Turning 311 into a tool for communicating with residents

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Name: Johnny Strada

Title: Senior Data Analyst

City: Mobile, Ala.

Like many U.S. cities, Mobile has had a 311 line for residents to report potholes or missed trash pickups for years. But the city has never gathered much data from the system or used it to actually improve service delivery. Johnny Strada, with the city’s innovation team, is working to change that.

New analytic tools he helped roll out in October give managers their first really good view into what requests residents are making over 311 and lets them drill down into questions like how long it takes different units to respond to them. The intelligence not only helps city leaders manage better, Strada said, but is also a listening tool for understanding what’s on residents’ minds.

In addition, the new system is improving how the municipality communicates back to residents what they can expect in terms of service. In the past, if you called in to report, say, a burned out street light, you’d be given an estimate for how long it will take that was little more than guesswork. Now, those estimates are based on hard data of how long these requests actually take.

“It allows us to reevaluate that throughout the year, to make sure the information being provided to citizens is still accurate,” Strada said. “It helps set expectations with citizens that the city actually is going to do something about their requests.”

Pro tip: “Don’t put the needs of people inside City Hall ahead of the people whom you are serving on the outside.”

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Celebrating public sector progress and innovation in cities around the world. Run by @BloombergDotOrg’s Government Innovation program. bloombergcities.org

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