Speaker Insight Series: Daniel Koh

Today, Daniel Koh is Chief of Staff to the City of Boston. But when he was a young boy, he wanted to be the GM of the Red Sox. Later in life he took a course in statistics and did his own statistical analysis of clutch hitters, submitting it to 30 teams… and receiving 30 rejection letters.

Daniel KohFast forward some years and Daniel, a TEDxCambridge 2015 Fall speaker, now spends a lot of his time making Boston a data-driven city. He has built a team that believes in using citizen-powered data to enable better decisions to better serve society, creating a virtuous and infectious cycle.

We think that’s something we can all get behind, but how? And why is data-driven management so scant in the public sector? How can it be used to make citizens’ lives better?  

As a general rule, most citizens in a democracy regard civic participation as merely voting, and few regard civic participation as something done online or using technology. In turn, most people tune in to public participation on election days and tune out the rest of the time. Needless to say this leads to a kind of civic apathy that then begets a lack of connectedness with our government and a decreased desire to actively work together to improve quality of life.

In fact, “non-voting” civic participation exists, and Daniel is bringing those options to life through the use of data in the city of Boston. In doing so, the first step was bringing about a culture where data is an integral part of the decision-making process in order to avoid unnecessary costs and inefficiently-operated city services.

He and his team have not only proven data-driven governance works in an environment with hitherto very little data-driven management, but they’ve also made it a fundamental part of their culture. For an example, look no further than The Data of Double Parking — just one of the many ways in which data has helped the city become more efficient and turned its employees into arbiters of positive change instead of mere enforcers of top-down regulations.

We can’t wait to welcome Daniel to the TEDxCambridge stage and to hear more about the innovations in government his team is enacting.