The AJSC has developed a new model to measure the determinants of the ‘quality of life’ in Ajman, covering six key areas of public service. The Model comprises a comprehensive factor measurement framework embedded on a sophisticated web-based application, with inbuilt protocols for scientific data collection, project management, data visualization and reporting. It systematically measures gaps and impact of interventions, via targeted performance assessment of framework factors.
The project had its genesis following the economic census conducted in Ajman in 2017 by the AJSC. During the administration of the survey framework, the project team witnessed significant challenges in enforcing robust data collection protocols and quality assurance standards, to ensure the reliability and validity of collected data.
In addition, there was a realization of an untapped opportunity to leverage the engagement opportunity with the community, to capture their feedback on what makes living in Ajman attractive to them, and how relevant data captured could be aligned to policy outcomes that maximized value; keeping the community’s needs at the ‘heart’ of public service design and delivery.
Additionally, it was also observed at the time, that Government agencies involved in the delivery of these vital public services in Ajman did not follow a standardized approach in capturing beneficiary (user) feedback on the various attributes associated with the demand, needs and expectations underpinning these services.
In this context, the Ajman Attractiveness Model serves as a unique solution that:
- Presents a comprehensive, scientifically derived framework of attributes that capture the current considerations of demand ‘drivers’, consumption ‘influencers’, perceptions of access, efficiency, and effectiveness, as well as the future expectations of the public, relevant to the vital public services that shape their perceptions of ‘quality of life’ in the Emirate
- Leverages the opportunity presented via scientifically collected, refined, and analyzed data to design ‘fit for purpose’ services, develop ‘future proofed’ policies and enhance public service performance
- Enables ‘razor focused’ continual improvements in specific dimensions of public services as captured by the framework of factors deployed for measurement
The platform deployed for the administration of 'Ajman Attractiveness Survey' (also referred to as 'Ajman Studies') is a highly sophisticated system with in-built quality assurance, project management and data collection protocols, as well as features for automated analysis, data visualization and real time reporting.
The 'Ajman Studies' platform includes various features and mechanisms for survey management, monitoring field work, data quality validation, statistical analyses, data visualization (by geofenced areas, charts, tables), gap analysis and decision support.
The Ajman Attractiveness Survey, which is currently in its fifth cycle, is conducted annually on a scientifically selected sample of 6000+ households in Ajman. Each cycle is 4-months and follows an ‘input – output’ process flow. The key building blocks of this process include - sample framework design, research instrument set up, system activation, pilot study, survey rollout, analysis, and reporting.
Quality control and data checking are infused at various 'touch points' of survey execution – notably, this follows the ‘agile’ approach of project management, with enhancements introduced incrementally in ‘time boxes’, vis – a – vis a ‘waterfall’ based sequential intervention approach.
The ‘backbone’ of the research instrument deployed, is the customized framework of variables measured to ascertain satisfaction and performance levels on each of the six areas of public service measured.
The novelty of the Model is further underpinned in the ‘ripple’ impacts and disruptions it has created in the conventional public policy cycle, clearly translating ‘voice of the community’ into tangible benefits via structural reforms, policy enhancements, programs, and infrastructure.
The novelty of the framework is underpinned in its design - its conceptualization is based on a review of 343 academic papers, journals, and white papers, across the six service areas. The initial prototype has been tested through a combination of pilot studies, reliability, and validation tests, as well as feedback from subject matter experts. To this effect, the framework which forms the core of the Ajman Attractiveness Model enables an entirely new approach in measuring and enhancing Government effectiveness in the delivery of vital public services.
Based on its success in Ajman, the Model has already received nation-wide interest for adoption from Local Government entities across the other Emirates as well as from the Federal Government of the UAE. The methodology ‘backbone’ of the Model is considered a pioneering ‘best practice’ in public service performance measurement and is likely to be adopted as a national system.
Furthermore, several academic papers covering the project approach and cycle results, have already been published in prestigious academic journals including the 'Open Journal of Business and Management' and the 'International Journal of Community Well-Being'. On this basis, the project has contributed to the global body of academic knowledge and best practices in public service performance management.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The novelty of the Model is embedded not only in its design, but also in terms of how it has transformed the public policy decision making process in relation to vital public services in the Emirate of Ajman.
The framework architecture, which is the result of comprehensive academic research, follows a ‘user centric’ design, keeping the community’s objectives at the core. The parameters measured across the six service areas are interlinked in such a way that all the experiential aspects that influence the attractiveness of living in Ajman are comprehensively covered.
The framework has further inspired the novel design of the web platform on which it is hosted ('Ajman Studies') - the system has automated features for quality management, analysis, and real-time reporting.
This unique design ensures that diagnostics on measured attributes directly support, and substantiate the Government’ decisions on programs, policy interventions, service enhancements and infrastructure investment.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Model is currently being studied by other Local and Federal Government entities in the UAE to enhance their public service performance measurement frameworks as well as in enhancing the agility of public policy decisions.
The Ajman Attractiveness Framework is also being mapped to other Government projects; thus, leading to positive benefits in the form of ‘cross pollinated’ measurement efficiencies, output validation, and improvements in instrument design. As an example, a mapping conducted with the “Children’s Happiness Index”, another flagship project led the AJSC, led to iterative enhancements in the Ajman Attractiveness Model.
