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  • Writer's pictureTeam Redman

Tips for creating meaningful measures for local government

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Defining measurable outcomes is a complex activity and the pressure to get it right amidst increased community interest in environmental, social, and governance issues is growing.

In our latest Insights Report, IPR and Technology, we interviewed 20 NSW councils to understand their IPR frustrations and uncover emerging best practices in terms of process, systems and technology. When it came to gathering and analysing data for IPR, 78% said creating meaningful measures for internal and external stakeholders was their biggest challenge.

Councils have been encouraged to use the United Nations Social Development Goals as measures, but localising them and making them specific enough to be meaningful for local government is a challenge. Further, Council’s level of control or influence over affecting change can vary.

Additionally, measures aimed at achieving community objectives may focus on something other than day-to-day business operations, and this lack of meaning for internal stakeholders can deter engagement. For example, waste management staff may be more focused on operational issues such as the number of people on the trucks and missed waste calls rather than on the exact weight of waste picked up or waste diverted into recycling, which may be of greater concern to the community.

"No one likes community backlash, so to avoid that, we make the measures fluffy so we can say we did more than we did. Rather than committing to doing something really specific, we report that we just did something general.” - NSW IPR Practitioner

To enhance the quality of measures and manage conflicting needs, councils should work collaboratively with subject matter experts, external reporting bodies, internal stakeholders, and community members to establish a structured process for defining and prioritising measures. Councils that develop a framework for measuring outcomes that considers both community and business objectives will have a more comprehensive set of specific, locally relevant, and strategically sound measures that cater to the needs of all stakeholders.

Best Practice Tips for creating meaningful measures for internal and external stakeholders

Develop clear and specific measures based on stakeholder needs
  • Know your audience and their “why” for consuming the data you’re measuring.

  • Define the measures that can be controlled or influenced by council actions.

  • Develop clear, specific measures that reflect the council's goals in relation to the community goals.

Focus on operational outcomes
  • Focus on operational outcomes that reflect the day-to-day activities of the council so measures are relevant to staff.

  • Don’t be afraid to track adverse outcomes, even if just internally. While these can be politically challenging, they can be critical for driving impact.

Understand performance trends
  • Ensure systems support the visualisation of measures that need to be tracked and compared over time.

  • Incorporate this data into continuous improvement efforts to support more evidence-based decision-making and efficient allocation of resources.

  • Use individual or group benchmarking to observe, analyse, and report on performance over a specific period.

Uncover all the insights in the latest report - IPR and Technology.

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