Inside the Certification: City of San Diego, California

Posted on March 27, 2018

In this series, we highlight the inaugural group of nine cities to achieve What Works Cities Certification and the five cities selected for the Certification Honor Roll. As part of being awarded the certificatio, each city received an ELGL all-in membership. What Works Cities Certification recognizes and celebrates local governments that are leading the nation in the use of data and evidence to increase government effectiveness and improve services for residents.
At #ELGL18, What Works Cities will offer a half day session on how your organization can use data to drive innovation.

Previously, Las Vegas and Topeka shared how they landed on the Certification Honor Roll. This week, Samantha Brumit, Program Coordinator – Performance & Analytics, highlights how the City of San Diego landed a Silver level certification.

Mt. Rushmore

Government buzzwords

  1. Efficiency
  2. Accountability
  3. Transparency
  4. Smart City


  1. Get It Done
  2. Open sourced open data
  3. Streets SD
  4. Utility undergrounding site

Office pet peeves

  1. Cubicles
  2. Loud telephone calls
  3. Elevators
  4. Meetings


  1. Kung Fu Panda
  2. Black Panther
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Iron Man

Spring break destinations

  1. Mission Beach/San Diego
  2. Pacific Beach/San Diego
  3. Rosarito, Mexico
  4. San Diego-based Cruise Ship

Q & A

(Complete this sentence) Our city participated in What Works Cities certification because…
We participated in the the What Works Certification process because we were looking for a way to not only recognize our city departments for the innovative work they are doing, but also to see how we compare against other cities across the country. Additionally, we were drawn to the rigorous nature of the certification process and felt it was a great way to assess ourselves across several dimensions of innovative practices in local government.
What are three specific ways residents benefit from the city’s use of data?

  • City departments are using data to improve how they operate and deliver services
  • Putting data online saves residents from having to spend time making Public Records Act requests
  • By publishing data in a machine-readable format and updating the data automatically, the data can power apps that the local civic tech community wants to develop and tools that the City is using to communicate better with residents, such as

How is the city ensuring that using data improves services across a broad section of the community?
The data we publish covers many City departments delivering services across the community, such as parks, street repair, parking, water quality, building permits, public art, and campaign contributions.
For those cities considering What Works Cities’ certification, give them three tips for addressing certification requirements.

  1. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good–Don’t hesitate to share the work you are doing in a specific area, even if it’s an area of work that is fairly new to your city or something that has just been launched.
  2. Get all the team players involved– engage with your purchasing experts, policy staff, IT, data folks, and executives throughout the process to help gather all of the information that is needed
  3. Have a sponsor/champion – Find someone within your organization that has the ability to bring together all of the previously mentioned groups and who is passionate about the innovative work that is going on in your city and can be an advocate for your City’s efforts.

How will the city build on the success of the certification? How do you ensure it becomes ingrained in the city’s culture? Specific initiatives?
In the spirit of a continuous improvement mindset, we plan to take our results from the certification process and focus in on key areas by developing strategies around how we can make improvements in the future. Shifting the city’s culture takes time; however initiatives like our Operational Excellence (OpEx) Academy provide the framework and tools for employees to take a process-improvement approach to their work and to find efficiencies in their areas of expertise.
What’s one question that you’d ask the other cities who achieved certification?
What’s next? What will you do different, and what have you learned through this process?
What question(s) should we have asked you? What’s the answer?
Question : What’s your spirit animal?
Answer: Panda (Performance and Analytics)
Question: What was your biggest takeaway from the certification process?
Answer: That all cities in this space are still learning, and that figuring out “what works” best for your city may result in an approach that is not necessarily something that has ever been done before OR something that would work for another city. It’s all part of the process and is something cities shouldn’t shy away from. As cities begin to take on more of a “fail fast” approach, these types of takeaways are extremely important and help support citywide culture shifts towards cultures that are more data-driven and flexible.

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