EMI Consulting Insights
  • Posted 7.10.16 by Kerry Meade, Managing Consultant
    The Power of the City

    The world is full of smart things these days: smart-phones, smart-meters, smart-grid, smart cities. I am drawn to these smart concepts. They’re flashy and I like flashy things, but they often integrate, or aspire to integrate, across seeming unrelated aspects of life, and I love integration. The smartphone integrated our email with our telephone. The Smartgrid aims to integrate all the homes, businesses and electrical loads across the entire grid into one digital system of supply and demand. Smart cities aim to integrate all these smart technologies and people in a web of connection to promote efficiency, equity, stability, and resilience.

    There are a lot of definitions floating around regarding what encompasses a smart city. On one side of the spectrum the smart city concept is a philosophical one, “a city well performing in a forward looking way.” On the other end of the spectrum, the concept is wholly tied to technology, a city “connecting the physical infrastructure, the IT infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and the business infrastructure to leverage the collective intelligence of the city.”  In the context of my field – energy – it is this latter definition that compels me. In their recent report, “Technology and the Future of Cities,” the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology calls for the federal government to “take a more integrated approach to supporting new technologies that can improve the lives of people in cities.” Their report goes on to make four policy recommendations and to describe current and future opportunities in six urban sectors: transportation, energy, building and housing, water, urban manufacturing, and urban farming.

    Check out the full article on: LinkedIn Pulse.

  • Posted 2.25.16 by Kara Crohn, Managing Consultant
    Process Mapping Primes the Pump for Successful Program Design and Useful Process Evaluations

    When we embark on a journey with our clients to support program design or to understand what really makes a program work, we start by developing a logic model with them. Logic modeling clarifies program staff’s and stakeholders’ understanding of how the activities they perform will logically lead to the goals they want to attain, and it establishes interim markers of success that can be measured along the way. However, it is often necessary to dig deeper into how activities are conducted to identify places where efficiency can be designed into the program’s operations.

    Process mapping is the tool we use to go deeper. The opportunity cost of not creating process maps is potentially overlooking gaps or redundancies in the program’s activities that could have saved the program money, time, or frustration had they been identified and resolved sooner. With this in mind, we work with program staff and those who interact with the program to collectively map out day-to-day operations; to have a conversation they rarely, if ever, have time for during their day. To get the most out of the exercise, it is critical to have the right people in the room and to foster an environment of exploration that respects differences in perspective.

    From a program design perspective, we use process mapping for locating opportunities to build in efficiency from the beginning, avoid pitfalls, and engender collaboration across job roles. From a process evaluation perspective, we focus evaluation questions on aspects of the program process in most need of feedback and tie performance metrics to critical program process steps. We also map the actual process against the designed process to more thoroughly identify implementation fidelity questions and, ultimately, feed timely design considerations back into the program design cycle.

    Process mapping is a simple tool that requires methodologically rigorous facilitation to produce meaningful results. Facilitated well, staff and stakeholders who participate in the process mapping exercise leave with a deeper appreciation for the work they each perform and some immediate steps to improve the efficiency of their work. They also have a better understanding of how their daily actions will lead to longer-term, farther-reaching goals described in their logic model.