What goes into a successful case study?

ARTICLE | Sep 2, 2016

Have you been thinking about submitting a case study or two for the Alliance's 2017 Transforming Local Government Conference but just don't know where to start? Are you thinking of submitting another project, idea, or challenge you overcame, but not sure where to start? We're here to help. While this is not meant to be a strict guide, this article will provide some things we have learned over the years from reviewing thousands of case study applications. 

Getting Started - Picking Your Program or Project

It is best to select projects that represent a level of uniqueness. It is imperative that a project demonstrate results, financial or otherwise that show the project to be a success. A key weakness of a good submittal is it tells a good story but does not share the results ‐ which is like a joke with no punch line. So with the case study submittal period for TLG 2017 case studies extended until September 14, we wanted to provide you with some things we have learned over the years to help you select the best projects, programs, or ideas and present them in a way that is engaging, illustrative, and will translate to a live presentation.

Click here to read more about this year’s TLG case study application process. Download the case study application here and submit it Ryan Spillers at rspillers@transformgov.org by September 14, 2016.

Remember when you are selecting your project ask yourself, “What are our innovative ideas that standout in the national/international marketplace?”

Selecting a Project to Submit ‐ Key Points

Select existing projects in place that represent a level of uniqueness, even if it is just unique to your organization. But make sure to explain WHAT makes it unique! Beyond that, sharing stories about unusual and authentic ways your organization has connected to the public or even to other staff, ways that you have reduced costs without decreasing services, interesting multi-disciplinary collaboration or regional solutions to significant challenges, new ways of using technology, and many more! But above ALL ELSE, you should select a project (or projects, since you can submit more than one case study) that is innovative (after all, that is the category for this year's case studies!). Of course, innovation does not mean the same thing to every organization, so don’t be stifled just because you know of another organization that has done something similar to you – often times, it is how you did it, whether that is with less resources, different results, or a number of other reasons. Innovation is not a static concept and is not reserved for a select few organizations! Be confident, but honest with yourself when analyzing whether your program or project is innovative. And finally, replicability is something that often goes a long way. Were you able to create an innovative process and outline how another organization can replicate your innovation in their own community? Let us know!

Making Your Application Stand Out

Ideal submissions tell a story and are written in such a way as to capture the attention of the reader. It is a good idea to incorporate visuals within the submittal that accent the story, but not so many visuals that they distract the reader.

For TLG, though, just as important is how you describe how you present your idea if your case study is selected. TLG isn’t your run of the mill conference – we thrive off of engagement, excitement, and experimentation. Your case study should explain how you will be able to harness the energy of the project into a presentation for a national audience.

Some Final Key Points

  • Tell your story thoroughly
  • What was the problem
  • How did you approach it – what was the methodology used to solve the problem
  • What makes it innovative
  • Who was involved and why
  • What did you actually do
  • What were the results of that work
  • How can others learn from this (take‐aways) – what are the critical elements that others can learn from what you did
  • How can you turn this case study into an interactive, engaging presentation

TIP: include supporting material in the form of attachments to be rich and descriptive.

Click here to read more about this year’s TLG case study application process. Download the case study application here and submit it Ryan Spillers at rspillers@transformgov.org by September 14, 2016.

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