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