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How Pinellas County Made Strategic Planning Simple

pinellas county strategic planning simple

How the Florida county was able to produce a new strategic plan in half the time as their last plan using Track data by Polco.  

At a Glance 

  • Pinellas County, Florida, needed better data to inform strategic plan decisions, evaluate impact, and adjust course when needed. But finding the right data points is complicated and time-consuming. 

  • The County used Track data by Polco to access dozens of impact-based measurements about their community instantly. 

  • The data helped the county produce a plan in half the time as usual. 

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Strategic Plan Data That Measures What Matters Is Hard to Find

Pinellas County, Florida, wanted to change how it approached strategic planning and performance measurement. They needed more data to inform their goals and decisions. And they wanted a better way to measure the impact of their plan’s actions. This meant finding data that represents what matters most to their residents in their community. Measurements like this would help the County spot opportunities and emerging issues and be more agile in finding solutions. 

PXL_20230606_122827157~4But knowing how to measure a plan's impact is a stumbling block for most local governments. There are limitless possibilities on what to quantify. And it’s difficult to know if those data points are accurate representations of improvement. This can take a lot of money, time, and discussion. Because of this, most governments do not even attempt to collect impact-based data.

“Developing the data was a major hurdle for us,” said Aubrey Phillips, Strategic Planning and Performance Manager for Pinellas County. “Getting that data pulled into a visualization was a huge amount of workload.”

Take a look at the Track dashboards! 


The County Used Track by Polco To Get Meaningful Data About Their Community Instantly 

To overcome this barrier, the County used Track by Polco, comprehensive datasets about their community they could access immediately. Using Track saved the County hours of time and thousands of consultant dollars. 

Local governments instantly get a library of data points specifically about their community. That’s because the Track data is curated by data science experts from public sources like the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, FBI Crime Reports, The Center for Disease Control, and other trusted references. It’s presented all together in one data dashboard. 

With Track, Pinellas County can also compare their data to the national average as well as  communities of a similar size. The comparison information makes it much easier for local governments to understand their performance in context.

Pinellas County Track Data economic overview Strategic Planning Simple

Pinellas County's economic broad overview data. Pinellas County scores above the national average for economy. 

“We now have this library of indicators to pull from that were already visualized, already trended, already benchmarked that it made the process of getting from a concept to execution so much easier,” Phillips said.

Additionally, the data was specifically selected by survey and data science experts to represent a more meaningful measure of success. The data allowed the County to easily prioritize measures that were comparable to national averages and time-trended. The County also selected data points from the dashboard that reflected the County Commissioners' and community’s priorities. The impact-focused indicators streamlined discussion around the best available data points to represent success. Pinellas County Track data on parks Strategic Planning Simple

Pinellas County Track data showing how many people live close to parks

For example, Pinellas County planners historically measured park access by looking at how many acres of parkland existed per resident. With the Track data, they can see what portion of  residents live within a half mile of a park. This measurement more directly shows park accessibility equity, rather than a more general measure of the amount of parkland per resident. 

Staff involved in the strategic plan’s development also considered how they would measure housing cost burdens. Initial discussions focused on low-income housing. Track data shows housing cost burden across an entire community. This opened up the conversation to look more broadly at everyone struggling to afford their homes, not just those experiencing poverty.

“Affordability, good physical and mental health, and other intended outcomes are important for everyone in our community,” Philips said.

Examples like this helped Pinellas County get on the same page on why impact-based measurements are important. 

“[The data] is vetted by legitimate experts in our field who are thinking about how to measure success,” she said. “That helped a lot because much of this was outside of the norm of what departments are used to thinking about in terms of what we should be measuring.”

Pinellas County Outcome indicators Strategic Planning Simple

Slide from Pinellas County's plan showing what Track indicators they could use for performance measurement 

Phillips notes that the County’s strategic plan is simple. Individual departments are responsible for coming up with detailed strategies and tactics that support the mission and vision of the larger strategic plan. (Individual departments' programs and projects are developed, approved and funded through the annual budget development process.) This simplicity allowed the County to create their new data-backed plan in half the time it took to create their last plan. The simplicity also makes the plan more adaptable to changing community needs over time. 

Pinellas County staff will use the Track data to measure and report on ongoing progress and systematically consider opportunities for continuous improvement.

“We haven't had any outside consulting support on this plan. Other than our partnership with Polco, we've done everything in-house,” Phillips said. “I don’t know of many other communities that have been able to develop a community-wide strategic plan in such a brief period of time, and so economically. Now we have a tool that will help us drive results that matter most to our community.”

Simplify Your Strategic Planning With Track By Polco

Strategic planning is critical to effective governance. But many organizations lack quality data to inform the planning process. With Track data by Polco, you get access to meaningful data points about your community instantly. The information aligns decision-makers and community members around the most important issues. Streamline strategic planning with data-backed insights about your city. 

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