The framework design remains agile, in response to the external environment and evolving needs of the community. As an example, during the pandemic, the ‘Telecommunications’ framework of the Model was enhanced to incorporate specific parameters to reflect the importance of internet connectivity in a virtual environment.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Aligned to its philosophy of 'community needs at the center', the conceptualization of the Model engaged citizens, residents, and civic societies during the design stage. Focus group discussions were conducted with over 100 participants covering the demographic and geographical coverage of Ajman. Academicians were consulted to conduct reliability tests on the initial prototypes. The Model is periodically enhanced on framework design, performance output and UX, based on respondent feedback.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Expectedly, the key beneficiary of the Project is the community. Government decisions related to the design and delivery of public services have become more agile and responsive to the community's needs.
The endorsement of the Model by the highest level of Government promotes a direct ‘community voice to implementation' policy approach. Furthermore, the Model has promoted more cross-functional initiatives related to public service enhancement, challenging traditional 'silo-based' functions.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The architecture of the framework enables a cyclical trends analysis of ‘factor-specific’, ‘service specific’ and ‘composite’ performance. This supports an assessment of the impact and attribution linked to specific interventions by the Government.
The Model has resulted in several initiatives directly approved by the Ruler's Office and cascaded to relevant public agencies. These initiatives have had an impact on enhancing the community's perception of 'quality of life' in Ajman. In 2021, 90.7% respondents reported that their local neighborhood got better over the last 3 years.
Select initiatives implemented include:
- A total ‘green area’ of 7.7 million sq. m. added, between 2018 and 21', based on the future expectations of the community for higher access to parks
- The fire alarm coverage across households in Ajman went up by 22.5% between 2020 and 21'
- A total of 12 'Majlises' are being built to address the community's feedback for higher societal engagement
Challenges and Failures
Whilst the project has had significant contributions in delivering tangible impact on ‘quality of life’ in Ajman, the implementation of the framework faced certain challenges, in its early days.
Whilst presently the project has endorsement from the highest levels of Government, achieving this required significant efforts in demonstrating the linkage of model outputs to decision outcomes. With the paradigm shift in Government decision making signaled by the adoption of the Model; relevant Government agencies had to be carefully managed.
Garnering effective survey participation was a challenge in the early days and required extensive public engagement to address.
There were initial challenges in survey execution that were systematically addressed via enhancements in project management, including the incorporation of 'phased' data collection and 'agile' quality intervention. Key learnings from each cycle have been iteratively incorporated in the Model's design and implementation.
Conditions for Success
The project exemplifies 'pioneering best practices' in performance measurement of vital public services, a ‘community centric’ framework design, and agility in Government decision making. However, without the absence of defining success factors, the full potential of the project could not have been realized.
- Endorsement of the highest levels of Government (Ruler’s Office)
- Effective framework design and conceptualization based on a combination of scientific vigor and design thinking principles, keeping the community’s objectives, 'front and center'
- Effective use of technology, infusing rules and protocols for robust project management, quality management and performance management
- Effective participation of the Ajman community in providing accurate feedback.
- Effective alignment of project results to policy intervention outcomes
- Effective change management to drive adoption and endorsement of the Model by public service agencies in Ajman
The Ajman Attractiveness Model is currently being studied by Local Government and Federal Government agencies across the Emirate, to derive ‘key lessons’ geared towards revitalizing measurement frameworks linked to flagship programs and projects in the realm of public services.
Beyond the Emirates, the Model has the potential for defining regional and global ‘best practice’ related to public service performance measurement and decision making.
Efforts have been taken to enable replicability, by diffusing vital learnings related to the project, via academic contributions made by the AJSC to credible journals including the 'Open Journal of Business and Management', 'Creative Education' and the 'International Journal of Community Wellbeing'.
In addition, two books on Ajman as a regional benchmark for performance measurement across each of the six public services covered by the framework, have been published through Lambert Publishing House.
The project was conceptualized to enhance the quality of data for policy outcomes related to vital public services. However, its implementation was effectively leveraged to enhance the agility of policy decisions and foster engagement opportunities with the community. This reflects the importance of mapping direct and induced benefits derivable from projects of this nature, as part of the Design phase.
The need for change management cannot be underestimated; the project showed how effective engagement with decision makers, pubic agencies and the community, can drive a paradigm shift in the public policy process.
The technology platform used for survey administration is custom built with protocols for project management, quality, and performance management. This shows how aligning technology capabilities with project objectives can optimize outcomes.
The Model exemplifies how impact of public service innovations can be maximized through the adoption of 'consumer centric' design.
Select academic contributions where the project has been featured include:
- Articles in the 'Open Journal of Business and Management', published on 6th Sep. 2021, 4th Jan. 2022 and 18th Feb. 2022, covering performance measurements in Infrastructure, Transport and Telecommunication respectively
- An article in 'Creative Education' published on 31st Aug. 2021, covering performance measurement in Education
- An article in 'International Journal of Community Wellbeing' published on 21st Feb. 2022, covering performance measurement in Public Services
Additionally, two books featuring Ajman as a regional best practice in public service measurements, have been published through Lambert Publishing House.
As an overall reflection of impact, the composite of attractiveness index (0 to 100) has gone up from 83.5 points in 2018 to 91.5 points in 2021. The index values for all the six services areas captured by the index, have also shown an upward positive trend between 2018 and 2021.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
26 January 2023