There will be others, but there can only be one first.
And in this instance, that is the City of Arlington.
Arlington made history recently by winning the first Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers. The new award was created by Results for America — the lead partner in the Bloomberg Philanthropies data-driven local governance initiative What Works Cities. It highlights local governments doing strong work in communications and resident engagement.
“Our goal is simple: tell meaningful stories about what’s happening in our community to keep our residents informed and engaged in their community,” Arlington Director of Communication and Legislative Affairs Jay Warren said.
“We achieve this through a team approach, which makes this award to our entire team all the more meaningful. We are humbled and honored to be the inaugural recipient of this award, which honors someone whose life was dedicated to storytelling.”
The award honors the memory of the What Works Cities’ founding director of communications, while recognizing a city official or team who draws on the power of public communication to cultivate trust and collaboration between local government and residents.
Officials at Results for America noted they chose Arlington’s Office of Communications because the team epitomizes Stein’s call for cities to tell stories of progress to build trust and invite the public to actively engage in civic life. The many notable accomplishments of the team they cited include:
▪ Positioning city hall as a go-to news source by producing a handful of original stories each day for residents seeking the latest information on government updates, local events, construction projects, and more.
▪ Launching the Budget in Action campaign, which invited residents to get to know the 2019 operating budget through assets such as an engaging video and a Taxpayer Investment Value Guide. This made the budget’s large dollar amounts relatable by comparing them to the average household’s expenses.
▪ Creating the Know Your H20 campaign, which has helped residents understand how to view their water billing history, and monitor their consumption on a daily basis and across seasonal fluctuations.
▪ Teaming with the IT department on innovative projects, such as launching the Your City at Work performance dashboard, which features data on city goals, and creating technology that allows residents to use their Amazon Alexa-enabled devices to ask questions, such as where to find their voting location.
▪ Including a member of the communications team to serve on the city’s data governance committee, ensuring that residents are updated on the local government’s commitment to using data and progress being made.
“We are thrilled to give the inaugural award to the communications team in Arlington,” said Kristin Taylor, Associate Director of Communications for What Works Cities at Results for America. “Their work embodies Sharman’s vision of what effective storytellers should be: people who listen as actively as they communicate, and who care as much about the message as the audience receiving it.”
Led by Warren, the city’s Office of Communication comprises four communication coordinators (Susan Schrock, Renee MacQuaid, Sarah Barr and Kyle Weeks), two videographers (Mike Secrest and Matthew Boyd), a managing editor (Ryan Hunt) and a web master (Fred Oudoul).
Arlington was also the first city in Texas and one of only 13 cities nationwide to achieve What Works Cities Certification, the national standard of excellence for well-managed, data-driven local government.