City Heroes: Celebrating Data and Analytics Innovators 

August 8, 2023 - (9 min read)

In cities, towns and villages across the nation, there are unsung heroes who are leveraging the power of data and analytics to drive positive change and improve the lives of their residents. These individuals and teams are at the forefront of innovation, using technology and insights to make their cities more equitable, efficient, and responsive. In this article, we highlight six remarkable heroes and their groundbreaking work in the field of data and analytics, which have been inspiring to us on the Digital Team at Delivery Associates.  

City of South Bend, IN – Denise Reidl, Chief Innovation Officer 

Denise Reidl, South Bend’s Chief Innovation Officer, has spearheaded several transformative projects that are revolutionizing how the city delivers services and engages with its residents. One notable initiative is the Service Requests project, which introduced a Service Level Request dashboard. This dashboard allows the city to assess the equitable distribution of services across neighborhoods, monitor departmental performance, and identify areas that require additional support and strategic interventions. By leveraging data and analytics, the City of South Bend can now proactively address problem areas and foster productive problem-solving conversations. 

Denise’s team also developed a new reporting and dashboard system for the City’s Utility Assistance Program (UAP), which included important data integrations. This initiative provides valuable data to improve the assistance program, monitor utility instability and evaluate program outcomes. By analyzing this data, Denise and her team can identify opportunities to enhance the UAP program and ensure that residents receive the support they need. 

Another groundbreaking project led by Denise’s team focuses on the Solid Waste department. Through comprehensive data analysis, they have identified trends and evaluated department performance. These insights enable the City to understand which neighborhoods require additional waste management support and ensure that all areas receive the services they need. Data for this project was cleaned, aggregated, filtered, and enriched to ensure quality and compatibility for analysis – not an easy feat!   

Lastly, Denise and her team are analyzing city surveys to gain actionable insights into residents’ perspectives and experiences. By understanding commonalities among residents, such as themes amongst city enthusiasts or detractors, South Bend can identify areas for improvement and enhance residents’ overall experience. 

City of Fort Worth, TX – David Cooke, City Manager 

City Manager David Cooke & Team, working in the City of Fort Worth, Texas, are playing a lead role in building the best budgeting and researching department in the nation. The vision blends the first phases of priority-based budgeting using software provider ResourceX, data analytics and organizational and departmental strategic plans. The new department is called FWLab 

Going forward, Fort Worth’s team in data analytics will allow the City to optimize resource allocation, identify areas for improvement and measure the impact of its budgeting decisions. In addition, establishing a data governance model and roll out of data analytics tools will transform what was once-siloed departments into a connected system that enables data-driven decision-making and improves operational efficiency. 

By leveraging data-driven insights through routine convenings, and narrating stories around data, Fort Worth continues to enhance its budgeting practices; and the teams’ efforts have focused on aligning budget allocations with community needs and desired outcomes. By analyzing data and understanding the impact of various programs and initiatives, the City of Fort Worth can make informed decisions that prioritize the well-being of its residents. To follow more about the Fort Worth Lab at center of the work, look to the City of Fort Worth website.

City of San José, CA – Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager 

Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager for San José, a city known for its commitment to progress and innovation, understands the vital importance of robust infrastructure. Kip has spearheaded the development of a strategic roadmap to address the city’s infrastructure challenges. San José’s infrastructure confronts four concurrent challenges. Firstly, aging infrastructure requires rehabilitation to continue providing essential public services. Secondly, with an estimated additional 280,000 residents by 2035, accommodating growth is imperative. Thirdly, in response to climate change, San José aims to reduce carbon emissions and transition to sustainable energy sources. Lastly, the city must adapt to climate change impacts, including droughts, wildfires, changing weather patterns, and rising sea levels. 

Harkness and his team have aligned their efforts with the Mayor’s Budget Message and developed a City Infrastructure Strategy. This strategy focuses on a select number of initiatives that promise the greatest impact and return on investment. 

Key Success Factors: 

Implementing the City Infrastructure Strategy relies on three crucial factors. Firstly, addressing historical disparities and inequities is a priority, ensuring that all areas benefit from the infrastructure investments. Secondly, identifying and leveraging diverse funding sources at local, state and federal levels is essential for realizing the strategy’s goals. Lastly, building a competent and dedicated team is necessary to execute the roadmap effectively. 

