External Benchmarking Resources

External Benchmarking is the process of continuously comparing and measuring one organization against another to gain information that will help the organization take action to improve its performance. The list below provides quick links to helpful benchmarking resources.

National Resources

The Community Indicators Consortium seeks to bridge the gap between community indicators and performance measurement, providing ways for community groups and governments to coordinate efforts and jointly enhance knowledge about the use of indicators to leverage positive change. The CIC provides two resources which may be helpful as a benchmarking tool:

  • The Indicator Projects Database is a searchable selection of indicator projects managed at the community level. The CIC does not endorse any projects and the information is generated by the projects themselves. The CIC keeps the list current by regularly asking projects to update their page.
  • The Indicator Resources Databaseis a wide range of knowledge resources designed to advance the work of their members and others in the field. It includes publications, presentations, reports generated by indicators projects, web sites, webinar archives, conference presentations, and many other items relevant to the field.

For those interested in the relative size of government, the US Census Bureau conducts an annual survey of federal, state and local governments and publishes the payroll costs and number of full/part time employees working at each level of government. The data is a snapshot of the March pay period for each jurisdiction and breaks down into programs (i.e. housing, finance, parks, education, etc).

The Open Data Network connects publishers of high-value data to the businesses, developers, and analysts that use, reuse, and enrich data. The site has easy links to data published by members of its network, including almost 200 city, county, state and federal agencies publishing data about infrastructure, housing & development, finance, politics, education, public safety, health and transportation. This is a great resources for governments to use data publsihed by other governments to establish performance benchmarks, but is limited to governments who use a Socrata platform.

ICMA Insights is, among other things, a national comparative performance database. Participating jurisdictions can look at the data from other jurisdictions, see how their own results compare, share successful approaches to service delivery, and set appropriate benchmarks and standards for their own performance on selected measures.

The Brookings Institution publishes Data Resources for State and Metropolitan Areas which provides interactive demographic, social and economic data and in-depth profiles for the U.S.'s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

The Urban Institute produces and/or supports multiple resources that are valuable as benchmarking tools.

  • The Urban Institute National Data Repository provides free, well-documented versions of national data files with meaningful indicators of community well-being. This includes home Mortgage data, zip/County business patterns, education statistics, and American Community Survey data.
  • Performwell, which provides measurement tools and practical knowledge that human services professionals can use to manage their programs’ day-to-day performance.
  • The National Neighborhood Indicators Project (NNIP) is coordinated by the Urban Institute and leverages NNIP partners to build information on neighborhood conditions in partner cities and communities. Their list of data sources has indicators that cover topics such as births, deaths, crime, health status, educational performance, public assistance, and property conditions.

State-Specific Resources

ClearGov was launched in June of 2015 with the goal of helping average citizens better understand how their tax dollars are spent and how their local government is performing. It is basically a benchmarking tool for financial data. It is currently limited to three states (California, Massachusetts, and New York), but more states are coming soon (according to their website).

The North Carolina Benchmarking Project is produced by the UNC School of Government and provides a comparative basis for local governments to assess service delivery and costs. It allows municipalities to compare themselves with other participating units and with their own internal operations over time. The benchmarking process includes compiling service and cost information, cleaning the data for accuracy, calculating the selected performance measures, and comparing the results.

The Arizona State University Center for Urban Innovation does a number of research projects aimed at accelerating and transforming local government, including publishing a Valley Benchmarking Cities Report which highlights benchmarking data for 11 participating jurisdictions in the Phoenix “Valley of the Sun.”

The Florida Benchmarking Consortium is an intra-state local government benchmarking consortium with over 40 member local governments. Each member local government participates across 18 local government performance management-focused service areas, potentially using a combined total of over 670 performance measures that have been dynamically crafted, massaged, managed and improved over time by service area experts from the many industries of Florida's local governments.

The Michigan Local Government Benchmarking Consortium brings together cities, townships, and counties from across Michigan and produce meaningful and relevant performance measures for the purpose of benchmarking and multijurisdictional performance comparisons.

International Resources

The World Council on City Data has Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life, the first international standard on city data, was published in May 2014 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This new international standard was developed using the framework of the Global City Indicators Facility. This is a demand-led standard, driven and created by cities, for cities. ISO 37120 defines and establishes definitions and methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services and quality of life. The standard includes a comprehensive set of 100 indicators — of which 46 are core — that measures a city's social, economic, and environmental performance.

The Scottish Local Government Benchmarking site brings together a wide range of information about how all Scottish councils perform in delivering better services to local communities, including the cost of services and how satisfied citizens are with them. Bear in mind that Scottish councils are democratically elected bodies which represent very diverse communities in terms of geography, population, deprivation levels and community needs. The information presented here should be read and understood in that context, as some of the variation highlighted by the data is significantly affected by such differences between communities.

The Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (OMBI) fosters and supports a culture of service excellence in municipal government by creating new ways to measure, share and compare performance data and operational practices. OMBI acts as a source of credible information to assist Council, Senior Management, Staff and Citizens to understand how their municipality is performing over time and in relation to others.

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