5 in 5: Melissa Schigoda, New Orleans’ Director of the Office of Performance and Accountability
Results for America Fellowship Alumni give five answers in five minutes. This month, we caught up with Melissa Schigoda, Director of the Office of Performance and Accountability for the City of New Orleans, LA.
- Summarize what you do and how you do it.
I use data to answer questions, solve problems, and communicate the work being done by the City of New Orleans.
- Share something exciting that you’re working on.
Our team just finished the first-ever, comprehensive audit of City permit inspections, a very hot topic here in New Orleans since the indictment of several City staff for taking bribes and a skyscraper collapse on our main downtown thoroughfare. It has been exciting to see how we can use code to automate the matching of GPS data from vehicle trackers with inspection records, making it possible to check 100% of audits in a fraction of the time it would take a typical team of auditors. We also reviewed photos from a random sample of inspections stratified by inspector and equating to about 20% of all inspections. This allowed us to make statistically significant comparisons between inspectors without having to review photos for every single inspection. Even more exciting, we were able to identify process and data system improvements that will enable supervisors to monitor inspector performance in real-time going forward. This will go a long way toward rebuilding residents’ trust and making New Orleans the best city in the world to do business, which is our goal.
- Tell us one thing you learned from someone else during your RFA Fellowship.
One thing I learned from everyone in Results for America’s Local Government Fellowship is there is no one way to do data and evidence-based work in local government. You can focus on a specific subject area (like public safety or health), methodology (like analytics, evaluation, performance management, or process improvement) or organizational approach (like top-down, bottom-up, or hub and spoke). The key is to be strategic with the opportunities that present themselves. It has been super inspiring to see all the different approaches other Fellows take and how they are able to adapt their work, while staying aligned with their core value of making local government work better for all residents.
- If you could wave a magic wand and have any data or evidence, what would it be?
I am a true data nerd, so this is a very difficult question — I would want it all! If I had to choose, I would most want more data on quality, customer service, and outcomes, as opposed to just outputs and timeliness. Since I do not have a magic wand (unfortunately), there is always this tension between getting services to people as quickly, flexibly and inexpensively as possible, while also doing it in a systematic way that can be measured so we can know whether or not we are accomplishing the goal.
- What’s the [pick-your-adjective] job you’ve ever had?
One of the most interesting jobs I ever had was an internship I had as an undergraduate, when I was studying abroad. I spent my summer break in Puno, Peru working for a non-governmental organization that promoted human rights and local democratic institutions. It was fascinating to see the rural communities the organization served dealing with many of the same issues we see here in New Orleans and the U.S. more generally. This experience showed me the importance of taking an equity lens to government services, reducing barriers, meeting people where they are, and really showing (as opposed to just telling) how local leaders are getting results for residents.
Interested in learning more about New Orleans’ work? Read the January 5, 2018 case study on New Orleans’ efforts to improve public safety by integrating administrative data and emergency medical expertise.
Melissa Schigoda participated in Results for America’s Local Government Fellowship.