Are you interested in learning new ways to visualize your data and share your insights? Curious about how to build dashboards or automate reports? We’ve got a class for that!
This past Thursday, the Office of Innovation held the City’s first class on data visualization with Microsoft Power BI. The full-day course trained 14 City analysts in the business intelligence tool that can take in data from many difference sources to create interactive dashboards and reports that are easy to use and share. Most of the course is hands-on, showing staff how to use Power BI to build a handful of sample dashboards using real government data. We also cover best practices in data visualization, so analysts can learn what types of charts and graphs will be best for the data they’re using.
Power BI is currently used in the City to power the Mayor’s Dashboard, as well as other departmental analyses including an in-depth dive into workforce diversity and retirement eligibility for the Department of Human Resources. The Office of Innovation also uses the tool internally to keep track of Kiva program statistics on borrowers and delinquency rates, as well as to visualize community data, such as Census statistics.
When we manage data better, we can provide more efficient, streamlined processes and improved information sharing. Visualizing data allows us to convey our thoughts easily across Departments and can help break down communication barriers and improve customer service.
As Cities have moved towards data-driven decision making, demand for employees with the ability to manipulate and display data in a clear and informative way has surged. Even basic skills in Power BI provides you with a tool that will make you an asset to your team.
If you’re interested in taking the course or learning more, please email Kate May to get signed up for a future date in summer/fall.
We hope to see you in class!
Hello! My name is Angela Rollins and I am the AmeriCorps VISTA / Assistant Program Coordinator for Kiva Rochester. Kiva Rochester is a program that works to connect local entrepreneurs to small business loans at 0% interest. Kiva’s mission is to eradicate financial exclusion, so our underwriting process looks at more than just an applicant’s financials. Instead, Kiva also looks at the applicant’s social credit – how much does their community support them and their business? What does their business contribute to the economy?
Since its launch in August 2016, Kiva has provided over $250,000 of small business loans to over 50 business owners. Fifty percent of Kiva Rochester loan recipients have been women, and over 70% have been minority owned businesses. Kiva loans are 0% interest and have no fees, meaning every Kiva loan saves the recipient an average of $1,000 in interest and fees. The goal of Kiva Rochester is to build wealth in the small business economy of Rochester and make starting your dream business achievable.
The Kiva program is operated out of the Office of Innovation and is administered by my AmeriCorps program supervisor, Amy Ventura, and two AmeriCorps members who serve as assistant program coordinators, myself and Elizabeth Ingham. AmeriCorps is a national program that places its volunteers in various anti-poverty or wealth building initiatives. My AmeriCorps program, Rochester Youth Year, uses a cohort model so that each member has great social support, and also provides many professional development opportunities. AmeriCorps is a one year commitment, and during my year I am working on succession planning so the next AmeriCorps member is well equipped to start where I leave off.
The Kiva Rochester team is partnered with over 30 local organizations working in the entrepreneurial space. We help entrepreneur’s polish up their applications and successfully fundraise for their loans. We also hold workshops and information events with our partner organization to get the word out about Kiva.
Since we are invested in the success, not just the funding, of our borrowers, we also maintain our relationships with entrepreneurs after they have received their Kiva loan. We invite Kiva Rochester borrowers to networking events, to be panelists, or to get featured in newsletters and other marketing opportunities. As borrowers near full repayment of their loan, we also connect them to other lending resources such as the City’s Business Development team, non-profit financial institutions, and commercial financial institutions.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA member I focus on making the Kiva Rochester program at City Hall sustainable and building its capacity. For example, I implement checklists and training materials to standardize our daily operations and I do outreach in the community to raise awareness about the Kiva program. I also manage our community partner relationships, our borrower data, and develop materials and processes to make the Kiva program more efficient.
In future blog posts Amy, Elizabeth, and I will begin to elaborate on the story of Kiva Rochester and highlight the businesses and people that make our work so worthwhile. We invite you to think about how you can help fight financial exclusion, whether it is through helping to crowdfund for one of our borrowers or working to expand Kiva to your city!
If you’re interested in learning more about Kiva Rochester’s 0% interest small business loans, email us at KivaRochester@CityofRochester.gov. We are always looking for new entrepreneurs interested in our loans, or community members that want to get involved!
The Office of Innovation had the pleasure of participating in the first Upstate Data Summit on June 6th at Syracuse University. The event, sponsored by Syracuse’s iSchool, the City of Syracuse, and the Center for Technology in Government, brought together more than 70 attendees from state and local government, non-profits, software companies, and management consulting firms to discuss how government can use data and technology in innovative ways to engage and inform citizens, save money, and provide a better customer experience to residents and visitors.
