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Advanced Practice 4: Communities Governing For Results

Citizens Drive the City Budget and Neighborhood Actions for Results that Matter

The District of Columbia's city government uses a neighborhood-based performance management approach to governance that is driven by citizens to achieve results that matter. Citizen influence begins early with bi-annual large scale citywide Citizen Summits facilitated by the nonprofit AmericaSpeaks, where community goals and priorities are identified. The District has also held one Youth Summit. The Citizen Summits have been used to update citywide strategic priorities as well as advance other community governance processes. Between the summits, the District engages citizens in developing Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans (SNAPS), which are improvement plans for small clusters of neighborhoods, and assigns staff teams to enforce codes and solve persistent problems to keep neighborhoods steadily improving.

How Washington, D.C. Governs for Results

Citizen Summits begin and end the District's strategic management cycle every two years. District staff interprets citizen comments from the summits and hold follow-up meetings with smaller representative groups to ensure citizen priorities are accurately articulated. The citizen summits influence the city's strategic plan and annual performance-based budget, which drives resources and thus guides overall department performance targets. On a more constant basis between the summits, citizens are engaged in improving their own neighborhoods, including development of Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans (SNAPS). Department initiatives to help implement the SNAPS are included in agency scorecards, which the mayor uses to monitor and rate the performance of agency executives. This provides a performance feedback loop to hold departments accountable for meeting their commitments. Citizen influence flows through the District's governance process at the citywide level with the formation of goals and priorities in the citizen summits, which have led to major budget shifts and agency targets that match citizen priorities, and at the neighborhood level through the SNAPs. Residents can track the implementation of SNAP initiatives. The District goes further by learning and changing, making improvements to the process such as creating new forms of engagement and governance for youth with a Youth Summit and the D.C. Youth Advisory Council.

Citizen Roles in Community Improvement

Consistent with Advanced Practice 4, Washington D.C. shows robust engagement of citizens in many roles beginning early and continuing throughout the process. From the start, citizens play issue-framing roles as foundation builders by establishing strategic priorities and goals through citizen summits. These summits are facilitated by AmericaSpeaks whose method combines the benefits of reasoned, respectful discourse and listening that works best in small groups, with the inclusiveness and representativeness possible in large groups. To do this, AmericaSpeaks uses wireless technology along with trained facilitators and content analysts who help give every participant a voice. About 3,000 people have attended each of the one-day Citizen Summit events. District staff review Summit results carefully, and feedback their interpretation to smaller representative groups of citizens to test whether staff "heard" citizens at the summit correctly, strengthening citizens' roles of issue framer. Staff then make adjustments in findings based on this further feedback. Additionally, citizens who participate in SNAP planning sessions often start out as stakeholders, then act as advocates for their neighborhoods or groups, and finally move into collaborator roles by working with each other to develop the improvement plans. Citizens also have an opportunity to act as evaluators of SNAP implementation by tracking the progress of those initiatives and advocating for more progress where they feel it is needed.

Additional Community Improvement Themes

D.C.'s performance based budget and scorecards contribute to the District's use of performance feedback in decision-making processes. The budget and scorecards are also examples of how the district has systemically linked results to resources and accountability. For example, D.C. has shifted millions of dollars in budget allocations so resource commitments better align with citizen priorities. Scorecards ensure district departments are held accountable, through electronic reporting, to neighborhood residents and the mayor, for performing their committed actions in the SNAPS. The District also uses collaborations in their governance strategy. Staff of the Neighborhood Service Initiative, which addresses issues such as quality-of-life problems, often forge collaborations across agencies and among agencies, citizens, and private organizations to solve problems that can fall between the cracks of bureaucracy.

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