City of Arlington Office of Communication Receives What Works Cities' Inaugural 'Storytelling Changemakers' Award
By Bloomberg Philanthropies' Results for America
Posted on July 31, 2019, July 31, 2019

Results for America announced today the launch of the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers and named the Office of Communications for the City of Arlington, Texas, as the inaugural winner.  

Results for America announced today the launch of the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers and named the Office of Communications for the City of Arlington, Texas, as the inaugural winner. The award, honoring the memory of What Works Cities’ founding Director of Communications, recognizes a city official or team who draws on the power of public communication to cultivate trust and collaboration between local government and residents.

Results for America is the lead partner in What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities use data and evidence to tackle their most pressing challenges and improve residents’ lives.

“Sharman worked tirelessly to embolden local governments to use public communication as a tool to share information, and as a catalyst to spark conversation and collaboration with their community,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America. “It was in this open dialogue that she saw the greatest potential for driving resident-centered progress and cultivating public trust.”

Stein’s belief in the power of storytelling to drive change was evident throughout her career. She spent decades working as a journalist for newspapers across the country, then leading communications for city agencies and nonprofits in New York City, concluding with her time at What Works Cities. Stein passed away from ovarian cancer in May 2018.

“We are so proud to announce this award on Sharman’s birthday. We want to honor her life by inspiring cities across the country to expand the impact of her legacy, and celebrate those who are exemplifying the potential of governments and residents to collaborate and demonstrate a better story of progress for us all,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities at Results for America.

Arlington’s Office of Communications was selected as the inaugural winner because the team epitomizes Stein’s call for cities to tell stories of progress so as to build trust and invite the public to actively engage in civic life. The many notable accomplishments of the team include:

  • Positioning City Hall as a go-to news source by producing a handful of original stories each day for residents seeking the latest information on government updates, local events, construction projects, and more.
  • Launching the Budget in Action campaign, which invited residents to get to know the 2019 operating budget through assets such as an engaging video and a Taxpayer Investment Value Guide, which made the budget’s large dollar amounts relatable by comparing them to the average household’s expenses. By the end of the campaign, a quarter of the population had engaged with budget content in some way.
  • Creating the Know Your H20 campaign, which has helped residents understand how to view their water billing history, and monitor their consumption on a daily basis and across seasonal fluctuations.
  • Teaming up with the IT department on innovative projects, such as launching the Your City at Work performance dashboard, which features data on city goals, and creating technology that allows residents to use their Amazon Alexa-enabled devices to ask questions, such as where to find their voting location, that are answered via municipal open data.
  • Including a member of the communications team to serve on the City’s data governance committee, ensuring that residents are updated on the local government’s commitment to using data and progress being made as a result.

“We are thrilled to give the inaugural award to the communications team in Arlington,” said Kristin Taylor, Associate Director of Communications for What Works Cities at Results for America. “Their work embodies Sharman’s vision of what effective storytellers should be: people who listen as actively as they communicate, and who care as much about the message as the audience receiving it.”

“Our goal is simple: tell meaningful stories about what’s happening in our community to keep our residents informed and engaged in their community,” said Jay Warren, director of Communication and Legislative Affairs for the City of Arlington. “We achieve this through a team approach, which makes this award to our entire team all the more meaningful. We are humbled and honored to be the inaugural recipient of this award, which honors someone whose life was dedicated to storytelling.”

Led by Warren, the City’s Office of Communication comprises four communication coordinators (Susan Schrock, Renee MacQuaid, Sarah Barr and Kyle Weeks), two videographers (Mike Secrest and Matthew Boyd), a managing editor (Ryan Hunt) and a web master (Fred Oudoul).

Arlington is one of only 13 cities nationwide to achieve What Works Cities Certification, the national standard of excellence for well-managed, data-driven local government. The City was recognized in part for its robust efforts to communicate with the public about its use of data.

Individuals or teams to win the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers will be announced annually going forward. Recipients will be selected based on whether they embody the communications philosophy Stein championed; actively leverage modes of communication that reach residents with information about their city’s progress; and contribute to improved community trust, understanding, and/or engagement through their efforts.

City of Arlington Office of Communication Staff

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