For the third installment of our Year of the Citizen webinar series, we sat down with National Research Center Founder & CEO Thomas Miller. Having worked in and with local governments for over 35 years, and co-authored two books on the topic, Miller is a citizen survey expert. In this webinar he shares insights into designing and conducting surveys, as well as how to use data to catalyze actionable change in local governments.
In 2015 and 2017, the planning magazine Planetizenreleased reports overviewing the results of surveys benchmarking “the use of technology in city planning departments across the United States.” The data is meant help municipalities gauge the nationwide trends of their peers and plan for how new technology will affect planning departments in the upcoming years. This infographic highlights some of the major findings in the 2017 report (based on a 2016 survey) and how they compare to the 2015 report (based on a 2014 survey). See below for the full reports and more about the authors.
The first of our Year of the Citizen webinars, Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole and New Urban Mechanics Co-founder Nigel Jacob joined us for a conversation about how to approach “customer service” in 21st century local government. Drawing on their personal experiences in the civic tech hubs Santa Monica and Boston, Cole and Jacob share their practical philosophies for how to bring innovative, customer-centric technology to local government—even those with few resources to spare. Touching on several audience questions, they also share practical strategies for viewers to start implementing in their own communities today.
With the presidential election having dominated the media this year, it’s easy to forget about the thousands of state and local election results. Here is a roundup of what happened across the nation’s states and largest cities.
CityAwake Delegates is a nine-month program that strives to mobilize and empower young adults to become valued stakeholders in the civic dialogue of Greater Boston. Why? According to City Awake, “people between [the] ages of 21 and 39 years old – are ignored and overlooked when discussing the future of Greater Boston”. In an effort to change that fact, 500 delegates were chosen from countless nominations to educate and activate themselves with the help of City Awake and The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Despite the contemporary erosion of facts, it’s impossible to run large organizations – private or public – without credible observations about what’s happening and, separately, what’s working. Performance measurement helps with both and can be as deliberate as Baldridge Key Performance Indicators or as impromptu as “How’m I doing?” made famous by once-Mayor Ed Koch’s ad hoc surveys of random New Yorkers. Metrics of success, like compass readings, keep the ships of state on course and because the enterprise is public, make the captain and crew accountable.
Leah and Brady were recent college graduates looking to live close to their families in Seattle without paying exorbitant rental prices. Calling on the craftsmanship of Leah’s father, the couple experimented with living in a tiny house and found it suited their lifestyle. Initially living on their parents’ properties in Seattle, they saved over $1,400 a month on rent. Now situated in the San Juan Islands, the couple feels they have more financial freedom to pursue their businesses and personal goals.
In 2013, Julia Gould took a summer internship with LAANE, a Los Angeles-based organization that advocates for workers’ rights. There she met Jeannine Pearce, a community organizer and former LAANE intern herself. Jeannine saw great potential in Julia, describing her as someone “who exemplified her passion and willingness to go above and beyond.”
Jeannine mentored Julia during her three months with LAANE, teaching her core fundamentals about community organizing and local government. But it was clear they were both learning from each other, and their relationship deepened through their work together. “It was really inspiring to get to work with her, because she always pushed as far as she could, she pushed us to have high standards,” says Jeannine.
They parted ways for a few years, but stayed in touch and remained friends. Flash forward to 2017, and Jeannine is now a Long Beach City Councilmember with Julia as her Legislative Deputy.
Julia and Jeannine’s relationship embodies the fluid, multi-dimensional mentoring models that have become popular with the rise of the Millennial workforce. It also shows the power of public sector mentorship to instill passion, pass on institutional knowledge, and bring new voices to the table.
Mentoring Models: New and Old
Research has long confirmed the tangible benefits of mentoring. Mentorship helps individuals develop feelings of self-determination and competence, which translate into higher career satisfaction. Organizations also see benefits like reduced turnover, improved networks, increased diversity, and identification of future leaders.
The way we think about professional mentorship has rapidly expanded in the past several years. For decades, academia saw mentoring as experienced managers helping younger employees advance through career stages.
Now, seniority and formality are making way for new kinds of mentoring models. “Reverse mentoring”, for example, is when younger people mentor their elders, often around technology or social media. Social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter have helped give rise to “micro mentoring,” the idea that you can receive mentorship from many different people without long-standing relationships.
These, among many other new models, are translating a traditional form of teaching and connecting to new generations and modern workplaces.
For Jeannine and Julia, a non-hierarchical, friendship-based approach was a natural way to build their relationship.
“Successful mentoring relationships are built on trust,” says Jeannine. “It’s not me being a director to you. It’s asking each other’s opinions, learning together, and having a little bit of friend time.”
They also both share an openness toward connecting with new people. “I think people get caught up in the idea that I need to have one mentor, ‘my guardian angel’, but people can be mentors in so many small ways,” says Julia, “Don’t be afraid to just ask someone new for coffee and listen to their life story.”
