Having access to great local government and city benchmarking data can be helpful for internal purposes and to show residents how your city is doing compared to similar cities nearby and around the country. Below, we’ve listed five resources with some great benchmarking data—take a look.
The (ICMA) is a professional organization that’s mission is “to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build better communities.” ICMA’s Open Access Benchmarking program (previously ICMA Insights) facilitates data collection and sharing across cities and counties for 80 key indicators. These indicators have a common definition, enabling consistency and the ability to aggregate and average data from contributing organizations.
You can download the list of 80 local government metrics (plus 54 county specific metrics) that span 16 categories. ICMA also shared the most recently reported data for 2020, as reported by eight US cities.
This data is also available in the ClearPoint Local Government Measure Library.
Many states and communities have their own consortiums made up of neighboring communities for benchmarking purposes. Some are official, and others aren’t—but they can be very effective in benchmarking certain measures together.
If you’re looking to start a benchmarking group of your own, it’s helpful to talk to someone who’s been through the process. One of the biggest challenges benchmarking groups often face is creating comparable metrics and finding a good way to share information. Many start by emailing spreadsheets, which can be disastrous depending on the situation. Reporting software is a great alternative that can help you avoid the dangers of Excel.
If you’re interested, search online for an existing consortium in your area. If there isn’t one available, consider contacting your neighbors (or communities like yours around the country) to see if they’re interested in joining with you in your benchmarking efforts. You can always reach out to other groups as well to get ideas. The UNC Benchmarking and are great examples of coalitions taking on the challenge of benchmarking.
LEED for Cities and Communities (previously also known as STAR Communities) is a certification program that focuses on sustainability and quality of life in participating organizations. Their framework includes the collecting and tracking of several social, economic and environmental performance indicators. Participating communities can then share and benchmark their progress toward sustainability objectives against one another and national and global standards.
To get started, cities and communities must prove a base level of performance across eight categories and 14 metrics. Worldwide, there are nearly 200 cities and communities using this framework and over 110 are certified. If your city or community is focused on sustainability initiatives, LEED for Cities and Counties is a great resource for getting started with tracking and improving your performance.
‘You can’t improve what you don’t measure’ is the first line on MBNCanada’s About Us page. This group of 16 Canadian municipalities collects, shares and analyzes data from several service areas to enable them all to improve decision making, set policies, support budget recommendations and more. The 750 measures are split into four categories: community impact, service level, efficiency and customer service.
Each year, MBNCanada publishes a report with the data gathered from the local government organizations. The purpose of the report is to tell a story of the service areas each organization reports on. It also explains the context of how each organization measures their progress and any anomalies that might exist in the data. The report is a great resource for any local government looking to see how they compare to other cities and why their results may differ.
The measures included in MBNCanada’s annual report are also available in ClearPoint’s Local Government Measure Library.
The ClearPoint Local Government Measure Library was created to enable organizations to easily share their data in real time. With the Measure Library, data is available as it’s updated by the contributing organization. You don’t need to wait for a report to compare your results and progress. Users can explore the library, link data from other organizations to their own measures, and create custom benchmarking groups with similar organizations.
With over 75 cities and counties already sharing measures, you can find measures to begin tracking yourself. As we mentioned above, not only does the Measure Library include the measures from participating organizations, it also includes the data from ICMA’s Open Access Benchmarking and MBNCanada’s annual report.
Another powerful aspect of the Measure Library is the ability to network with leaders from high performing local governments. Each measure includes the contact information for the person responsible for it so that you can reach out, ask questions, and learn how they think about measuring their performance.
It’s no secret that municipal benchmarking is difficult—cities are all so different from one another. Even comparable municipalities often look at very different measures, track measures differently, utilize different formulas, etc. With all this in mind, it’s easy to become discouraged—but you must remember that the perfect community to compare yours to probably doesn’t exist. So when it comes to benchmarking, you can’t let perfect become the enemy of good. If you find some communities that are good enough, use them for benchmarking purposes and draw out whatever conclusions you’re able to—even if you have to take those conclusions with a grain of salt.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ClearPoint Local Government Measure Library or getting involved with the ClearPoint Community, feel free to reach out to us. We love talking benchmarking and would be delighted to connect you with similar organizations so that you can get the data you need to succeed.