When I started at the City of Reno in November of 2013, my first big project was to launch the new Reno.Gov. I had one month to: reorganize the entire sitemap and navigation, learn the new CMS platform, and work with the CMS vendor Vision Internet on design changes. I launched the redesigned Reno.Gov in December 2013. The website has so far won seven national awards for creativity and engagement efforts.
Previously on Reno.Gov, residents were unable to discover ward-specific information in one location. For example, a resident would have to navigate between a PDF document of a ward map and the City Council page just to discover which ward they lived and the council member who represents them. To discover hot topics within their ward, they would have to search the Newsroom section and guess whether or not the news was relevant to their neighborhood.
In the Spring of 2014, I created a webpage for each ward located in the ‘Your Neighborhood‘ section. Before a resident navigates to their ward page, there is an interactive ward map that allows residents to easily discover the ward in which they live. The template for the ward pages includes: the ward council member and contact information, a section for hot topics, a development map that lists building and planning projects in each ward (see below), and information about how-to share information about their ward.
As a means of informing our community about upcoming development projects, our Community Development Department previously listed all Design Review Manuals and supporting documents for projects on a single, cumbersome page. In August 2014, I decided to use Google Fusion Tables to build a map of all Community Development projects. I even created ward-specific project maps for our ward pages, making it easier for residents to discover upcoming projects in their neighborhood.
Previously on Reno.Gov, our public art information was similarly displayed in cumbersome tables on individual web pages. During Hack4Reno 2014, I exported the data from these web pages and uploaded to Fusion Tables. Now our residents can view our public art on an interactive Public Art Map. I also worked with our GIS manager to move snow plow routes and our ward map from PDF documents to Google Maps.
During the Fall of 2014, our communications team tried to think of an innovative way to promote local businesses for Small Business Saturday. Our Creative Services Manager suggested partnering with American Express for the event and to encourage local businesses to register for the Small Business Saturday Map. Unfortunately, American Express only allows businesses that use their company to register their business on the map.
I pitched the idea to create our own Buy Local Map and promote this map across City of Reno social media channels leading up to Small Business Saturday. Once our team agreed to move forward with the idea, I created a sign-up form for local businesses. We conducted outreach to local businesses via social media, radio, print and TV. I exported the form data on a daily basis and upload to Fusion Tables. We had over 140 local businesses sign-up to be a part of the City of Reno Buy Local Map. I promoted the map across social media and encouraged residents to share buy local experiences using the hashtag #buylocalreno.
One of my goals for 2014 was to implement a mobile engagement platform at the City. Textizen is a SMS survey platform created during a Code for America Fellowship in 2013. There were two major campaigns I tested mobile engagement using the Textizen platform, Buy Local and the Virginia Lake Water Quality Improvement Project.
I created a Buy Local Pledge using Textizen. Residents were able to text in their buy local pledge amount before Small Business Saturday on Nov. 29, 2014. Our residents pledged to spend over $10,000.00 at local businesses during the holiday season.
The Textizen platform was also instrumental for resident feedback regarding the Virginia Lake Water Quality Improvement project. I took the lead on implementing the interactive, mobile engagement strategy for the project. I worked with the communications and public works team to define four improvement options for residents to select from. Residents were also asked to provide their recreation activities at Virginia Lake and the ward in which they lived. 288 residents participated in the survey.
City of Reno staff are still working to compile the information from public meetings, the Textizen opinion survey results, and other input received and return to Reno City Council with project alternatives and a recommendation for Council’s consideration early in 2015. City Council will then give staff direction on the project.
In addition to promoting Textizen, I’m currently leading efforts to innovate City processes using civic tech. For example, re-evaluating building and planning application processes in our Community Development Department. These processes are heavily based in cumbersome PDF applications. I’ve arranged for a demo with the management team in Community Development to evaluate a new cloud-based system called Seamless Docs. I’ve also met with our City Clerk Office about implementing a cloud-based FOIA system called RecordTrac. Both RecordTrac and Seamless Docs were born out of Code for America Fellowships. I’m dedicated to implementing smart, cloud-based systems that increase efficiency for both our internal team and residents.
The #ThinkReno campaign was born out of the City Council Visioning session in March of 2014. Each council member was asked to envision Reno in 25 years and write down on a piece of paper an ending to this sentence: “i #thinkreno can be. . .” The Creative Services Manager and myself thought this would be a perfect community engagement campaign. We launched the #ThinkReno campaign in April 2014.
We encouraged residents to share how they envision Reno in 25 years. Residents had the option to submit their ideas on banners around town, use the hashtag #ThinkReno on social media, and/or attending a Community Forum event. We tracked responses across all communication channels and added to all responses to an analytics sheet. Over 500 responses were submitted. The ideas were then input into a word cloud. The top visioning ideas were easily defined. This word cloud was then submitted to City Council in the Fall of 2014. The purpose of this community visioning process was to involve residents in defining a better future for our Reno. By providing their ideas via social media and forums, residents and the City were collaboratively making Reno a better place to live, work and recreate.
In the Winter of 2014 I decided to develop the City’s first open data policy. I researched various policies from other cities, like the City of Philadelphia and City of New York City. I also reached out to the folks at Code for America and joined the Code for America Peer Network. While working on the new policy, I developed a data management inventory that lists all data managers and data management systems currently in use at the City. The open data policy was submitted to the City Manager in the Summer of 2014 and is still awaiting approval.
During this time I launched a Google Group for developers and City employees to encourage open data communications. As a Code for Reno Co-Captain, I worked with local developers to launch the City’s GitHub account. We used this account to host data for both National Day of Civic Hacking and Hack4Reno 2014.
In the Summer of 2014 our City Manager decided to launch internal teams to tackle inefficiencies at the City. I’m a team leader for Team 6 which is responsible for implementing a new Strategic Management Platform. I’ve led the charge on discovering data dashboard platforms and setting-up demos for our team to evaluate these platforms. I recently submitted a recommendation for a platform and a third demo of the platform with the City Manager will take place in January. I’m also working with the City’s new Strategic Initiatives Manager to launch a new KPI program for City departments.
I recently launched the City of Reno intranet on Google Sites. The previous intranet was built in PHP by an employee who left the City in 2013. The site was constantly breaking and the City was frequently paying a PHP developer to come in and fix issues. I decided the City should use a cloud-based intranet using a platform that is reliable. The Biggest Little Intranet was launched in June of 2014. The new intranet has increased communications within our organization. Just this month we’ve had 19,596 sessions and 2,677 users.
The Biggest Little Intranet has also made our employees more aware of Google Apps that are linked to the intranet, like: Google Groups, Google Calendar, Google Forms and Google Drive. We even have a Google Groups section called ‘Ask Andrew’ where employees can ask our City Manager questions. Our City documents can now be easily accessed from the ‘Documents’ section in BLI. Previously employees had to search the internal ‘G Drive’ managed by our IT department. This drive frequently crashes and is quite cumbersome. Now employees are just a few clicks from important documents.
Also thanks to BLI, our organization is now thinking of creative ways to use Google Forms. For example, if a department seeks request for services from our communications team, they’re required to complete a Google Form called a Service Request Form. This cuts down on scattered emails and allows our department to track request analytics, like which department at the City requests the most services. We receive an average of 30 Service Requests per month.
As far as Google Apps are concerned, I’ve been a strong ambassador for Drive since I started at the City in November of 2013. Before my arrival at the communications department, many of the employees were in the routine of sending Word documents back and forth via email for editing. One of my first big pushes was to create an editorial calendar for our communication team using Google Sheets. This has proved very beneficial for organizing our communication strategies, and real-time updating allows our team to pivot quickly when unexpected events occur. I also created our analytics tracking within Google Sheets. Every month I track our team’s online and traditional outreach efforts and input results into our Analytics document. This document is shared with our City Manager and others at the executive level within our organization. This allows for easy analysis of success measurements.