The Problem: Government data does not measure what matters to most citizens so decisions and policies are based on bad data and misleading information.
The Bigger Mess: Bad measures mean agencies are rewarded for meaningless results that generally lead to more procedures, regulations, paperwork, reports and staff. When a government agency measures number of grants awarded, we have no way to connect dollars awarded and results received. When a government office measures number of phone calls answered, we get a false sense of services provided to the American public.
Sometimes the measurement problem is we have no data at all:
- How many men of color and how many white men are killed by police officers every year?
- How many lives are saved by police officers every year?
- How many children of color or children with disabilities are suspended or expelled from school every year?
- How many women and how many men are in prison because they protected themselves or their children from a violent partner or spouse?
Sometimes the problem is we have a little data but no agreement on what to do:
- We used to be #1 now we are #16 in infrastructure – the quality of our roads, bridges and tunnels
- 46 million people get sick from bad food every year
Sometimes we have related data, conflicting results, a lot of denial and no coordinated programs:
- About 5.4 million women and 5.3 million men are victims of physical violence, including rape, every year
- Victims of child abuse are about 47.3% boys and 50.7% girls, with the highest rates of abuse directed against the youngest children, birth to 3 years
- About 1 in 3 students (27.8%) are bullied during the school year, though most school bullying goes unreported; about as many boys and girls are the victims of physical bullying though girls are more likely to be the victims of internet bullying
Sometimes we only look at one data point in larger set of numbers
- Recently the unemployment rate was announced as 5.5% although this does not count people who have given up looking for work or are not working the number of hours they want
- That unemployment number is 11.2%
- Unemployment in native American communities ranges from 11% to 60%
- Unemployment is 6.9% for Post-9/11 male veterans and 8.5% for women veterans
- Youth unemployment is 14%, rises to 21% for African American youth and summer unemployment for young people can be 92%
If we can’t get the jobs numbers right we will never understand why 45 million Americans live in poverty, why 50 million Americans are hungry today.
The Big Idea: What we measure is what we get. Measure what matters; focus on outcomes not paperwork; and reward genuine achievement not the number of pages in a report.
The Solution: Track 3 called for each agency to review and revise purpose, goals and priorities and to do so with considerable input from the American public. Track 6 calls for these Conversations with America to conclude with a dashboard of measures that make sense for each government program funded by taxpayer money. This is not a linear process. Discussion of purpose, priorities and partners will loop back to best practices and needed skill sets and that will shape the measures that define success. Focus on results - what you measure is what you get.