To build trust externally and confidence internally, we will track our progress, results and impact. We start with the right measures, use appropriate tools to make tracking simple, and translate the results into relatable benefits.
The BPDA has processes and tools for measuring impact, but it rarely tracks projects once they have been built. When the BPDA does release information about projects, it is often written in business or development language that focuses on dollars, height, units and square footage. This increases the perception that the BPDA is more of a ‘developer of buildings,’ as opposed to ‘planner and shaper of communities.’ It makes it hard for the average citizens or business owners to feel like they will benefit from development even though, in reality, many of the parks, public art, walkways, bike lanes and corners for farmers’ markets that we enjoy in our neighborhoods were built as part of developments, not to mention the building’s hefty contribution to funding key parts of our communities, such as schools and city services.
As we set the goal of trying more innovative solutions to support an inclusive city, tracking our projects becomes a best practice, critical for BPDA internal learning, iterating and scaling of ideas. The BPDA has excellent data-tracking and visualization expertise, and new tools have emerged to make tracking a plan or a project efficient and accessible.
Our Tracking Process
This framework describes a process for thinking through how we track planning and development. It is critical to analyze measures across the spectrum of stakeholders, and then translate them into relatable benefits before sharing stories with multiple audiences in a variety of ways.
Decide What to Track
What does the community care about? What would they want to know, to be comfortable?
What are new things we are trying, that we might want to try again on a different site (using this as an example)?
What are the variables that we think will strongly influence the success of the project?
What are things we are constantly being questioned on? What would prove our expertise?
Gather Data or Feedback
Project information (financial, square footage, unit size, etc.)
Community benefits and assets
Economic implications (taxes, etc.)
Real time usage data/tracking
Tools, studies, models (wind, shadows, traffic, etc.)
GIS tools, quantitative data and research
Community goals (e.g., housing cost burden)
Tools or campaigns for feedback (text, social media, etc.)
Results of a prototype or pilot
Analyze and Translate
If tracking is internal, it may be acceptable to leave measures the way they are. When we use measures externally, however, we need to understand/list how this project affects the full spectrum of stakeholders, and begin to craft our story by dialing up/down the sides of the spectrum.
Translate the benefits into our public-facing framework:
Live: Live is about access to safe and affordable homes, and neighborhood amenities that contribute to the ‘joy of life’—socialization, recreation, arts and culture.
Work: Work is access to a variety of jobs that allow people to support themselves and their families. Work includes training or services associated with jobs, including schools.
Connect: Connect references the supporting infrastructure across the city. Physical connections include transportation, water, electricity, as well as complete streets, sidewalks, bike paths and traffic flows. Virtual connections include internet, networks, media and tools.
- Text and email
- Abutter letters
- On building sites
- At building openings, in lobby
- In community centers
- At community meetings
- In media and advertising
- On BPDA web site
- In BPDA lobby
- In BPDA staff meetings
- In periodicals
- At speaking events
What This Might Look Like
This visual depicts how progress on a project may be communicated in a future state, when we have rolled out our new processes.
An empty lot. A building in progress. New apartments ready for their first occupants. For all phases of a development, there is a story to share with residents about the contributions it will make to their community. After all, a building is not just for the occupants but for those around it too.
BPDA wraps are posted onsite at all properties under development to provide those who live in the area a better understanding of how they impact them across three categories—Live, Work, and Connect. The wraps highlight how BPDA-approved projects are contributing to the neighborhood with jobs, green space, affordable housing and much more.
Community Meeting Presentations
The BPDA conducts hundreds of community meetings each year to facilitate conversations with and between residents, businesses and institutions. While the facilitation role often means the BPDA isn’t leading the meetings, and therefore not presenting content, it is still important for progress to be tracked and shared back regularly.
At meetings, the BPDA regularly presents their goals for planning and development in a given neighborhood, demonstrates progress against planning and development efforts and talks about how completed initiatives have contributed across the three categories of Live, Work, and Connect.
While smartphones aren’t yet ubiquitous, their platform offers a rich and compelling way to share goals, and progress toward those goals, in real time through augmented reality (AR).
A community member can hold a smartphone up to a property and, and, using a BPDA-designed augmented reality app, understand what the planning and development goals are for that property, and how the property will contribute to the neighborhood across Live, Work and Connect.
Focus on internal communication.
Because of the nature of our work and the constant stream of new initiatives and pressures arising in a dynamic and growing city, much of BPDA leadership’s attention is focused outwardly on addressing pressing issues. Most employee recognition comes from external sources and project milestones. While this can be fulfilling for people shepherding initiatives and seeing their impact, the majority of supporting roles are not aware of the results they have contributed to, and their contributions can go unnoticed. This lack of recognition and rewards results in employees feeling unmotivated and unfulfilled, especially in an environment where some employees do not perform. When no one is recognized, we send the message that working hard or performing above and beyond isn’t valued by the organization, which risks the retention of outstanding performers and reduces incentive for many.
The Desired Outcome
Employees feel recognized and rewarded for the great work they do. Through our evolving reputation as a leading organization, we attract top talent and retain our best performers. As we evolve our identity and strategy, we roll out updated job descriptions to create new incentives and measures that can drive performance.
Show Impact (recognize and reward employees)
Focus on career development.
Establish consistent, evolved job descriptions for all employees who are aligned with the new strategy. Create measures and align incentives to drive performance against these new job descriptions.
Develop recognition mechanisms.
Establish the right cadence or mechanism for recognition and reward, aligned to the new strategy and relevant to the individual roles. Create a ‘palette’ of recognition techniques and rewards ready for distribution, so that it becomes easy for leaders to recognize people in a consistent and meaningful way. Help employees see the impact of their work on the people of Boston and the city’s future—this will help generate self-motivation and fulfillment in their work.
Conduct a competitive audit across municipal and private organizations with similar roles, to ensure that job titles and salaries are comparable and employee resumes stay competitive.