I gave the first presentation of the day, outlining the data strategy for the City and how we plan to overcome the challenges of decentralized data management in the coming fiscal year by developing a comprehensive City data strategy. The strategy will address issues outlined by the University of Chicago’s data and tech readiness scorecard.
By developing a comprehensive City data strategy that addresses issues such as security and classification, storage and ETL strategies, public release (i.e., an open data policy), and analytical capacity, we hope to understand where each department currently sits along the data maturity framework and create individual and citywide plans to increase the quality of data collection, storage, extraction, analysis, and communication citywide. The ultimate mission is to harness the information we already collect to better understand our customers’ needs and use our limited budget as efficiently as possible. We strive to more fully engage and inform citizens by increasing our transparency and sharing spatial and statistical analyses about the Rochester community.
Following my presentation was Kirk Mclean, Buffalo’s Director of Open Data, with his own presentation on Buffalo’s Civic Innovation Challenge hackathon, which took place between March 1st and April 22nd this year. The event tasked upstate web developers with using data from Buffalo’s Open Data Portal, combined with other public data sets, to create a useful solution to alleviate problems for Buffalo residents. The winning app, Good Neighbor, acts as a “civic directory,” helping new residents, specifically new Americans, find and use City, County, and State services and resources, such as their nearest police station, firehouse, and polling location. Buffalo can use this technology to make its community more welcoming to and inclusive of those who are far too often left out or left behind.
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh provided the keynote speech in which he described the vision of how his administration has and will continue to use data to drive decision-making focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government services while staying focused on providing the best possible customer service to citizens. Other presentations included a session by Syracuse Chief Data Officer Sam Edelstein who outlined Syracuse’s partnership with Data for Social Good to predict breaks in their water mains, as well as a presentation by Megan Sutherland of the Center for Technology in Government and John Coluccio from the City of Schenectady on their collaboration on the creation of regional database capturing information about vacant properties, other issues of blight, and an overall better tracking of property ownership around the Albany region.
The Upstate Data Summit is a valuable resource for all upstate cities to learn and share the ways we can better deliver our services to our citizens. The closing panel discussion highlighted the shared challenges all participating jurisdictions face but the common drive to use data to better understand our communities. Thanks to all the organizers and facilitators who made this event possible.
Hi everyone! I’m excited to kick off the launch of our blog. This is something we’ve been talking about doing for over a year, and we’re glad to finally get it out there. We are looking forward to using this forum to keep the community up to date about all the great work our team does. For my first post, I want to give an overview of the Office and our short history.
The Office of Innovation was launched in 2015 thanks to a generous grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. We were part of a 14 city cohort of Innovation Teams that were each tasked with solving their city’s biggest challenges. The ‘Bloomberg Approach’ asked the Mayor to define a broad priority area, and for our team to conduct research to break down the problem into contributing factors and determine which we were best positioned to impact. With this framing we then set out to develop initiatives or new programs with measurable goals. Our priority area was poverty, and we chose barriers to employment as a contributing factor to dig into. This led to our first programs and initiative which we’ll review in detail later. This methodology and logic based approach still guides our work. We have also benefited greatly from being part of the cohort and being able to share and learn from other cities. We continue to keep in touch with our sister teams in cities like Syracuse, Mobile AL, and Peoria, IL, and just caught up with them at a process improvement conference in Syracuse!
I’m incredibly proud of our current staff of eight, each of whom bring a diverse background and skill set. We are also very grateful to Mayor Warren who has made an incredible commitment to our team by fighting for continued funding for our work.
Amy, Luticha, and Brenda have been with us from the start and have each played an important role in our success. Kate and Eitan have joined us in the last year and are already making a big impact. We are very proud of Kate who was just recently promoted to Chief Performance Officer and is leading several key initiatives that will shape the future of City Hall through her expertise in government efficiency and data. Finally Angela and Elizabeth are our two AmeriCorps staff who operate our Kiva Rochester program. We’re going to sad to lose each of them at the end of the summer as their year of service comes to an end. Look for posts from each of the team coming soon!
What is ‘Innovation’ Anyway?