San José is now poised to tackle the challenges it faces in infrastructure development. By embracing rehabilitation, accommodating growth, mitigating climate change, and adapting to its impacts, the city is working towards a more sustainable and resilient future. The City Infrastructure Strategy, with its emphasis on equity, funding, and a strong team, ensures that San José can achieve its infrastructure goals. Kip Harkness’s visionary and strategic leadership paves the way for San José to become a model city that excels in strategic infrastructure planning. With its strategic roadmap, San Jose is laying the foundation for a thriving and sustainable future. 

City of Knoxville, TN – Carter Hall, Policy Innovation Manager  

Carter Hall, the Policy Innovation Manager for the City of Knoxville, has led a remarkable endeavor that exemplifies the power of data-driven decision-making and collaborative partnerships. In the pursuit of addressing the issue of evictions, Carter and the City of Knoxville have demonstrated skills in relationship building and data analysis. 

The first key learning from Carter’s inspiring work is the importance of building strong partnerships. By fostering open lines of communication and trust with key stakeholders, Carter and the City of Knoxville have established meaningful relationships that have propelled efforts forward. These partnerships have enabled them to tackle the issue of evictions head-on and drive positive change in their community. 

Carter’s team also emphasized the critical role of data in informed decision-making. By diligently studying and analyzing eviction-related data, they gained a deep understanding of the problem’s root causes and identified areas requiring intervention. Armed with this knowledge, they implemented targeted strategies and interventions that address the core issues contributing to evictions. 

Leveraging data systems, Carter and his team streamlined their efforts. By harnessing automation, data analytics and real-time insights, they made informed decisions, optimized processes and amplified their impact. Technology became a powerful tool in driving transformation and facilitating positive change in the City of Knoxville, but more importantly, it was the people and how they used it that resulted in a transformation. 

To ensure sustainable progress, Carter and his team established a robust engine of routines. By building sustainable practices and fostering a culture of proactive action and accountability, they have created an environment where their efforts to achieve ‘zero evictions’ are ongoing, sustainable and making a lasting impact. 

City of Scranton, PA – Dr. Rachna Saxena, Public Health Coordinator  

Dr. Rachna Saxena, the Public Health Coordinator for the City of Scranton, has been instrumental in leveraging data analytics and dashboarding to combat public health crises effectively. With a focus on data-driven routines and decision-making, Dr. Saxena and her team have implemented innovative solutions that have improved the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Their flagship project, the City of Scranton Dashboard, integrates over 50 data sources through APIs and offers a range of features, including weekly reporting emails, drill-down capabilities, downloadable reports, alerts and a public interface. This comprehensive dashboard provides relevant stakeholders with real-time updates on COVID-19 data and supports routines to combat the pandemic. By saving approximately 25% of data analytics time, the City of Scranton Dashboard enables the team to divert resources to developing insights that inform decision-making and improve public health outcomes. 

Dr. Saxena’s efforts have contributed to establishing Scranton as a national leader in public health data analytics. The City’s commitment to data-driven routines and effective use of technology has been instrumental in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring the well-being of its residents. 

City of Longmont, CO – Jenny Diaz-Leon, Community Coordinator at the Division of Children, Youth, and Families 

Jenny Diaz-Leon is a Community Coordinator for the City of Longmont’s Division of Children, Youth, and Families. In her role, she is a powerful force for increasing access to early childhood education (ECE) in the City and surrounding community. Early childhood education is a top priority of the City of Longmont’s City Council and staff. The City Council and staff aim to be leaders in this space by providing 100% of families within the City, who have children under the age of 5, with access to appropriate, affordable, and high-quality care and education.

Jenny’s strengths of promoting inclusion, centering equity, and building relationships with partners were critical to this effort. She was able to bring different stakeholders to the table to really understand the barriers to ECE that families face and potential solutions to provide more quality education to the youngest residents. This was a crucial step in the process of co-creating the future of ECE in Longmont.

Once the barriers to ECE were identified, Jenny and her team built a dashboard using eight different data sources that can evaluate the City’s strategies in reducing these barriers, monitor the gap between number of spots in quality ECE and the number of residents, inform funding decisions, and predict future trends. The team also developed a map that identifies ECE care deserts across the community that can be used to allocate resources and investments. With these data driven tools, the City is well prepared to make decisions that are backed by insights and analytics on policies, programs, and strategies to increase ECE access.

About the Author:

Al Hleileh is Head of Digital and a member of the Executive Leadership Team at Delivery Associates.  

About the Authors