Michael Meotti - Fast 50 2003

DON'T FIGHT CITY HALL, INFORM IT

Michael Meotti developed the City Scan project, which puts handheld computers, GPS systems, and digital cameras in the hands of citizens to document street-level conditions that need to be fixed by local government. Citizens help inventory everything from potholes to graffiti and then draft a "Contract for Results" with city officials.

Michael Meotti
President, Connecticut Policy and Economic Council
Hartford, Connecticut

FROM MICHAEL'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
CPEC's City Scan program trains inner city high school students to use handheld computers and digital cameras to inventory street-level conditions that city government can fix--abandoned cars, vacant buildings, potholes, graffitti, litter, and more. City Scan helps define neighborhood priorities, shows city agencies where to work, and builds an ongoing accountability system. Hartford neighborhoods face serious problems in quality of life. Like most cities, performance measurement and accountability are new (and scary) concepts. And getting public attention around these business management tools isn't easy. Working with youth and technology seemed to create the needed "pizzazz", but CPEC had never worked with young people or managed complex technology before.

What was your moment of truth?
Our early small scale City Scan projects won a lot of attention and interest. As the summer of 2002 approached, we were asked to ramp up our program to manage over 50 young people as City Scan "field inspectors." Early in the summer, our staff person with the most experience in the program left to relocate to another state. So we faced the classic start-up challenge: our first big job, the attention and interest of big customers, major pressure to produce....and we lose a key member of the team. Without filling the slot that summer, we moved people around, worked like crazy and pulled it off.

What were the results?
We mapped every abandoned vehicle (and a lot more) in the city. In fact, by the end of the summer we were looking for more work to do and had no retention problems with our student workers (something we hear is a real challenge for a lot of other youth programs). The work put us in a very valuable position as the City of Hartford embarks on a serious effort to make performance measurement a top priority in city government.

What's your parting tip?
If you're in a service business (for social change or otherwise), introduce your team to the people they are helping and show them how their work pays off for the "customer."

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2003

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