By Sara Mogulescu and Yesenia Martinez, The Volcker Alliance
We’ve invited the GEAR Center Challenge Winners to write “guest blogs” to provide more detail on their projects. This is the final post in that series. The opinions expressed in this guest post are the authors’ own and do not reflect the views of Performance.gov or U.S. General Services Administration.
We know the more government can collect, analyze, and lead with quality data, the better the results. We also know there is significant demand for continuing education and training for active public service practitioners. Many full-time working professionals seek to sharpen and build critical skills around the use of data to solve problems and achieve mission goals.
In September 2019, the Volcker Alliance, the Centers for Civic Impact at Johns Hopkins University (Civic Impact), and the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) won one of three Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center Challenge grand prizes. The $300,000 prize was awarded by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and will support a collaborative effort to train federal practitioners in the Kansas City region in data management, performance management, and communicating with data. The award represents an intentional investment in leveraging data as a strategic asset and developing a talented and prepared federal workforce for the 21st century.
Over the course of the year-long collaboration, project partners will:
Importantly, the project team did not start from scratch. Working with more than 140 governments and over 4,000 government practitioners to date, Civic Impact has amassed a wealth of information about best practices for data use and management in the public sector at the municipal level. This collaboration creates an opportunity for Civic Impact to leverage its unparalleled expertise to tailor a training curriculum for the federal workforce. MARC’s well-established relationships with the local partners we aim to engage, as well as its role as lead agency in the Volcker Alliance’s Government-to-University Initiative (G2U), provide a strong foundation for success. In particular, through G2U, MARC has been collaborating closely with the Greater Kansas City Federal Executive Board, which serves over 38,000 federal employees in the region. Together, partners have been able to quickly bring the right stakeholders to the table.
The project is off to an outstanding start. In October, partners convened in Kansas City for an interagency working session to learn what regional federal leaders perceived to be the most urgent training opportunities. A wide range of agencies participated in the working session, including the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Social Security Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, General Services Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency.
The federal leaders in attendance had high energy and expressed great interest in the opportunity to deepen data-driven decision-making capacity within their agencies. One participant commented that although federal agencies are flush with databases and data sets, “employees don’t have the right training to collect it in the most productive manner and analyze it to drive toward results.” Another participant hoped that participation in the GEAR pilot training would help federal employees get “on the pipeline to more advanced data curiosity.”
Following the working session, interested agencies completed an online survey about their current and aspirational practices around data use and data management. The Civic Impact team is analyzing the survey results to inform training priorities, target learning objectives, and curate responsive training activities and content.
The first cohort, comprised of more than 80 federal learners, will begin training at the end of January 2020. Project partners will reflect on strengths and lessons learned, and adapt and improve the training for a subsequent learning cohort in the spring/summer. Throughout the effort, the Volcker Alliance will collect and document lessons learned with a keen eye on identifying the implications for sustainability and scale.