SA2020: Moving from Aspiration to Accountability

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Leilah Powell, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, talks with audience members passionate about Environmental Sustainability after the official discussion.

Leilah Powell, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, talks with audience members passionate about Environmental Sustainability after the official discussion.

biopicSA2020 is not Mayor Julián Castro’s thing. It’s not the City of San Antonio’s thing. It doesn’t even belong to Darryl Byrd, the CEO of the SA2020 nonprofit organization. Now two years old, SA2020 is San Antonio’s thing.

So yesterday’s release of the SA2020 Indicator Report (download the report here) and conference, which drew more than 200 people to the Rackspace Castle, wasn’t just a status report on the initiative’s ambitious social, economic and cultural goals set by citizen groups in 2011 (download here).

Tuesday was about moving beyond aspiration and into the realm of accountability. Tuesday was about measuring progress or the lack of progress. Tuesday was about data, statistics, and aligning available resources.

SA2020 CEO Darryl Byrd adresses a crowd of more than 200 invited guests at Rackspace during the SA2020 Indicator Report conference and release. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

SA2020 CEO Darryl Byrd addresses a crowd of more than 200 invited guests at Rackspace on Tuesday. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

“Transparency and sound, robust data are key,” said Byrd. “So we know when we hit a target, it’s actually a meaningful one.”

Meaningful as in meeting and exceeding targets to reduce teen births, or improving fire and police response times, to cite two examples.

From the SA2020 Family Well-Being Cause section of the SA2020 Indicator Report.

From the SA2020 Family Well-Being Cause section of the SA2020 Indicator Report.

Fire and Police repsonse time improvements shown in the SA2020 Indicator Report.

Fire and Police Department response time improvements shown in the SA2020 Indicator Report.

It feels good to hit a target, but we’ve got about 60 more indicators to go and more than a few, 13, seem to be out of reach as of now including air quality and poverty rates.

According to the SA2020 Indicator Report, we're way off target as far as air quality is concerned

According to the SA2020 Indicator Report, we’re way off target as far as air quality is concerned

SA2020 has forged partnerships with various organizations that are lending expertise and resources to the nonprofit enterprise. One such arrangement, valued at  $160,000, is with UTSA’s Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research, which is helping track the 11 specific vision areas (education, public safety, downtown development, environmental sustainability, etc.). Agreed upon metrics that can reliably gauge change are essential, Byrd said.

“I’m excited, as a data person, that SA2020 has embraced data as a tool to help,” said Jorge Elizondo, H-E-B’s vice president of customer insight, addressing the audience on the nature of selecting meaningful data. “But don’t hold the metrics to perfect (standards) … there is no one great metric. If you find it, let me know.”

Image from the new SA2020 website, now featuring more data on indicators, progress reports and volunteer/involvement opportunities.

Image from the new SA2020.org, now featuring more data on indicators, progress reports and volunteer/involvement opportunities.

It is SA2020 staff”s hope that community workshops and public meetings over the summer will help refine data criteria. A revised set of indicators is expected to be released this September.

While updates of progress and regression were presented, almost all the indicators carried some caveat. A lingering asterisk was never far away as participants debated whether certain measurements really matter. Does the “Number of National/International Press Mentions” really reflect progress in the realm of Arts and Culture? What terminology should we use: “homeless” versus “unsheltered?” Every Cause had at least one indicator in need of revision or suggestion – some indicators were proposed for removal.

From the SA2020 Indicator Report, an example of results from the Arts and Culture Cause.

An example of results from the Arts and Culture Cause from the SA2020 Indicator Report.

If only it was as simple as an A+ in Art and a C- in Public Safety.

For instance: We are way behind on funding the arts, which would have to double from $6.4 million in 2010 to $12.8 million in 2020. Both the funding indicator and the “Number of Creative Activities, Including Public Arts” indicator were suggested by The Department for Culture and Creative Development (DCCD) as irrelevant to the true goal, to “lead the world as a creative community.”

The crowd of more than 200 invited guests (civic and business leaders, educators and engaged citizens) divided into small working groups focusing on a single Cause. Groups were asked to select priorities, identify missing elements, and consider possible collaborations with other causes.

Audience members indicate agreement, disagreement, and questions with green, red, and yellow dots (respectively). The longest lists came from the Family Well-Being Cause's table – and most of the rare red dots marked the "Missing: faith-based (organization)" statement.

Audience members mark agreement, disagreement, and questions with green, red, and yellow dots (respectively). The longest lists came from the Family Well-Being Cause’s table – and most of the rare red dots marked the “missing: faith-based (organizations)” statement.

For instance, does a “green economy,” loosely defined as jobs in a sustainable business enterprise, really matter when trying to achieve the true goals of environmental sustainability?

The Environmental Sustainability table, populated by myself and about 10 representatives from CPS Energy, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, San Antonio Water System, Alamo Area Council of Governments, and more, didn’t really think so. It seems very possible to have one, a large sustainable business presence, without the other, environmental sustainability. While we agreed that a “green economy” is desirable, green jobs don’t necessarily translate into, say, a lower carbon footprint.

“The green economy is nebulous,” said Scott Storment of the Mission Verde Alliance, a lead partner with SA2020. “It’s like nailing jelly to a tree … what exactly is a ‘green job?’ ”

The group agreed  that the “green economy” expansion goal might best be restated as a collaborative goal with the Economic Competitiveness Cause as the discussion overlaps with industry sectors.

