In May 2016, the Mayor of San Francisco launched the Safe and Clean Neighborhoods Promise. This was a new initiative to improve the quality of life in San Francisco with a coordinated approach to delivering City services better and faster. He issued an Executive Directive to Department Heads responsible for quality of life issues directing them to prioritize services so all residents have access to clean, safe, maintained public spaces and facilities. To ensure success, the mayor created the Fix-It Team.
When Fix-It was formed in 2016, it immediately began work in five areas within San Francisco neighborhoods (“Fix-It Zones”), where a significant amount of residents had been voicing quality of life concerns to the Mayor. In an effort to utilize data as the Fix-It Team expanded its scope of work in 2017, the Fix-It Team worked with the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation to create an equitable, transparent and data-driven model to determine the Fix-It Zones. This process included collecting resident feedback through community surveys and an analysis of mapped 311 data and police data.
The Fix-It process is summarized over 5 stages: Identification of the challenges and opportunities (data and information gathering), Evaluation (mapping concerns and walking the area with the residents), Validation (walking the area with the responsible City agencies), Execution (action plan creation and service monitoring), and Reporting (sharing successes and roadblocks with residents, survey and feedback).
When working in Fix-It neighborhoods, residents are encouraged to voice any and all issues pertaining to their neighborhood’s public spaces. However, the Fix-It Team works to set expectations with residents by defining quality of life issues as issues primarily focused on the built environment, issues that do not require a capital investment to address and resolve, such as sidewalk cleanliness, street lighting, bus stop and street conditions, graffiti, and more. In addition to these types of issues, Fix-It works with City agencies in order to provide residents with timely and accurate information about processes to address health and human service concerns, such as encampments and discarded syringes, as well as infrastructure concerns, such as streetscape improvements and traffic calming efforts.
Most of the Fix-It Team’s time is devoted to problem-solving by analyzing data, listening to residents, and working with City agencies to create a set of specific, measurable, and realistic actions to take in each zone. After creating an action plan, Fix-It is responsible for executing quality service delivery and ensuring follow through from agency partners. Throughout the entire process, residents receive consistent communication, with responses to their questions and reports back with results. Fix-It is also active on social media, posting before/after images, providing resident information, and soliciting feedback.
The Fix-It Team works directly with City agencies to implement the Action Plans for each Fix-It Zone. The Fix-It Team relies on these collaborations to implement the varied requests from residents. These partnerships enable Fix-It to utilize a diverse range of City services to address issues immediately while simultaneously illuminating complex City processes for residents. This makes Fix-It a “one stop shop” for residents, removing barriers to accessing city officials and agency representatives.
Fix-It provides a service to two groups: city agencies and residents. Its process is designed to meet the needs of both groups and deliver value to them. Fix-It defines value proposition to both groups by 1) Fixing safety and cleanliness concerns; 2) Offering direct contact in city government for quality of life issues; 3) Improving neighborhood resilience; 4) Understanding what services residents need most; and 5) Packaging the highest priority service requests for the appropriate agencies.
Fix-It’s success hinges on delivering value to these two groups. As part of the “Reporting” stage in the Fix-It process, several tools and methods are utilized for evaluating work. Fix-It tracks the completion level of its action plans, ensuring all concerns were addressed, and conducts trainings and community clean-ups to empower and assemble residents. Residents are surveyed before and after Fix-It’s work, and individuals are interviewed as well for qualitative feedback. The Fix-It Team visits its neighborhoods at various times of day and night to evaluate conditions, and has an in-house database to assess its impact on quality of life via data analysis of 311 and crime data.