Viewing mentorship in such a fluid way has allowed them to meet new mentors and maintain existing relationships without it becoming a stressful undertaking.
“Don’t think of mentorship as another thing you have to do. You do have time for mentorship, and mentors often benefit just as much as mentees,” says Jeannine. “Mentorship is both fulfilling and an important part of self-care. You step out of the stress and demands of normal life and take time to build relationships.”
New Mentorship Models in the Public Sector
Adopting new attitudes towards mentorship is particularly important for the public sector. Facing the rapid retirement of baby boomers, governments need to grow with the millennial workforce, and mentorship is key.
According to The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 63% of Millennials say their leadership skills are not being fully developed, and those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%), than not (32%).
Through her experiences working with Jeannine, Julia has tangibly seen the development of her own skills. “Jeannine made sure that I learned the basics around community organizing, but once I did something a couple of times with her, she let me go off and try things on my own,” says Julia. “It’s scary to have that responsibility, but it’s also incredibly empowering. It told me that she respected and trusted me enough to help them in tangible ways.”
Mentorship also increases diversity in the public sector, helping bring new faces to the table. In their current roles in Long Beach’s city government, Julia and Jeannine rely on each other to maintain their confidence while working in a traditionally male-dominated arena.
“Seeing people like Jeannine be successful and push the envelope is incredibly important for me to understand my own power in the room,” says Julia.
Mentorship researchers Barry Bozeman and Mary Feeny see this increased diversity as specifically important to the public sector’s commitment to representing a diverse population. Unlike the private sector, government agencies are also much more interconnected, meaning the benefits of mentorship get reinvested back into the system.
As Jeannine’s Legislative Deputy, Julia is now mentoring other staff members who are new to local government. “I know trying new things can be intimidating for them,” says Julia. “But I just say go for it, try it out, we can talk about it together. That mentality came from Jeannine and others at LAANE, because they empowered me to try new things.”
Moving Beyond the Career Ladder
At its core, mentoring is simple. People come together to provide constructive support and learn from each other. But the modern evolution of mentorship across all sectors teaches us that the potential benefits go beyond moving “up a ladder.” The best kind of mentoring uncovers passions and encourages service.
New mentoring models also remind us that these relationships will come in all manner of forms, but the end result is the inspiration that comes from human connection.
“My work with Jeannine has instilled a lifelong passion for advocacy and community organizing,” says Julia. “Wherever I end up going, that love will be formative to my work.”
We all do things we know are not good for us. Whether it’s taking a second helping of dessert or staying up an hour later to watch a favorite TV show.
Yet, there are few things as pervasive in modern life as our addiction to email. A 2015 Adobe survey of 400 office workers in the U.S. found the average respondent reported using email more than 6 hours a day, checking email from the bed, car, and even the bathroom.
That may sound shocking, until you think about how that could easily be you, or several of the people you work with.
Earlier this month, I sat down with Santa Monica’s City Manager, Rick Cole, to talk about advice for public sector leaders pursuing careers in city management.
Few can parallel Cole’s breadth and depth of experience in local government. Before coming to Santa Monica, Cole joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s team as the Deputy Mayor of Budget and Innovation. He spent almost a decade as the City Manager in both Asuza and Ventura, CA. Cole also served 12 years as an elected official in Pasadena, including 4 years as Mayor. In 2006, Cole was selected as one of Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year.
Here are his words of wisdom for current or aspiring City Managers.
Last month we sat down with Riverside, California’s Chief Innovation Officer Lea Deesing and Director of Community & Economic Development Rafael Guzman to talk about their strides in customer-facing technology. With an innovative ‘ecosystem’ of online services, Riverside, CA is a nationwide leader in providing customer-centric tools and platforms for their residents and visitors. Having spent many years working in smaller communities, Deesing and Guzman also share their insights for improving customer service and technological innovation without breaking the bank.
We live in an age of customer service. From your local grocery store to e-commerce giants like Zappos, today’s businesses are acutely concentrated on the ease and personalization of their customers’ experiences.
Having long been the norm in the private sector, this emphasis on customer-centric service is quickly becoming the new standard for local governments.
You’re not alone if you feel like individuals, organizations, and even countries are constantly moving forward without learning important lessons from the past. While you and your organization are planning for the new year, don’t forget about the goldmine of data you’ll find reflecting on 2016. Use the questions and topics in this infographic to help guide your professional reflection, and your plans for the future.
For the second year in a row, members of the ViewPoint Cloud team attended the League of California Cities Annual Conference, hosted October 5-7th in sunny Long Beach, CA. They joined over 450 California cities and more than 1,600 municipal employees coming to learn about local government innovation.
This year was ViewPoint Cloud’s biggest yet at the annual ICMA Conference. Communities across the country are becoming increasingly excited about improving permitting and licensing efficiency, as well as making the process simpler for citizens.