People often ask me how I define innovation. From our perspective, innovation is a problem solving approach. The most important rule is to not lead with a solution, as this can cloud your vision. Instead, we begin by doing everything we can to get a deep understanding of the problem. We usually start with data, analyzing census and city source data to look for trends and key insights. We also use GIS to map data and look for geographic variations and hotspots. We contextualize the data by talking to people, both those impacted by the problem and those working on the frontlines, to confront the problem. These people usually help us see the story behind the data that might not be immediately clear. We also look at the body of research on the topic, and history of efforts in other cities and in Rochester. Only once we have this foundation of knowledge do we begin to develop solutions.
When it comes time to developing solutions, it is even more important to do it in partnership with the people impacted by the problem or working in its environment. They are the ones who live and breathe the problem every day, and often have very simple ideas from years of experience that can have a huge impact. Whenever possible, we seek to empower them to develop their own solutions and help guide them through the process with a facilitated framework. This is how truly impactful, authentic innovation and problem solving takes place. This is how people are given ownership over the innovations that affect them and the successes that follow.
As I mentioned, our first few years of work have been focused on strategies to tackle poverty, and more specifically, barriers to employment and economic mobility. Systemic poverty is an issue encountered by every city, and the challenge is perhaps no greater anywhere than it is in Rochester, where child poverty and overall poverty rates are among the severest in the nation. Fortunately, our community is rallying around the issue and has formed an unprecedented coalition of all levels of local government, service providers, academia, and the business community, organized under the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI). We helped support the early design and implementation of some of RMAPI’s earliest initiatives, and we continue to provide ongoing data analysis and program evaluation support. Our RMAPI partners have been critical to achieving our shared goals.
One important early contribution was a data driven analysis that helped select the initial target area in which RMAPI would pilot its initial programs. Our analysis selected the Marketview Heights, Beechwood, and EMMA neighborhoods because they had many challenges but also many existing resources and services in close proximity. We next helped conduct a large scale door-to-door survey within these neighborhoods, which collected a statistically significant sample size of responses on questions regarding access to services and barriers to employment. Combined with prior analysis, this data helped confirm transportation and physical proximity to jobs, childcare, criminal records, skills and education, and access to resources as our biggest barriers to employment and economic mobility in Rochester.
In the area of transportation we have done our most work, partnering with RGRTA to develop a commuter vanpool program and supporting the Department of Environmental Services launch of Rochester’s very popular bikeshare system. Both were built with equity and access in mind. In the next year we will launch a carshare system with these same goals. I’ll ask Brenda to provide a post to give you all the details.
We have sought to create jobs in our low income neighborhoods through the Kiva Rochester and Own Rochester (formerly Market Driven Community Cooperatives) initiatives, which each support small and startup businesses with an emphasis on building wealth through business ownership. Kiva does so by supporting entrepreneurs who may lack access to capital to start or grow their business. OWN Rochester does so by launching and incubating worker owned coop companies in partnership with some of our areas largest medical and academic institutions. More on Kiva from Amy and her team soon, and I’ll follow up on OWN Rochester.
We also dug into barriers to economic mobility. We researched and authored a report in 2017, Wage Disparities in Monroe County, which helped highlight our racial disparities in pay in particular industries, and our top employment areas where people aren’t making a living wage. We are working to ensure our jobs are providing people with the stability to provide for their family and advance themselves towards a better future. More from Luticha on the report and our next steps on wage advocacy soon.
Our team is also part of the project team that helped design and launch the Bridges to Success and Family Independence Initiatives, commonly referred to as RMAPI’s ‘Adult Mentoring’ programs. We have worked closely with staff from Catholic Family Center, Action for a Better Community, and Community Place of Greater Rochester, in addition to academic partners from Notre Dame and RIT. Our team specifically helped design the program around a rigorous evaluation that will document impact and positon the program for more sustainable funding streams. We also helped deploy a large door-to-door recruitment effort in partnership with our Flower City AmeriCorps program. We’re excited that the program is now fully enrolled, and I’ll write back with more fun details later.
In 2017 Mayor Warren asked our team to begin to shift the focus of our work towards internal consulting projects with our City Hall departments. Under Kate’s leadership, we launched the Mayor’s dashboard which displays key operational indicators from across our departments in real time. Next we are working to build a performance management framework around the data to help our senior managers increase their impact and coordination. Kate has also helped train our team to provide process improvement consulting to support our internal departments, and we are in the middle of our first few engagements. I’ll let Kate tell you more about this work in her first post!
Again, we plan to provide a detailed blog post on each of our programs very soon, and we hope you will check back and keep up with us! For now, I’ll leave you with a (mostly) comprehensive listing of our major initiatives and programs, past and present.
Our team has led or played a key role in the development of the following programs/initiatives:
Currently our team is developing the following upcoming programs/initiatives: