Grading A City’s Performance

The City of Washington DC has embraced social media tools such as blogs, twitter and facebook as a unique way to grade the performance of city departments on a monthly basis.

In the first report card issued in June not one of the five initial agencies being graded scored higher than a C plus, based on over 1,000 reviews.The city has entered into a three year contract with a private firm at a cost of $167,000 per year to scour five community blogs, Facebook and Twitter, and accepted customer reviews online at Grade.DC.Gov, to evaluate agency performance. The information obtained is run through a series of algorithms to come up with grades.

The grading program has been expanded to ten city agencies.

The City of Buffalo distributes a monthly report to Councilmembers showing the number of citizen complaints received by subject/department to the 311 call line. The 311 city of Buffalo call report is useful information, but a program like GradeDC takes such information a step further by tracking citizen feedback on how well city agencies are responding to citizen concerns.

The private company assisting Washington DC with their grading program acknowledges that they cannot tell whether the customer reviews or comments are coming from city employees.

It is important to obtain citizen feedback on how well their local governments are performing and it is important for government officials to know how they are doing in serving the public. However, is spending $167,000 a year on culling social media comments and entering them into a algorithm to come up with a grade a worthwhile expenditure? What do you think?

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