By: Javon Davis, Cookingham-Noll Fellow
As I’m sure you can tell, we love our data here in KCMO. The more employees we have using data, the more we can accomplish as a City. This summer, staff from the City Manager’s Office and partners from Code for America created the Data Academy, a series of courses designed to introduce city employees to data analysis techniques as well as to other city employees doing data analysis.
The “Fundamentals of Data Analysis” is a four session module to teach City employees how to collect, prepare, analyze, present, and use data to enhance City functions. The “Fundamentals” module aims to educate and empower employees to be comfortable with data and explore all of the opportunities that it can offer. Data can be intimidating to those who haven’t worked much with it, which is why the Data Academy aims to be interactive, and allows the participants to work in groups and collaborate with others during hands-on exercises.
The idea for the Data Academy grew out of observation of how scattered the City’s data analysts are throughout the organizations – the training provides an opportunity for them to advance their skills as well as connect with one another. The long term goal for the Data Academy is not only to build sustainable systems for data-driven decision making within departments, but also to build a culture of data within the city.
Kansas City has been an advocate for data-driven decision making since 2009, when City Manager Troy Schulte developed the Office of Performance Management. As data has become more central in decision-making, the need for well-trained staff to extract, analyze, and present data has become even more important. While we understand that employees can’t become a data scientist in four short classes, there is still a lot that can be learned and connections that can be made throughout the process. We hope to create a cross-departmental group of data driven employees who work together to tackle challenges in Kansas City.
The Fundamentals of Data Analysis kicked off its first session, “Prepare” on August 23, 2016, which saw representation from many departments and staff at different levels within the organization. “Prepare” sets up employees for the necessary steps before embarking on data analysis, including framing your analysis question, collecting data, and cleaning data.
Next in the module are two sessions on analyzing data, and a final session on acting on the data after it has been interpreted. The entire module will give the participants the skills necessary to handle raw data and turn it into something that can be effectively interpreted and presented to others.