalt, senior editor, Governing The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee, recommended by Alisha Gillis, recommended by Alisha Gillis, senior editor, Route Fifty What Should We Do: A Theory of Civic Life, by Peter Levine, recommended by Karen Garrett, chief of communications, marketing and membership, American Society of Public Administration Speaking Truth to Power: Art and Craft of Policy Analysis, by Aaron Wildavsky, recommended by Dean Michael Mead. Partner at Carr, Riggs & Ingram Greedy Bastards: One City’s Texas-Size Struggle to Avoid a Financial Crisis, by Sheryl Sculley, recommended by Terrell Blodgett, Mike Hogg Professor Emeritus in Urban Management, LBJ School, University of Texas, Austin. Thirty Explosive Years in Los Angeles County by John Anson Ford, recommended by Benjamin M. Effinger, Operations Chief, Cash Management Division, Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector. Smarter Government: How to Govern for Results in the Information Age, by Martin O'Malley, recommended by Robert Shea, partner Guidehouse. #BandGReportRecommendations #CityandCountyManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentManagement #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceManagement #StateandLocalPolicyImplementation #GovernmentforResults #GovernorMartinOMalley #RobertShea #LosAngelesCounty #StateofTexas #TerrellBlodgett #DeanMichaelMead #AmericanSocietyofPublicAdministration #KarenGarrett #Equity #AlishaGillis #RouteFifty #GoverningMagaine #LBJSchoolUniversityofTexas #SchoolofPublicAdministrationUniversityofNebraska #BJReed #BookRecommendationsforGovernmentManagers

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