The underpinning of the work of the Center on Municipal Government Performance entails listening directly to the public about how they assess local government performance and developing and applying performance measures that reflect the public's perspectives. The Center has found that the adaptation of market research, especially focus group research, is a highly effective method for reaching and hearing from the public on these questions. Since 1995, the Center has worked with DYG, Inc., to help design and conduct diverse focus groups in New York City.
The first focus group study in the fall of 1995 led to the development of new performance measures for the street level environment, roadway smoothness, and the frontlines of government agencies. For further information on these initiatives, click on the following:
In the fall of 2001, a second set of focus group studies was conducted to determine: (1) if the findings from the first set of focus groups conducted in 1995 still held, given population shifts and other significant changes that occurred in the interim; (2) if periodic, systematic focus group research has continuing value in identifying citizen-based performance measures; and (3) which, if any, areas of citizen concern merit the development of new performance measures. The Center's book, Listening to the Public: Adding the Voices of the People to Government Performance Measurement and Reporting (2005), describes the methodology and findings.
In 2009, a third round of 15 focus groups involved the Center working with New York City's Mayor's Office of Operations and the Office of the Public Advocate to explore reasons for some findings from the City's first large-scale quantitative satisfaction survey – NYC Feedback Citywide Customer Survey – conducted in summer 2008. Other key purposes of this round of research were to (1) ascertain changes in people's attitudes, cues used, and assessments of local government performance since the last research in 2001; and (2) demonstrate to local governments throughout the country how these two forms of research – survey research and focus group research – can work together to provide essential information about the publics' points of view.