Over a two-year period Fix-It has engaged with nearly 1,500 community members, completed nearly 4,000 identified “fixes,” and hosted nearly 60 community meetings over 30 zones throughout San Francisco. In 2018 Fix-It expanded its scope to propose wider-ranging quality of life solutions, such as offering motion-sensor LED lighting to residents on darker blocks, contracting with cutting-edge waste technology to improve public garbage cans in key areas, working with non-profits to engage with and improve the lives of unhoused and at-risk individuals, and taking over management of supplemental cleaning contracts awarded by the City to ensure that residents’ needs are being met.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
While the idea of listening and responding to residents may not seem "innovative," in a complex municipal bureaucracy like San Francisco this can be harder than it appears. Fix-It uses its multi-agency partnerships, unique data analysis abilities, and dedication to transparency to ensure that residents' concerns are not only addressed effectively, but sustainably, comprehensively, and with consistent communication. Fix-It has a toolbelt of solutions due to its versatile and experimental nature that are not always realistic to deploy in the silo’ed reality of traditional City government. Fix-It’s work with the community is not bound by legacy processes, allowing Fix-It to be positioned with a wider range of possible solutions. Furthermore, Fix-It is committed to measuring its success through pre- and post-intervention data analysis, surveying, and site review. A dedication to transparency and measurement is essential to Fix-It’s daily approach.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Because Fix-It is a model that is only two years old and being applied to new neighborhoods throughout the year, it’s clear that the cycle of this innovation currently touches on all 6 statuses. Fix-It’s data analysis and ongoing community partnerships lends itself to constant problem/opportunity discovery, with ideas and solutions to address a given issue dependent on the issue’s unique circumstances. As root causes of various quality of life concerns are looked into, new proposals and pilot projects are critical to Fix-It finding sustainable success. Because Fix-It partners with new neighborhood zones throughout the year it is constantly implementing and evaluating efforts. The lessons learned from those efforts inform the solutions and proposals for the next problems/opportunities, and the cycle continues.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Although the Mayor created the Fix-It Team with work overseen by the Controller’s Office, San Francisco residents serve as primary partners – residents generate all of Fix-It’s work. Fix-It also officially partners with 7 different City Departments to complete field work, and Fix-It is dedicated to partnering with existing community organizations in each of its zones, including non-profits, community benefit organizations, resident and merchant associations, etc to ensure maximum impact.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
All San Francisco residents, merchants, and visitors benefit from improved quality of life and public space. Departments tasked with cleaning and maintenance see efficiencies that make better use of resources, and can more directly assist residents with their needs when facilitated through the Fix-It Team. Indeed, Fix-It’s model provides verified, validated concerns to agencies that can then have significant positive impact for businesses and residents.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Fix-It uses a variety of evaluation tools and methods to measure its impact and success. The most basic measurement analyzes Fix-It’s Action Plan completeness, to evaluate the comprehensiveness of Fix-It’s direct response to community concerns. Fix-It staff also visit zones regularly to visually assess conditions and confirm whether agency modifications have positively affected quality of life. Furthermore, Fix-It both surveys and interviews residents before and after its interventions to ensure its having the desired impact. Finally Fix-It performs rigorous data analysis of 311 service request and crime data, using algorithms developed to assess year-over-year trends and perform correlative before/after intervention analysis. Over a two-year period Fix-It hosted nearly 60 community meetings over 30 zones throughout San Francisco, engaged with nearly 1,500 community members, completed nearly 4,000 identified “fixes,” and found overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge to Fix-It’s success is thoroughly assessing quality of life in a consistent and quantifiable manner across a variety of neighborhoods. There are many factors that sway both street life conditions and data results, and larger socioeconomic trends and City policy can make effecting lasting change regarding a given issue a challenge. In addition, as Fix-It expands to additional zones, scaling the operation to ensure continued productive partnership with its stakeholders becomes a greater challenge. Fix-It has found that effectively communicating expectations to both residents and City agencies builds the trust that is critical to a long-term successful process. Fix-It is also not afraid to pilot possible solutions, which is understood by stakeholders as an experiment which may or may not produce the desired results.
Conditions for Success
For the Fix-It model to be successful, clear support from higher levels of local government (Mayor’s office, City Administrator, Department Heads) is critical, as is buy-in from agency representatives to ensure work is being done. In addition internal employees who are knowledgeable about City processes and have community engagement skills is important. The Fix-It model relies on a shared understanding that the effort is not politically-oriented but rather politically-neutral, with only an improved quality-of-life as the goal. This foundation of trust brings a variety of stakeholders to the table, which creates enhanced conditions for success.
The Fix-It model is easily replicable to other municipalities, although it would require some modifications depending on governmental structure and relevant issues in a given city. Fix-It can also be incorporated into a city’s existing oversight and accountability structure. The City of Seattle did have a “Find It, Fix It” program with some similarities, such as neighborhood walks hosted by City officials for residents, with quality of life concerns prioritized and addressed. However the Seattle program did not have a significant data analysis component nor sustained follow-up and ongoing partnership. However the Seattle program did have a grant aspect to fund community projects, a feature that San Francisco Fix-It would like to incorporate in the future.
We’ve learned the classic lesson that simple can often be better. When City agencies communicate effectively, are consistent and logical in their strategies with simple information, follow-up, and follow-through, residents are incredibly understanding. This builds trust and enhances partnerships with the community. Another key mechanism for building trust are “quick wins” – oftentimes residents want to see large-scale changes and feel frustration and helplessness around challenging quality of life issues. However, when a partnership achieves simple, quick fixes (getting a crosswalk re-painted, having a tree trimmed), a foundation of trust is built that gives a City agency time to work on a larger-scale approach to endemic quality of life challenges, and residents feel heard, empowered, and confident in their civic representatives.
At this point, the Fix-It Team is comprised of only 5 staff: Director, Deputy Director, Strategic Manager, Community Outreach Manager, and intern. The small team allows us to be individually versatile and unified as a group, although it limits the amount of projects we can work on simultaneously. We anticipate adding one staff member in the near future to assist with contract and financial management, as our success has led to City agencies requesting support for supplemental cleaning contractor management. We think the small team is an advantage but we look forward to adding another team member to increase the height of our ceiling.
- Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
6 November 2016