How 3 Smart Governments Share Data-Driven Stories

November 29, 2018 6:15 am PST | Data as a Service

People care about the nuts-and-bolts work of their governments.

They want to know how cities are addressing homelessness, how they’re supporting economic development, and how they’re tracking performance.

It’s information governments are eager to share, too.

But, while the public sector has data galore, too often, it’s locked in static PDFs, or presented as a dense grid of numbers, without context on what’s happening or why it matters.

To give residents the information they crave and highlight important initiatives and programs that don’t get enough attention, smart governments become storytellers.

They compliment the stats with charts, videos, pictures, and text to produce a compelling narrative. With Socrata Perspectives, governments have access to a toolbox of communication options that give context around metrics, convey plans, and share information, while creating beautiful webpages that are readily understandable by the public.

Here are three exciting ways cities and states use Socrata Perspectives.


Sharing Resources Around Homelessness in Auburn, Washington

Mayor Nancy Backus convened a task force in 2015 to address homelessness in Auburn, which grew 20 percent in a two-year period. In January 2017, a one-night count identified more than 11,600 people without a home.

Auburn uses a Socrata Perspectives page — Homelessness in Auburn: Addressing a Regional Issue Locally — to share task force finding and recommendations, along with demographic details on the makeup of the city’s homeless population.

Homelessness in Auburn: Addressing a Regional Issue Locally
Homelessness in Auburn: Addressing a Regional Issue Locally

Along with videos, the page uses charts surrounded by text to clearly explain the scope of this complex issue. One bar chart, for instance, makes it clear that shelters are being used primarily by Auburn residents.

The page also details available resources, including a map of agencies that provide help.  


Why the Spawning Habits of Horseshoe Crabs Matter

Horseshoe Crabs play an essential role in Delaware’s economy.

The state publishes a dataset each year from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control on the horseshoe crabs’ spawning occurrence, with details on the water temperature, the abundance of crabs per beach, and ratio of male to female crabs. 

The dataset alone doesn’t show residents why they should care about the crabs and their spawning season. That’s where four interlocked stories come in, changing a dense block of numbers into a meaningful, compelling story.

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

“Why Are Horseshoe Crabs Important?” reads the title of one page.  (Answer: They’re a source of food for tourist-driving shorebirds and bait. Plus, their sensitive blood is used to test the sterility of medical equipment.)

Together, the four pages offer residents background on the species and their importance,  details from the annual survey, and information on how residents — or out-of-staters — can help with the survey.


St. Petersburg Tracks Program Performance

In St. Petersburg, Socrata Stories help the city present performance data. The city’s goal is to build a dashboard for each department, as well as dashboards for high-priority issues.

The city shares its progress on its code compliance page in reducing blight and improving quality of life in neighborhoods. There the Code Compliance Assistance Department provides details on standards, such as the appropriate height of tree branches extending into the street.

Residents can see maps of inspection zones and active cases, along with information on the most common code violations.

St. Petersburg code compliance
St. Petersburg code compliance


Effective data-driven storytelling lets governments go beyond simply making data available to the public. See how Socrata Perspectives connect the dots between policy and outcomes.

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