Data-Smart Leaders:

By Data-Smart City Solutions • September 24, 2013

During the convening of the Urban Policy Advisory Group in August, city leaders spoke with us about how their cities are using data to improve their governance. Chris Murphy, Chief of Staff to Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington, D.C., told us about, the District's sentiment analysis initiative. came out of a desire for us in the District government to do a better job of listening to our citizens and hearing what the residents have to say about what their government is – how it’s performing, whether it’s performing well or whether it might be letting them down. We came across an innovative program run by a District-based company called newBrandAnalytics. And what they do is they mine social media – Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, Tumblr – to basically be out on the web all the time, 24/7, listening to what our residents are saying about the District government. And feeding that information back to District government employees so that they can either make the changes that are asked for or respond to requests for services. But it’s giving us a chance to really hear what our residents are saying and how we need to respond to that.

What newBrandAnalytics does for us is it takes this information that’s coming in on social media and converts it into a grade. And that grade is publicly posted on our website. We update it every month. So every month now, the fifteen agencies that are part of the program, they get a grade. And what we found is that agencies are really responsive to what their grade is. Not surprisingly we have competitive people in these positions, the directors of these agencies, they want to get an A. So they work at it. When we started the program, the average grade across the government was a C-minus. Now a year into it, we just hit our first month where the average grade for all the agencies participating in the program is an A. And that’s because our agencies, I think, have done a better job of listening to people, responding to feedback, answering our residents’ questions, and just generally being more responsive on social media.

I think the more cities find out about it, the more intrigued they are, and the more they realize that listening to their residents on social media is increasingly becoming something you have to do, not just something you might want to do.

Look for more from this interview coming soon!