For local governments, developing trust with the public you serve is a form of risk management. If the public trusts you will be efficient stewards of public funding, they will be more open to believing in your projects down the road.
As you know, access to transparent data about publicly-funded grant program performance is the first step in creating trust between a government and the citizens they serve. According to experts, local governments must understand that “transparency leads to solid bottom-line benefits” by “gaining more trust on the people’s side.” In a recent experiment, however, researchers interestingly found that “the existence of more information and positive citizen perceptions of government transparency does not necessarily go hand in hand.”
Access to more data does not automatically lead to higher reported rates of trust between government and their citizens. Therefore, it is not enough to post numbers and graphs on a public-facing website after a program has been completed or an award has been closed out in 2022.
If more data is not always the answer, how can data help create a bridge of trust between a government and the public?
Researchers have found that accurate data demonstrating differences in performance does make a difference. Specifically, real-time data about ongoing projects where governments were performing, or overperforming, on their goals was the most valuable data that helped build trust. What citizens cared about was not influenced by the content of the program goals themselves. They cared if the government was on the way to meeting those goals and was ensuring they were in a good position to pivot, if needed, to deliver on those goals.
You can’t deliver real-time data on program progress if you don’t have real-time access to it. Gaining real time visibility into your grant portfolio creates capacity for the grants team to present that data in a way that is accurate and revealing, allowing your team to focus on demonstrating their ability to deliver by meeting their deadlines and hitting their benchmarked goals.
The processes and workflows associated with these programs can be automated with technology and create more efficiency for your grants team which can save your team thousands of hours spent on administrative tasks. This efficiency creates capacity for your team not to just post numbers to a website, but also creates capacity to spend time reflecting on the most effective and honest ways to convey this data to the public you serve by having the ability to quickly aggregate it in different configurations for reporting.
Trust in institutions and government is developed by demonstrating competence and commitment to meeting stated goals. By providing real-time data about in-progress performance to the public, you create an opportunity for your citizens to reaffirm their beliefs about how reliable and efficient your government is, how responsive you are to their needs, and how important their own participation is in the process.
These programs are for them, and you can help them see that more clearly if you have visibility too.
Photo by AndreyPopov from Canva