Valley Benchmark Cities 2018-19 Trend Report

Check out the latest Valley Benchmark Cities Trends Report!

ARTICLE | May 1, 2020

Has your staff attempted benchmarking in the past but found themselves comparing apples to oranges in an ultimately fruitless effort? While you’re not alone, the Valley Benchmark Cities has created a collaborative network of 11 cities in the Phoenix metro area whose purpose is improving local government performance in Arizona.

 

Since the group's formation in 2011, the cities have worked collaboratively to identify and share resources, best practices, and common information with the goal of improving complex and diverse citywide operations. The 11 participating cities are Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Tempe.

The Valley Benchmark Cities initiative publishes an annual report to share 24 Valley-wide measures with city leadership and the public.

Download the Report

The annual report includes measures in the following service categories:

  • Demographics
  • Fire Services
  • Police Services
  • Library Services
  • Parks and Recreation Services
  • Water, Sewer, and Trash Services
  • Finance and Administration Services.

 

The Process

Once a month, representatives from each member city convene to discuss data collection, new and existing service metrics, and general trends from a local and regional perspective. Administrative and operational support is provided to the group through a partnership with Arizona State University’s Center for Urban Innovation and the Alliance for Innovation.

During the FY 2018-19 year, the group performed deep dives exploring how to incorporate sustainability, human services, residential development permits, and pavement conditions into the annual report.  Although deep dives are often championed by one or two representatives, the entire group contributes constructive feedback and direction. During a deep dive, the group looks toward ICMA’s Open Access Benchmarking Indicators for inspiration and then expands upon those metrics to fit the needs of the group. Subject matter experts are often invited to provide insights on the usefulness of a measure and its data collection feasibility. Once the measure has been clearly defined and the data have been properly uploaded, the deep dive is presented at an annual meeting to decide whether to incorporate the new measure into the report.

 

Benefits, Recommendations, Challenges

From "The Venture to Valley Benchmark Cities", four Valley Benchmark City members discuss how this group has benefitted their organization:
 
Benefits-
  • Establish a culture of collaboration, partnership, learning, and improvement
  • Lends credibility to processes that have been designed in city organizations
  • Working with other cities establishes differences and similarities in city functioning, and understanding as to why there are differences
  • Comparing data helps etablish common ground when cities measure things differently
  • Helps to educate departments and divisions on operations, direction, and improvements
  • Introduces new ways to solve problems or address new issues operationally, and justify changes or pursuit of new resources
  • Data allows for greater understanding of influences on the measures, and provides context to answer difficult questions
  • Helps answer the "why questions" and respond to council when asked "how other communities do this/that?"
 
Recommendations-
  • Focus on the why: Improve the services we provide, ones that all members want for their communities.
  • Collaborate  with organizations and get buy in, ensuring members believe in improving local government services
  • Get groups together for the basic purpose of exploring what you do and understanding data
  • Need a strong, early committment, enthusiastic core group, and a champion
  • Reasonable and achievable goals keep the effort alive 
  • Patience, and understanding, it will take time to get deep dives off the ground
  • Keep and open mind, and view neighbors as teammates not competitors
  • Ask: How will the data be used? When can we share the data? What is the purpose? What are we going to measure?
 
Challenges-
  • Building trust due to concern over how information is used, and if it will be misinterpreted
  • Getting newcomers up to speed on origin of the group; answering FAQ helps right away
  • The groups work better when consistent people are involved
 

 

 

 

 

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