Kansas City Identifies Four Key Factors to a Successful Online Financial Transparency Project.

Author:Mack, Mark

A successful transparency initiative is a lot of work. This is something the Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO), budget office understands well. Kansas City started a citywide transparency initiative in 2011 to find a better way to connect with the public, and the initiative trickled down to the finance department (which is part of the Office of Management and Budget) in 2014.

Today, Kansas City's Online Fiscal Transparency program includes:

* Open Data KC, an open data dashboard that houses datasets on all 311 calls, fees, dockets, audits, and development, as well as legislative information.

* Open Budget KC, an open budget platform that provides a graphical representation of KCMO's activity budget, including several years of history.

* KC Balancing Act, an interactive budgeting tool (i.e., a web tool that allows residents to experience balancing the budget using real budget data).

* KCStat, a data-driven approach to improve city services that is used as an active social media portfolio (i.e., posting information from the city's data platforms to Twitter and Facebook to help gain public and media attention).

Since starting its online fiscal transparency initiative in 2014, the Kansas City Office of Management and Budget has identified four key factors to the program's success:

  1. Start out with executive support.

  2. Start simple.

  3. Know who your audience is (and isn't).

  4. Remember that transparency goals can evolve over time, so adapt accordingly.


KCMO started its online financial transparency program with support from elected officials, which the city says is a must. The Kansas City mayor was a big champion of the project and a major contributor to getting the processes started. According to Scott Huizenga, budget officer, Office of Management and Budget, "If the top is not on board, you're pretty much dead on arrival."

After achieving executive buy-in, it's up to the department in charge to make the initiative a success. In Kansas City, the finance department initially took on the project, but it was the Office of Management and Budget that made it their own. The department didn't have a lot of direction as to how the effort should go, but staff believed it would be a useful project for the public and for building the office's resources and reputation.

Fast forward five years, and the open budget platform is a significant part of the city's strategic plan initiative. None of this would have been possible without...

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