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360 Review with Shawn Ahmadi, Socrata

Posted on November 24, 2014


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Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance reivew? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.

Katie Babits, City of Veneta, OR, kicked off our new series. Today we hear from Shawn Ahmadi, Socrata Account Executive and Washington ELGL Advisory Board member. Socrata (Twitter, and YouTube) helps public sector organizations improve transparency, citizen service, and data-driven decision-making. Learn more about Shawn and Socrata in Powering Open Data with Socrata. ELGL appreciates Shawn’s leadership on the WA Advisory Board.

Our Evaluator

Shawn Ahmadi

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Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?

One of the most fulfilling facets of working with local government has been the ability to demonstrate and see local municipalities showcase the same level of innovation as the federal and state level.

Local government personnel typically wear a number of hats in order to make the organization successful. This can be difficult especially at times when implementing change or when an asset leaves an organization that is heavily dependent on their contribution. It’s vital to have the right systems and processes in place so that the organization can be successful around the clock.

(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the….giphy (1)

  • 80’s was……. Cosby Show
  • 90’s was…… 92’ NBA Dream Team
  • 00’s was…. Besides Y2K…
  • Last year was….. Seahawks Super Bowl Victory.
  • Today is…. How fast one can accomplish something.

Your hometown? What is it best known for?

Bothell, WA – A simple lifestyle. Balanced and involved community.

Which bands would play at your retirement party?

Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews and the list goes on.

Best holiday gift that you’ve received? Given?

My first pair of basketball shoes were really special to me.

The spontaneous gifts always end up being the most special. Few years ago I surprised my fiancé with a trip to Leavenworth, WA. It has been a staple of our holiday season since.

The Evaluation

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Describe the current state of local government.

Progressive and beginning to adopt new methods in order to improve operational efficiencies. We are approaching a tipping point where smaller municipalities are finding ways to become highly effective and transparent organizations.

Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.download

  • Forecasting | This is an area where government has improved over the years. Local municipalities are utilizing technology and resources to analyze trends and better forecast for fiscal years to come. We are also starting to see local government embrace citizen self-service and access to information for example being able to order your tabs online.
  • Taxpayer first mentality | Truth is, government personnel wear a number of hats, calendars fill up, and priorities overlap. The constant reminder that citizens stand at the very top of the organizational chart and remain as the core of government service is being emphasized now more than ever.
  • Value of Talent | More and more talented professionals are pursuing the government arena as a long-term investment for their career paths. Government leaders understand the importance of recruiting and on-boarding quality talent.

Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.

  • We will do it on our own” | One area that is holding government progress back is the effort of pursuing large scale endeavors in-house before researching the landscape and seeing if there are others who can do it better, faster, and more effectively.
  • Make information easier to understand | The idea that constituents don’t engage because they don’t care is a misunderstood concept. Often time constituents don’t engage because they simply don’t understand. Make information easier to digest, track progress, and you will be surprised.

  • Deliver tangible answers | Uncertainty is created when priorities, questions, and deliverables are left unanswered. Give your constituents, business partners, vendors, etc. clear answers and expectations; it will drastically improve the dynamic of your processes.

Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.

This is a really exciting time for government innovation on all levels. It is a tipping point in the market for those who are embracing change and positioning for tomorrow. While it is hard to break old tendencies, the local public sector is beginning to see the long-term effects of not being able to scale. This is sparking questions like “can I operate more effectively?”, “what are the gaps in our organization?”, “can we track our progress and benchmark against other successful municipalities?”.

For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?

download (1)While it is hard to believe that anything good came from Great Recession, there are some underlying results that surprised us. Local government collected less taxes based on a shrinking work force, thus resulting in government entities to work more efficiently and lean in order to continue to meet the demands of the public. They had to learn ways to work smarter, leaners and more nimble to offer the same if not better level of attention and service with less resources at hand. This goes even a step further as social services actually increased because of the hit in the job market forcing municipalities to make hard decisions and explore creative ways to improve facets of their process they never really considered before.

Evaluate whether local government is prepared for the ongoing wave of retirements.

Will we ever be fully prepared? Perhaps not. Can we prepare accordingly? Yes we can. Historical data and trends can help us best assess our position for today and tomorrow.

Wave a magic wand – what three wishes would you grant local government?

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  • More consistent revenue sources
  • Easier access to data
  • Better understanding from the citizen’s perspective on local government

Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.

Because of the nature of Federal Government, it can be very difficult to move the needle and impact change. Collaboration is hard to embrace at the level. Though progress is being made for example Homeland Security serves as a bridge between multiple agencies.

The level of interaction we as citizens have with the state level occurs much more often than on the federal level. For example, we interact with TSA typically when we travel but we interact with our state agencies daily. This provides a more intimate level of service allowing state and local government to be more nimble in their approach.

What question(s) should we have asked?

These questions were great. Looking forward to digging into topics such as how to embrace innovation on the local level, what are some steps a government can take, what are others doing and how can we exchange ideas and collaborate.

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