SomerStat: The Mayor's Office of Innovation and Analytics

SomerStat is a performance management team working within the Mayor's Office in the City of Somerville. SomerStat integrates data into City decision-making; partners with City departments to improve operational efficiency and constituent satisfaction; contributes to the City's policy planning and implementation; and increases governmental transparency by sharing data with the community. In this work we strive to be innovative, for us, that means helping departments find the right solutions to their challenges.

Integrating data into City decision-making

SomerStat is critical to integrating data into City decision-making; this work improves governance by enabling informed decisions. Analysts infuse data into the entire lifecycle of projects, from creating and implementing data structures, improving existing data collection methods, to developing and presenting findings. SomerStat improves governance by managing projects like Somerville's bi-annual happiness survey, forcasting the financial health of the City, and keeping a close eye on constituent requests through our 311 app. Our 311 data provides key insights into the needs of our resdients, which SomerStat uses to help departments across the City monitor trends in constituent requests and evaluate response times to these requests. 

Supporting the operations of the City

SomerStat is also a key ally to our partner departments, improving efficiency and constituent satisfaction with City services. Analysts continuously evaluate departmental operations with the keystone product being weekly SomerStat meetings where analysts collaborate with departments to prepare a presentation for the Mayor and key staff. Common topics range from program monitoring and evaluation, corrective action, to long-term and strategic thinking. 

Facilitating cross-departmental collaboration

SomerStat team members play pivotal roles in dynamic cross-departmental project teams working to address complex problems such as rodent management, open space acquisition and maintenance, parking policies, and long-term financial palnning. Working closely with colleagues, the team uses quantitative, qualitative, and spatial analysis to identify challengs and opportunities and to problem solve. Implementation and continuous improvement are often led by SomerStat team members as projects transition from idea to reality. 

Ensuring data transparency

Finally, SomerStat team members enable and lead transparency efforts by managing the City's open data portal and online resources. From data standards and database development to creating performance dashboards for departments, SomerStat is involved in almost every data set within the City. The department also partners with residents, nonprofits, and academia to harness the power of our community to solve complex issues through data. 

 

  • Data

  • Performance Management

  • Budget

  • Tracking Happiness

  • Values

Dig Into Our Data!

Visit SomervilleMA.gov/datafarm to explore all kinds of data resources that SomerStat offers as part of our City's Open Data Initiative.

Somerville Data Farm preview

SomerStat also is responsible for developing the City's annual budgets. Visit our FY21 budget transparency portal to learn more about the City's finances.

SomerStat plays a key role in the City's COVID response, ensuring the emergency response team has the data they need to make decisions in real time. Visit the City's COVID-19 dashboard to learn about how COVID has impacted our community

SomerStat is a performance management initiative that helps Mayor Curtatone supervise the work of City departments by using financial, personnel, and operational data to inform decision-making and to implement new ideas. In regular meetings with City department managers and other key decision-makers, SomerStat helps to identify opportunities for improvement and to track the implementation of improvement plans.

SomerStat meetings have become part of an ongoing conversation among City managers and staff about the City’s strategic direction. Each meeting allows city managers to better understand how the City can streamline and improve its services to constituents. SomerStat has spearheaded a variety of inter-departmental initiatives to ensure effective communication and coordination on complex community challenges, including the opioid crisis, snow operations, homelessness, and capital investments.

Mayor Joe Curtatone took office in 2004 after campaigning on a platform that promised significant management reforms. Since his inauguration, Mayor Curtatone has established the SomerStat Office and created a centralized 311 customer service center. SomerStat is modeled on New York City's successful CompStat program and Baltimore’s successful CitiStat program. Somerville aims to be a national model for best practices in City government. SomerStat plays a critical role in advancing the City towards this goal.

Each year, SomerStat, in conjunction with the Finance Department, assists in developing the City’s Operating and Capital Budgets, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and the long-range financial forecast. Together, these documents are a barometer for Somerville’s priorities and fiscal health. The cross-departmental knowledge gained from working in the SomerStat office places SomerStaff Analysts in a unique position to be able to leverage their skills to assist in many of these budgetary functions.

Working out of the SomerStat office, and using a data-driven methodology, the Budget Manager and SomerStat Analysts collaborate with City departments to develop programmatic priorities for the upcoming year’s operating budget. This process utilizes performance metrics, strategic goals, and objectives, along with historical financial data to optimize the allocation of City resources across the City’s budget. This five month process culminates with a series of public hearings with the Board of Alderman to review the Mayor’s budget requests.

Additionally, the Budget Manager leads a Capital Investment Plan Committee to gather, research, and prioritize capital project requests each fall. This process culminates in a Capital Investment Plan, which proposes a road map for investing in infrastructure, buildings, parks, and more, over the coming ten years. This document is updated annually and lays out projects that the City sees as priorities and intends to undertake.

In 2011, Somerville became the first municipality in the United States to survey its residents on happiness and wellbeing. Somerville was inspired by David Cameron's creation of a wellbeing index in the United Kingdom and Bhutan's attempts to track gross national happiness, as well as a worldwide shift in focus from economic measurements of wellbeing to socio-emotional indicators. The Happiness Survey was designed by SomerStat with the input of academic partners and experts on measuring wellbeing.

Conducted every other year, the survey is translated into a variety of languages and mailed to a random sample of Somerville residents. Past surveys have been sent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. The survey contains a set of standard questions including: 

  • How happy do you feel right now?
  • How satisfied are you with your life in general?
  • How satisfied are you with Somerville as a place to live?

It also contained questions about satisfaction with City services and demographic questions. Each year a few questions are added and removed.

The information we gain from this survey helps the City understand whether exisiting services are meeting residents' needs and helps inform adjustments and future services. The Happiness Survey is a part of the City's decision-making process and previous analyses of survey responses have resulted in expanded access to recycling services, greater investment in trees, and increased funding for open space and recreational land. Somerville prides itself on being data-driven and the Happiness Survey is an important part of achieving our goal of using data to inform our decisions. 

Surveys and response data from 2011 to 2019 can be found on the Somerville Open Data Portal

See the following links for summary documents from the 2017 and 2019 surveys.

Survey Findings Between 2013 and 2019

(2011 survey excluded due to differences in questions.)

 

A line chart showing the response rates for the 2013-2019 surveys.

A line chart showing average responses to the question “How happy do you feel right now?” (scale of 1 to 10, 1 = very unhappy, 10 = very happy) by year and student status.

A line chart showing average responses to the question “How happy do you feel right now?” (scale of 1 to 10, 1 = very unhappy, 10 = very happy) by year and income group.

 A line chart showing average responses to the question “How happy do you feel right now?” (scale of 1 to 10, 1 = very unhappy, 10 = very happy) by year and ward.

A line chart showing average responses to the question “How happy do you feel right now?” (scale of 1 to 10, 1 = very unhappy, 10 = very happy) by year and age group.

Equitable Public Service

We are committed to supporting excellent, equitable service to Somerville’s constituents. We strive to be anti-racist and to dismantle systemic injustices through our work.

Listening With Empathy and Respect

SomerStat is committed to by listening to and empathizing with colleagues, stakeholders, and constituents, stakeholders, and departmental staff in order to solve problems in a way that is respectful of different experiences and interests.

Open to Hard Conversations

We are prepared to ask difficult questions and to address challenging problems.

Continuous Learning

Our team approaches our work with curiosity, creativity, and a willingness to learn.

Collaboration Based on Trust and Accountability

We build strong working relationships with our colleagues based on trust and accountability. This foundation allows us to productively collaborate to do our work to produce public value.