Figures of Progress: Mitchell Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans

GOOD and IBM have teamed up to bring you Figures of Progress, our new platform that explores the different ways that information has...

GOOD and IBM have teamed up to bring you Figures of Progress, our new platform that explores the different ways that information has revolutionized our world. Through videos, story profiles, and infographics, we're sharing stories about the power of data and how today's leaders in business, city government and nonprofits are finding innovative ways to use it. Here's our latest Figure of Progress interview.

Mitchell Landrieu was sworn in as the sixty-first Mayor of New Orleans in 2010 with a clear mandate to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for the people of New Orleans. Prior to becoming mayor, Landrieu served as Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana for six years, leading the effort to rebuild the tourism industry after Hurricane Katrina and the tens of thousands of jobs it creates. During his tenure, Landrieu launched the Cultural Economy Initiative to quantify and grow jobs in Louisiana’s culture, music, food, film and art industries. Landrieu has also previously represented the Broadmoor neighborhood as a State legislator for sixteen years.

GOOD: What most influenced you on the road to your current position?

MITCHELL LANDRIEU: My family has a history of public service, and we love New Orleans. My dad served two terms as Mayor of this city from 1970-1978. Our family—all nine children—learned the value of community and the goodness of people. As a young man, I absorbed the richness of New Orleans and the importance of multiculturalism. I’m a New Orleans boy who will always believe that spirit and determination would bring success.

GOOD: What type of data and technology is the most valuable to the government agency you work with to communicate with the public?

ML: There is data that is valuable to both a government agency and to the public. We use data to find out what’s working, what’s not working and what we need to do to improve. This data is shared with the community so they know what’s going on in their neighborhood and can then hold us accountable for results. For example, our office organizes several PerformanceStat programs for key cross-departmental initiatives, like blight reduction, revenue collection, and acquisition of contractual services. In PerformanceStat meetings, senior leadership meets in public with key department heads and program managers on at least a monthly basis to review data to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what steps need to be taken to improve.

GOOD: How has data changed and informed the way you can interact with the community and improve your public service?

ML: In the past, the City of New Orleans has been notorious for outdated technology and historically poor record-keeping at City Hall. The basic premise has always been: If you can't find a baseline and you can't measure it, how do you know how you're performing? You need performance measurements in place. So when I came into office in 2010, I decided we needed to count everything. I created the Office of Performance and Accountability to serve the public by utilizing performance data. This data helps us to make better policy decisions, drive operational improvements, foster transparency in how city government is performing and promote accountability for delivering results to citizens. We’ve committed to tracking our performance and with that data, we’re becoming more efficient, more effective and more transparent with our citizens.

GOOD: What are the qualities and/or skill sets that you believe future successful leaders will need to have?

ML: These days, plenty of people seem to know what do to, but they don’t know how to do it. A leader must govern with freedom from fear and failure, hubris and arrogance. It’s sometimes intimidating, but a leader must challenge himself to see things that other people may not see. I was elected to be bold and creative in building this city back better than it was before.

GOOD: What is your greatest hope for how your work can influence positive change in our world?

ML: New Orleans is the nation’s most immediate laboratory for innovation and change. We have to make smart decisions. In order to make smart decisions, we need good data. Seven years after Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding process continues in New Orleans. This year we opened five new libraries that sustained damage in the storm. Billions of dollars are being invested in housing, schools, hospitals, parks and playgrounds, roads and vital hurricane protection. In fact, we’ve dedicated $140 million to rebuild our parks and recreation system.

Read more from leaders like Landrieu at Figures of Progress, including interviews with Meg Garlinghouse, head of Social Impact at LinkedIn; Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America; Adam Brotman, chief digital officer of Starbucks;Rachel Sterne, CIO of the city of New York; Oliver Hurst-Hiller, CTO of; and Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-founder of Airbnb.