The City of Calgary is a massive organization that has grown exponentially over the last two decades, in a world where technology, processes and procedures have shifted a lot (let’s think about what the internet looked like 20 years ago, for example). I do believe there are many really smart, skilled people working for the City, who care about the work they do and want to see the city be as successful and adaptable as possible. However, there is room for improvement in some critical areas, which could really help streamline how we operate while reducing costs, and providing better transparency. This would foster more trust in the City, improving relationships between the City and residents, stakeholders and businesses. Change can be tough. Changing an organization as large as the City takes time, resolve, buy-in and collaboration between all parties. I think there is an openness to new possibilities right now that didn’t exist to the same extent pre-COVID. That makes this a great time to push for innovation, better accountability and a shift in culture at the City.
Here are 11 ideas to improve the effectiveness and efficiency at City Hall:
- Review City financial processes to ensure funds are being accurately tracked and managed across all departments. An investigation stemming from a recent audit found significant financial discrepancies in certain growth related city funds. This raised concerns as to how various funds are being managed, and highlighted the need for better, more centralized and more transparent systems for managing the City’s finances.
- Evaluate cost effectiveness and service levels from all external service providers. Re-tender those contracts who do not meet proper standards.
- Further educate city staff and partners on inclusion, systemic racism and accessibility issues and opportunities.
- Investigate other sources of recurring revenue to support necessary City initiatives and services.
- Continue to look for efficiencies in the operation and implementation of City services across all departments.
- Ensure that City departments and staff are empowered to adapt and innovate their processes quickly when needed to improve service levels to Calgarians.
- Review the City’s stakeholder engagement process and make changes. Set targets and measurable success indicators. Identify barriers to participation and address those challenges. Make the public hearing process more inclusive.
- Amend or eliminate conflicting/redundant/overly prescriptive policies and processes.
- Reduce office space and related overhead costs due to more employees working remotely more frequently.
- Incentivize and support employee-led innovation and leadership. When an organization is run with a focus on risk-aversion, it makes it very difficult to be nimble and explore new approaches to old ways of doing things.
- Create a corporate culture of transparency and accountability.
Some of these steps are easier than others – and it is easy to find reasons why they can’t or won’t happen. However I believe if council, administration and city stakeholders work together and are open to making changes (even if some don’t initially work out), administration can make dramatic improvements to how the City operates and really create a culture of empowerment for employees. This will re-establish trust in our municipal government, strengthen relationships, and also help Calgary achieve its potential as a city. Which ultimately means a better day to day life experience for Calgarians.