Thursday, October 11, 2012

Priority Based Budgeting - Local Government's version of BIG DATA?

We're just back from a week of life-changing, wildly beyond-belief events that were collectively referred to as the ICMA Conference. Gratitude doesn't begin to encompass what we're feeling.

At the closing of his key-note address, Jim Collins urged us all to "be useful." To be part of the launch of ICMA's Center for Management Strategies, to see Priority Based Budgeting declared a Leading Practice, to see our own community's practitioners (from Fort Collins, Wheat Ridge, Walnut Creek, Cincinnati, Blue Ash, Post Falls, Boulder, Chandler and others) being recognized for their achievements and what they've been able to do with PBB to make significant and lasting cultural changes in their communities...well, what we're feeling is that we're part of something bigger than ourselves - we're partners in something truly "useful!" Wow...

Among the many reflections, however, one of the most unusual and yet eye-opening was a comment that what is making this work so "useful," is the possibility that Priority Based Budgeting might be local government's version of BIG DATA.

New to the term, we looked it up: BIG DATA - a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools. The challenges include capture, curation, storage,[4] search, sharing, analysis,[5] and visualization. The trend to larger data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to "spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, link legal citations, combat crime, and determine real-time roadway traffic conditions."

(And for further interest, here's a podcast from the Harvard Business Review:

What a possibility!


In our work, our communities are showing us how the PBB model is unlocking previously undiscovered answers to questions they've been asking for a long-time:

•        What is the local government uniquely qualified to provide, for the maximum benefit to citizens for the tax dollars they pay?
•        What is the community truly mandated to provide? What does it cost to fulfill those mandates?
•        What are the appropriate programs to consider establishing or increasing user-fees?
•        What are the appropriate programs to consider partnerships with other community service providers?
•        What services might the local government reach consensus about “getting out of the business” of providing?
•        Where are there apparent overlaps and redundancies in a community where several entities are providing similar services?
•        Where is the local government potentially competing against businesses in its own community?

We chose "a Unique Lens" as the tagline for our non-profit for exactly this reason - our communities are seeing things we haven't seen before, as if they had a new tool with which to see their world. Our entire September 2012 PM Magazine article struck the same note: "Challenges facing local governments today literally requires a new way to see. It’s as if our vision has been blurred by the extraordinary stress of managing in this complex economic environment. Whether attempting to rebuild in a post-recession climate, or persevering through another year of stagnating or declining revenues, the challenge remains: how to allocate scarce resources to achieve our community’s highest priorities. Through the new lens of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting, which provides powerful insights, local governments are making significant breakthroughs.”

Is this BIG DATA in play?

We don't know, but we're excited. Thanks to Walnut Creek's Lorie Tinfow for your never-ending insights into what you're seeing form our work together. Leave it to the Stanford grad to bring BIG DATA into the conversation - as it's been from the first day we met you, you have changed us forever, again!

The new lens of priority-based budgeting makes it possible for elected officials, citizens, decision-makers and staff to agree and:
•        To see how to align scarce resources with the highest priorities of our communities.
•        To see the most appropriate service provider for the programs we offer.
•        To see what services residents are willing to pay for.
•        To see public and private-sector partnerships ripe for leveraging.                                                                    
•        To ultimately see a new way of determining which  services our local government is best suited to provide—services that have the greatest impact for the resources within the community’s means.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tonight in Cincinnati! Citizens Invited To Continue the Conversation On Priority-Driven Budgeting Initiative

The City's Office of Budget & Evaluation is using data gathered from the Priority-Driven Budgeting initiative to analyze programs and services for cost savings, revenue enhancements and budget reductions.

Departments are identifying programs and services which can be divested, provided with other departments or outside partners, provided at lower levels of service and cost, and/or be provided with increased revenues or fees.

City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. will use these data and analysis in conjunction with policy direction from City Council to form his recommended budget, which he will submit to the Mayor and City Council in mid-November.

Additionally, citizens may comment on the City Manager's Recommended Budget during the Budget & Finance Committee's public meetings later this year.