Living Cities' staff is constantly scanning the media and field for ideas, insights, and information that is relevant to our work, and the work of our problem solving network. Here are a few articles that got us thinking this week.

Outcomes and Data

Delivering the Promise of Social Outcomes

Throughout the social sector a lot of attention is being paid to outcomes and data – big data, open data, performance data, administrative data, … but all the data in the world is meaningless without understanding and analysis. This understanding comes from performance management systems. The increase in outcomes-based contracting for public services (whether it’s in the form of Social Impact Bonds or something else) is one of the situations driving the need for performance management services. A recent report by Emma Thomkinson (Delivering the Promise of Social Outcomes: The Role of the Performance Analyst) provides an informative must read reminder of the importance of the people behind the understanding and analysis.

Recommended by: Eileen Neely, Director, Capital Innovation

Racial Equity and Inclusion

Can We Bend the Sharing Economy Toward Equity?

The sharing economy is taking off in cities across the country, reshaping how many people live – from finding housing options and travelling around metropolitan regions. In this blog, Sara Treuhaft from PolicyLink makes the case for intentionally ensuring the rapidly growing sharing economy is regulated with an equitable lens. Without intentionality, the nascent market is at risk of perpetuating the exclusion of low-income people and people of color from its growth. Living Cities also recently explored this topic through research with ITDP on the opportunities and challenges for shared mobility programs to help low-income people access jobs and essentials services.

Recommended by: Juan Sebastian Arias, Program Associate, Collective Impact

Public Sector Innovation

Calculating the Social Cost of Policymaking

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a possible presidential contender, wants more states to adopt a new measurement tool called “net present value plus” (NPV+) which is a new way to include social and environmental impacts into the overall cost of something. However, in a time when states are holding budgets tight and facing recession rebounding challenges, still, a tool that potentially provides a financial measure for social impact could provide good ammunition for policymakers.

Recommended by: Tonya Banks, Senior Administrative Associate, Capital Innovation

What Boston’s Snow Crisis Can Teach Us About Solving Problems in New Ways

Imagine that a city is facing a challenge, they don’t have the answers, and they could desperately use a fresh pair of outside eyes to come up with potential ideas to solve the problem. In Boston, there is an office specifically dedicated to doing exactly this: sourcing potential ideas from local universities, companies, citizens and leading innovators across sectors. This is the short version of what the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics was created to do, and at the moment they are hoping to make headway on the city’s rapidly accumulating mass of plowed snow. A more traditional municipal approach would be to deal with the snow the way they always do, or to launch a Request for Information process that is likely not expeditious enough to be useful in times of crisis and urgency. Boston is running out of land for plowed snow and they need creative solutions now. This approach, and more importantly, the dedicated staff responsible for facilitating the process, is one to make note of and learn from as many local governments around the country aspire toward embracing municipal innovation.

Recommended by: Tiffany Ferguson, Assistant, Public Sector Innovation


The Cost of a Decline in Unions

An Op-Ed in the New York Times argues that while unions are not without their faults, studies show that their decline may account for one third of the rise of inequality among men. This is a staggering statistic and must be considered as we tackle issues around income and wealth distribution and jobs.

Recommended by: Nadia Owusu, Assistant Director, Strategic Communications & Storytelling

Happy reading!