- Dashboards demonstrate the value of sustainability and engage citizens to take action.
- A key feature of a dashboard is open, real-time data that's easy to understand.
- Charlotte's dashboard helped the city save $26 million by reducing energy use.
But first your sustainability plan must have clearly defined goals, such as reducing costs or emissions, along with specific metrics and benchmarks. When these specifics are incorporated into a dashboard, you'll have actionable insights that deliver value across your city. You'll know what the outcomes are and will be able to prioritize. Every dashboard should include metrics that relate to the outcomes defined in the sustainability plan.
Cleveland engaged citizens through focus groups to develop a baseline for the first version of its dashboard. In 2016, a new website for the dashboard was created, which provides 28 indicators in four categories:
- Business (economy, number of businesses)
- Personal/social (population, health)
- Built (energy efficiency, green space)
- Natural (water quality, waste management)
The website is now easier to update and is cost effective for collecting data. As Cleveland and other cities have learned, key features of a successful dashboard include:
Open data provides a citizen-centric approach to encourage participation and to demonstrate you care what your residents think. For instance, Cincinnati took existing city data already found on its open data portal and translated the content into user-friendly visualizations. Anyone can interact with, and easily analyze the data.
Transparency means real-time accessible data that's easy to understand. Measure outcomes and show results using simple graphics. A dashboard should provide unified historic and real-time data, be simple and configurable and be easy to share.
Engagement helps achieve behavior change and a dashboard is one tool to do that. Link data to stories and provide calls to action on how citizens can help; include dynamic content (blogs, videos) and update annually. Keep users engaged with games and other infotainment. Find ways to engage people from all walks of life.
Meaningful measures are those that matter most to your community. Each goal in your plan should have one to three metrics. Give users the ability to drill down and have access to additional information. The key is to determine how many metrics you can manage.
Incorporating these features into your dashboard will help you show what works; make data-driven decisions, and educate and inspire your citizens and stakeholders.
Dashboard helps decrease energy use
Envision Charlotte is an early success story proving dashboards work. In 2011, a dashboard based on intelligent-building technologies and existing city infrastructure was established to display real-time energy data. The goal was to reduce energy use in the city's business district by 20 percent over five years. As of May 2017, energy use was down by 19 percent, saving $26 million. Envision Charlotte was recently expanded to include water, waste and air.
Envision America was established in 2016 to expand the success of Charlotte's efforts across the country.
Image source: iStock