Campbell River, BC evaluates city performance via scorecard
The annual City Scorecard measures and rates city operations across departments and programs in an illustrated, digestible format. This makes it easier for residents to understand and engage with city services.
Campbell River, BC introduced a City Scorecard into its annual report, highlighting current and historical performance across 20 city departments.
Design matters: The scorecard uses clear graphics and very little text, making it easy for people unfamiliar with the inner workings of government departments to understand what work is being done.
Other communities are using scorecards to measure everything from local resilience to urban design.
Use of scorecards promotes transparency and invites the public to get a deeper understanding of what the local government is doing for them.
Nearly every city and county produces some sort of annual report or plan. This document outlines what the city has been focusing on and results of major initiatives or regular operations.
Often these reports are dense, with financial tables and graphs and lots of text which reads like … well, a report. It’s available to citizens, but it’s not written in a way that citizens can easily consume.
In Campbell River, BC, the annual report reads more like a magazine: big photos, eye-catching infographics, and an honest look at how the city’s departments are performing — presented through an easy-to-read City Scorecard.
Campbell River has taken the concept of local government transparency, and put a citizen-first spin on it, providing a clear and, frankly, fun to peruse, snapshot of how the past year’s performance across city departments compares to prior years. It’s a powerful way to open government more to the public — and it doesn’t require fancy technology or a massive investment.
Let’s take a closer look at $ Campbell River’s City Scorecard$ , and see how other communities could adopt a similar approach.
How it started
Like many cities, Campbell River is required by law to produce an annual report.
For years the city has been championing a transparent approach to this report, including both detailed financial analysis and explainer text such as a letter from the city’s CFO. The information is presented in a highly visual way — no pages of single-spaced tight text here. Photographs, charts, and infographics help bring the report’s data to life, so that it’s easier for the public to understand.
In 2017, Campbell River’s annual report won an award from the international Government Finance Officers Association. $ City manager Deborah Sargent notes the award was the direct result of the local government’s transparency, communications, and financial reporting:$
“Over the last several years, the City has improved the annual report by sharing more information, and presenting it in a more visual, accessible way.”
But Campbell City didn’t stop there. The following year, the city introduced its City Scorecard to the report, providing more data visualizations, plus new features like annual awards and a year-in-review summary. $ Says Sargent$ :
“Developing the City Scorecard further enhances the report, providing a quick reference to data on the effects of City services.”
From there, the city has continued to evolve its annual scorecard, with improved metrics and key performance indicators added to the mix.
What’s in the scorecard?
Campbell River’s scorecard $ makes up about 30 pages of the annual report$ . It starts by focusing on annual highlights: a summary of the year’s achievements and services, including:
- Percentage of city construction projects completed on budget
- Total number of fire emergency calls, plus monetary value of buildings saved from fire
- Metric tonnes of recycling
- Trees with eagles nests in them
- Number of internal promotions within local government
From there, the scorecard moves into sectional deep dives, highlighting the past year’s performance across the City Manager’s office, communications, fire, parks, IT, long range planning and sustainability, and more.
Each page has a simple yet impactful design: large grids contain clear, blocky icons with a single datapoint for each. There are three columns: the first highlights results from the most recent year. The next columns show a comparison to the previous two years’ results, so that readers can easily comprehend trends and how performance has changed over time. Rows outline the individual services being measured.
For example, the communications page shows that 11% of the population follows the city on Facebook, compared to 10% and 9% the previous two years. The water section indicates that local water use is on the rise, increasing from 400 litres per capita two years ago to 492 litres per capita in the most recent year.
Where necessary, short text blurbs help add some context, like explaining that “walkability” is measured by the “percentage of residents within a 10-minute (800 metres) walk” of various amenities like schools or restaurants.
Overall however, the scorecard is mostly visual — it can be understood in a matter of minutes, and makes it easy to instantly see what areas have been improving or are on the decline.
Use of scorecards across other local governments
Creating a scorecard is relatively straightforward. You need access to data, and ideally a graphic designer to present it in an easy to follow format.
Because of this, the technique is being embraced by other local governments beyond Campbell River, as a way to similarly tell the story of how various programs or departments are functioning.
$ Victoria Park, WA uses a scale of 1 to 10 to measure corporate and service performance areas$ tied to the town’s corporate performance plan. Subcategories of the service areas, such as parking or library services, are also rated out of 10, with color coding to indicate if the status is good, okay, or needs improvement. The $ scorecard is hosted online$ , allowing users to click into specific service areas for more detailed information.
In Norfolk, VA, the city uses a $ scorecard to measure the city’s disaster resilience plan$ . Norfolk sits in a high-risk flood zone, so the local government partnered with sustainability experts and the Department of Homeland Security to introduce the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard (PIRS). This scorecard rates the city’s districts based on how vulnerable they are, which is then used to assess the city’s current plans and policies.
A scorecard is likewise being used to determine urban development and design best practices in Moreland, VIC. The $ city piloted a Design Excellence Scorecard$ , which establishes benchmarks for high- and medium-density urban design. The overall goal is to improve quality of life by measuring building accessibility, sustainability, and community benefit. During the pilot, participation in the scorecard process was voluntary; developers can opt in and receive additional facetime with city planners, plus faster decisions around building proposals.
For Campbell River, as well as other communities, the Scorecard provides an easy-to-digest look at what the city’s doing — and how well it’s doing it.
This has a number of benefits:
First, it promotes transparency for the public. Whether designed in a PDF-style format or created in an interactive dashboard, local governments should post this information online for residents to easily access. This transparency not only opens local government operations to the taxpayers who fund it, it creates more accountability.
Second, it provides broader context for how the local government is serving its citizens. By sharing the status for a number of projects and programs, Campbell River essentially created a menu of its services — it’s a good reminder to residents that their government is looking after a range of areas that impact their daily lives.
By sharing data in an easy-to-consume format like a scorecard, local governments can create a more informed citizen base. This translates into greater support and advocacy for future programs among residents. On the flip side, the transparent reporting of results keeps the government departments on track, allowing the public and local leaders to see results or pivot to make changes where things may not be working.