NEW YORK, NY – Results for America announced today that the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge’s Department of Information Services will receive the fourth annual Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers. The award, which honors the memory of What Works Cities’ founding Director of Communications Sharman Stein, recognizes a city or county official or team that cultivates trust and collaboration between local government and residents through excellence in communications.
Stein devoted her career to advancing storytelling that drives positive change in local communities. She spent decades working as a journalist for newspapers across the country and later led communications for city agencies and nonprofits in New York City. At What Works Cities, she helped city leaders embrace data and evidence to make better decisions, and encouraged them to engage with residents to solve problems. Stein passed away from ovarian cancer in May 2018.
“Sharman Stein didn’t just love cities. She thrived on them and in them; she made them her vocation. She visited the city hall in every town we traveled to; and cherished access to their inner sanctums: the mayor’s office! But the greatest privilege was the chance to figure out how cities work, and how to make them work better. For her, the careful and caring deployment of data was the means to an end she’d delighted in all her life,” said her husband Skip Sherman.
The annual award is given by Results for America, lead partner of What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities use evidence and data to tackle their most pressing challenges.
“My administration is committed to investing time and resources into our open data policies and creating opportunities for us to leverage this data to better serve our community, which includes empowering our residents with the knowledge they need to navigate our comprehensive data assets,” said Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. “Our Citizen Data Academy is a pivotal part of this work that furthers our vision of setting the example for the use of data, technology, and innovation in local government.”
The City-Parish’s Department of Information Services has operated for years as a more traditional IT department for Baton Rouge’s consolidated local government, but it has transformed significantly in recent years to expand its reach and engage the community beyond the walls of the City-Parish government. In 2021, Mayor Broome launched the City-Parish’s Citizen Data Academy: On Demand, a video series the department designed to show residents how to navigate and use the City-Parish’s extensive data and analytics resources.
Citizen Data Academy: On Demand helps to reinforce the department’s ongoing community outreach and engagement surrounding City-Parish technology, tools, and resources, which includes regular in-person meetings with residents, community organizations and external agencies; cybersecurity webinars; and engaging social media content. The on-demand series has garnered thousands of unique views and builds on the department’s inaugural Citizen Data Academy—held during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—featuring monthly virtual live training sessions and topics for participants ranging from beginner to advanced levels.
The Department of Information Services has produced and published new modules and videos regularly since launching the series in September 2021, with more than 20 videos available today, and will continue to add new resources as the City-Parish’s open data platform grows.
These efforts have led to increased use of the City-Parish’s open data resources, including its award-winning Open Data BR and EBRGIS platforms. Metrics show that after a new Citizen Data Academy resource is posted to the City-Parish’s social media accounts, platform traffic and use spikes significantly.
“Many cities across the country have made impressive progress in building open data platforms with valuable community information, but Baton Rouge’s innovative video series is unique in that it provides a critical link between open data and community engagement,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-founder of Results for America. “The project epitomizes what Sharman advocated for: using data and communication to make cities a better place to call home.”
Winners of the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers are selected based on their embodiment of the communications philosophy Stein championed; proactively leveraging modes of communication that reach residents with information about their city’s progress; and contributing to improving community trust, understanding, and/or engagement through their efforts. Last year the award was presented to Port St. Lucie, Florida.
About Results for America: Results for America is helping decision-makers at all levels of government harness evidence and data to make progress on our greatest challenges. Our mission is to make investing in what works the “new normal,” so that when policymakers make decisions, they start by seeking the best evidence and data available, then use what they find to get better results.
About What Works Cities: The What Works Cities Certification program, launched in 2017 by Bloomberg Philanthropies and led by Results for America, is the first-of-its-kind standard of excellence for data-driven, well-managed local government. What Works Cities Certification recognizes and celebrates local governments for their exceptional use of data to inform policy decisions, allocate funding, improve services, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and engage residents.
Media Contact: Ross Schwartz (What Works Cities), [email protected]