The 50-minute conversation rarely wandered off the topic of how to improve the metrics of the Cause thanks to moderator Leilah Powell, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy. Though it was difficult to narrow down the entirety of environmental sustainability into only a couple of priorities from a group of diverse stakeholders – I think we came up with at least one solid conclusion.

“Developing a carbon footprint measure (as an indicator) seems to be agreed upon,” Powell said. “To develop a single, easy to use measurement that reflects varying areas of sustainability.”

Leilah Powell, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, talks with audience members passionate about Environmental Sustainability  after the official discussion.

Leilah Powell, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, talks with audience members passionate about Environmental Sustainability after the official discussion.

This process was repeated 10 times around the room, one board for each Cause. The folks at SA2020 have their work cut out for them – and even more so once those public meetings start. They’ll take the note cards from all the meetings, combine them, and present their findings this fall.

“Our lead partners will pull together public meetings and cross collaborations (with other Causes),” said SA2020 Chief of Engagement Molly Cox. “The intent is to have very robust and serious input and analysis from the public.”

 

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

Related Stories:

SA2020 Then and Now: Brainstorm to Reality to Report Card

The Greening of San Antonio

People Want a Park: San Antonio’s Passion for Hemisfair

San Antonio in Motion: A Tree Grows for SA2020

SA2020 One Year Later: Part Farmer’s Market, Part Big Tent Revival

Artists and Developers Eye Historic Buildings, Imagine Possibilities

Great Cities Have Great Gathering Places

Local Startup: Pipeline for Tech-Savvy Foreign Workers

Texas Book Festival/San Antonio Edition Takes Downtown by Surprise

Arts & Artists Revive Inner City Neighborhoods

Why San Antonio’s Future is Bright

Hemisfair Park: A ‘Brutal Redesign’ or the Bulldozer?

San Antonio’s Big Bet on Public Art: Hemisfair Park and the San Antonio River

Building a Bicycle-Friendly San Antonio, One Committe Meeting at a Time

… This could go on for quite awhile … Check out our stories tagged with SA2020.

 

4 thoughts on “SA2020: Moving from Aspiration to Accountability

  1. I looked at the website for SA2020 and more specifically, the Champions and Lead Partners sections, which at this time – if the list has not been updated – is lacking.

    To really chart a more spectacular path to greatness, SA2020 needs more partners from across the city. They need more great people like Peter French, other competing organizations (to established companies like Geekdom) and non-profits who are established and need to be reached out to.

    I also noticed the Passions section in the registration that focuses too much on downtown. Even if that menu is just to start with, it needs to expand to other areas of town that need just as much attention.

    Let’s do this right!

    • David, we are currently sitting at 13 lead partners who are tasked with assessing data and convening partners. Each of these partners represents one cause area of which there are 11. These partners, as well as several other organizations, are working hard to make sure the data we are collecting is sound. More specifically, they are helping connect SA2020 and stakeholders in each Cause area.

      We are at about 61 active area organizations who provide opportunities for the public at large to engage – through volunteerism or attendance – with about 30 more in process of becoming partners. These partners represent a large portion of the city. The process is a rigorous one and takes a while, but ultimately makes sure we can connect you to meaningful opportunities that move the needle in the areas about which you are most passionate. The Champions you see listed are the first ones to step forward, but we have seen so many more companies step forward.

      As you can imagine, trying to get an entire city to take ownership of its own community vision is a task that takes time. Since SA2020 has become its own nonprofit organization – just over a year ago – we have developed a sturdy foundation to build upon.

      You make a great point that it will take many people to make this work. I am so glad that you are so invested in the idea of SA2020. Your input will be greatly appreciated during the public convenings we’ll have this summer. As those dates get set, we will share them widely.

      • Molly, I’d like to suggest holding a Pecha Kucha session for the 13 lead partners in SA2020 and (at least some of) the 61 organizations you talk about who support the leads. I work at AACOG and provide support to the San Antonio Clean Tech Forum / Mission Verde Alliance, a lead for the Natural Resources / Environmental Sustainability vision area.

        I say this because of the GREAT difficulties at communicating *actions now being taken* by various stakeholders in the region across the Vision Areas in SA2020.

        Just one prime example. How many folks in the Neighborhoods & Growth Management Vision Area of SA2020 are familiar with the City of San Antonio’s Neighborhood Sustainability Assessment project (http://sa-neighborhoodsustainability.org/)? I appreciate the use of annual walkability figures from Walkscore.com as cited in the Indicator Report, but I’d bet that recourse to a much more comprehensive, locally developed and locally specific model like the Neighborhood Sustainability Assessment tool would be much richer across a scale of sustainability metrics beyond walkability.

        To allow folks the opportunity to strut their local stuff in front of that same wide, diverse audience as gathered at Rackspace, would be a no-holds-barred terrific way to let local ideas and projects bubble up to the top, and bring ’em to a full boil.

        p.s. I just submitted this article: http://therivardreport.com/keep-it-clean-san-antonio-our-air-our-health/

        p.p.s. If you’re not familiar with Pecha Kucha, try: http://www.aiasa.org/downloads/DISPATCH/PK10-052813.pdf

        • Sorry to be slow with the approvals, Peter. I was sleeping off some medication after suffering a recurring back problem, L-4, L-5, and now L-3 for those whose own aging spines sympathize. –RR

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