Abstracts: June 23rd, 2008

This article describes a project in the United States designed to allow the public to assess how well local councils are performing.

The general public assesses the performance of councils by indicators that differ from those used by councils themselves. They are not concerned about throughput or operational statistics, which councils and central government consider vital. Their concern is the outcome and this is the measure of success. The gap in information flow and communication between the public and local councils probably accounts for the feeling expressed frequently about powerlessness to affect changes in services.

The project has explored new ways to listen to and communicate with the public and to engage in performance measurement and reporting about local government activities. The result was a national citizen engagement initiative with community groups being given hand held computers to gather information and a web database with reports and charts which allow groups and councils to have a dialogue.

The website also collects people’s reported experiences and ratings of their encounters with local government, it encourages reports about positive experiences as well as information about where improvements are needed.

The article is available from Wiley. http://www.wiley.com/legacy/email_templates/images/NCR_article_cohnberman.pdf