External Performance Reporting, Oregon Style

By Conrad, Rita | Government Finance Review, June 2009 | Go to article overview

External Performance Reporting, Oregon Style


Conrad, Rita, Government Finance Review


The Oregon Progress Board is unique in the way it publicly reports performance data. Other governments, including British Columbia, (1) Tasmania, (2) and South Australia (3) emulate aspects of Oregon's system. But unlike Oregon, they do not publicly link public entity performance measures directly to societal goals and progress indicators. Oregon's system wraps externally reported government data in the context of societal goals. This provides a framework that can enhance public understanding of the purpose of government and encourage a more integrated, systemwide approach to better results.

The governor and Legislature launched Oregon's current system in 1989 with a statewide strategic plan called Oregon Shines, (4) companion progress indicators called Oregon Benchmarks, (5) and an independent Progress Board to track progress and keep the plan current. The benchmarks offer evidence about Oregon's economic, social, and environmental wellbeing. In 2007, the Progress Board launched benchmarks.oregon.gov, an interactive Web site that links the Oregon Shines goals and 91 high-level benchmarks to state agency performance measures.

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

Benchmarks.oregon.gov is the portal to Oregon's high-level planning and reporting system. Because state agencies self-link their organizational performance measures to pertinent benchmarks as part of the budget process, benchmarks.oregon.gov also serves as an external performance reporting tool for state government. State agencies' performance data linked to high-level benchmark data provides a societal framework for public entity performance.

Here are some of the principles that underpin benchmarks.oregon.gov.

* Oregon Benchmarks were developed to track progress toward a statewide plan. Some community indicator systems arise from a process that does not include planned goals and targets. In contrast, Oregon Benchmarks come from a societal-level planning process. Benchmarks track Oregon's progress in seven categories aligned to the Oregon Shines goals (see Exhibit 1).

* Oregon Shines and the benchmarks are about advancing Oregon's wellbeing in a sustainable manner. Oregon Shines goals and benchmarks reflect the interconnectivity of economic, social, and environmental wellbeing. For this reason, the benchmarks have been studied as sustainability indicators. (6) Since the original Oregon Shines in 1989, the idea has always been to move the needle toward economic, social, and environmental benchmark targets simultaneously. This approach is important to help harmonize economic development, for example, with other benchmark areas such as affordable housing, traffic congestion, and carbon emissions.

* Oregon Shines and the benchmarks are about results. Oregon Benchmarks represent the end of the "Why?" chain. Why complete intake assessments on new inmates? To get more of them into training, treatment, and other rehabilitation activities. Why do that? To increase the percentage of inmates who behave better and possess more skills. And why do that? To reduce recidivism once they get out, which is Oregon Benchmark 65. Citizens may not care how many intake assessments occur or how many inmates receive training, but they probably do care about the likelihood of a repeat offense in their community or workplace.

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WHAT BENCHMARKS.OREGON.GOV DOES

Benchmarks.oregon.gov tells it like it is, with no spin. People often note the candor with which the benchmarks reveal bad news about Oregon, alongside the good. Benchmarks.oregon.gov provides a virtual report card of Oregon's economic, social, and environmental progress. Most benchmarks have targets set at five-year intervals. With adequate data, the Progress Board can "grade" whether the trend is on course to achieve the target. Online reports also provide data tables, national comparison and county data, where available, and background information on each benchmark. …

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