The Long Beach Data Culture

BY BETSY GARDNER • August 9, 2022

 LC3. Data Workforce Culture and Trainings

Your local government trains, upskills, and empowers local government staff in the management and the use of city data to inform decision-making.

Demystifying and democratizing data tools is the mission for Adelita Lopez, the technology implementation manager for the Long Beach Recovery Act. Lopez is currently overseeing the training for more than 80 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program managers, embodying the new What Works Cities (WWC) LC3 criteria with her dedication to teaching and empowering her colleagues on data-driven decision making.

Lopez began working on civic innovations in Long Beach in 2018. In 2021 the city established the Long Beach Recovery Act (LBRA) to disburse funding from the federal CARES Act. Collecting and reporting on LBRA spending is crucial — and a huge undertaking considering that there are 83 different projects and $250 million in funding. In January 2022 Lopez began her current position overseeing all of the data reporting and training project managers on data collection.

Early on, Lopez realized that the data looked different depending on what the program is, what department is managing it, and what level of training the department had in the past. There is also data coming from contracted vendors and community groups, which comes in different forms as well. In order to conceptualize what kind of data training each different program required, Lopez first had to determine if the trainings were for departments or community-based organizations, and if the trainees had any prior experience with digital data tools. She also had to determine which tech tools would be the right fit and if it could be brought to the community as required for the programs. While the pandemic and move to remote or hybrid work did introduce many city employees to a whole new suite of digital tools, the data collection and reporting piece needed to be even more specific.

Once Lopez met with folks from each program she determined the best tools for their work and data collection, then created individual training plans for each team. Thankfully, not all of the LBRA programs are going live at the same time so Lopez can prioritize and stagger trainings based on when programs are set to open, particularly in departments with multiple programs. There are between 40 to 50 program managers for the 83 programs. Right now Lopez’s trainings are in stage one, customized for the project teams with an eye to scaling up for the encompassing department or bureau. She also offers one-on-one assistance if folks need additional help.

At this initial training level, the program teams are all getting acquainted with city data tools like PowerBI, Microsoft Suite, and Canva and developing the same language for talking about data collection and presentation. All trainings are scheduled weekly for 30 minutes; some teams are doing weekly check-in meetings but the cadence varies, with some only checking-in every two to three weeks. All of the learning is experiential, since Lopez has tailored the trainings to the individual programs and trainees are able to immediately apply what they’re learning to their individual LBRA project. Trainings span data-informed work on access to COVID-19 resources to inclusive procurement to early literacy programs.  

According to Lopez, the trainings have been well received, as “everyone involved in LBRA wants to be efficient and use technology to best leverage their time and finding.” Folks are learning about automation in addition to the virtual tools, which has cascading benefits for their other work. The collected data can easily move between tools, so this streamlines the experience and makes it even easier for Lopez to collect weekly reports across all programs. Ultimately, she will be able to produce a dashboard that gives a full overview of spending for all 83 programs.

Long Beach is a city with a strong tradition of data-driven decision making and a healthy data culture. Ryan Kurtzman, Lopez’s colleague and the smart cities program manager, echoed this and pointed to the city’s i-Team and internal Data Learning Community as pillars of the data-driven work; in particular. The Data Learning Community meets every two months and features a different team from across the city to show how they’ve used data tools in their work. He has seen how this culture has permeated Long Beach, as the community expects and trusts them to make data driven decisions. “One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is how the data and tech are being brought to the community,” said Lopez “and seeing how they’ll help optimize resources to do greater good in the community.”

About the Author

Betsy Gardner

Betsy Gardner is the editor of Data-Smart City Solutions and the producer of the Data-Smart City Pod. Prior to joining the Ash Center, Betsy worked in a variety of roles in higher education, focusing on deconstructing racial and gender inequality through research, writing, and facilitation. She also researched government spending and transparency at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Betsy holds a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern University, a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Boston University, and a graduate certificate in Digital Storytelling from the Harvard Extension School.