As a public recreation professional, you have the opportunity and privilege to have a positive impact on the life of every member in your community, with programs ranging from learn-to-swim classes for babies to aerobics workouts for seniors — and everything in between. But has it ever felt like the impact of what you do is not fully understood by the community?

With 25 years of public parks and recreation experience, Lisa Paradis, director for the city of Brookline, Mass., knows the hardest part of telling your story lies in measuring the impact of your programs. Unfortunately, performance measurement is "the hottest topic that no one knows how to tackle, and coming at it from a social service/enterprise perspective is very difficult," says Paradis, who has taken on this challenge and created a dashboard that quantifies the benefit of public recreation programming and facilities to the community.

According to Paradis:

1. If you're not a data person, don't fret.
"You don't have to be the person who is great at everything. Hire great employees who are data-driven and support them," Paradis suggests. She says that she has an incredibly collaborative relationship with her new performance analyst, and together they created a dashboard that tells a captivating and informative story using big-picture data.

2. Your dashboard should show the value and tell a story.
Paradis says that she began the process of creating a dashboard because the community of Brookline has a thirst for knowledge. The dashboard is based on Brookline's basic fundamental pillars and built out from there, "constantly changing and evolving to respond to different community needs" based on surveys, evaluations and other feedback.

3. Be transparent with the data.
Paradis makes sure that the dashboard shows "the whole picture — from the good to the bad and the ugly — as well as how we're working to improve the bad and ugly." Paradis says that transparency in the data has been appreciated within the community and has helped to build trust in her department.

4. Make your dashboard accessible to the community.
The dashboard is presented at public forums and budget reviews, but Paradis isn't stopping there — she's now working on adapting a web platform for an online dashboard. There is no application or program currently available that allows big data reporting in a way that shows the value and tells the story, which is an issue a lot of agencies face. Her department has gotten a lot of positive feedback from sharing this dashboard with the community, and Paradis thinks there is a need for "industry-wide benchmark metrics, with a subset of additional information tailored to each community."

Join Lisa Paradis during her session at AB Show 2017 to learn how to create a dashboard for your community. Because AB Show hosts attendees from both the public and private sectors, you get the added benefit of "learning from your peers in all aspects of the industry and making important connections you can't find anywhere else," Paradis says. Learn about more than 130 available sessions and register at abshow.com.


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Athletic Business with the title "AB Show: Visualize your public rec success" Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.