REM-F: City Efficiency Ranking (Ranking de Eficiência dos Municípios Folha)
Organisation: Folha de S.Paulo (Brazil)
Publication Date: 03/27/2017
Size of team/newsroom:large
DescriptionIn 2016, Brazil had mayoral elections on its 5500+ cities. The big issue in debate in Brazilian politics was corruption, corruption, corruption. At Folha, the leading newspaper in Brazil, we decided to make a different kind of contribution to the debate: we gathered public data on the main policies of municipal competence and compared that to each city's revenue, to see which ones make the most from the resources they have available. Those measures were: education(percentage of children 4/5 years old in school; percentage of children 0/3 years olf in creches), healthcare (ratio of doctors per population and reach of basic healthcare crews) and sanitation (reach of sewage, water and waste collection as a percentage of homes); all that was compared to revenue per capita. With the help of Datafolha, Folha's own polling institute, we created an index that allowed for the comparison of cities in terms of cost efficiency. Index done, we drew profiles of different kinds of city, by efficiency level, and visited 16 cities in Brazil to see what they looked like. In the visits, we got some important subtleties: some of the most cost-efficient cities were old cities which were once prosperous and grew a very good policy infrastructure but now were in decline; some of the lest cost-efficient cities were recently emancipated municipalities which were just now beginning to grow their infrastructure. All those caveats were contemplated in our reporting. The project included a tool where readers could rank cities according to the components of the index and compare cities and video infographics describing the findings and the methodology, as well as in-loco reporting. The whole project took us five months, with a core team formed by me, Marcelo Soares (data journalist, former Audience and Data editor at Folha); Fernando Canzian (experienced business reporter, then editor at large at Folha); Mario Kanno (graphics wiz, former Infography deputy editor at Folha); Alessandro Jannoni (research director at Datafolha); and Renata Nunes (lead statistician at Datafolha).
What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?After the project was published, an university in São Paulo city hosted a seminar to debate it. They called many scholars who have been studying city efficiency for years. They all had ideas on how they could have done a better assessment of city efficiency, but most pointed out two strengths of the project: 1) our indexing method was simple enough to be easily understood; 2) we went in loco to a sample of the cities, something scholars rarely do, and that added important insight. For weeks, during the election campaign, in many cities in Brazil, candidates debated what the results meant. For a while, we helped drive the election debate away from the usual finger-pointing in those cities. In terms of eye candy, the final result was not as rich as we originally planned. We got the search and the comparison tools, but not the interactive map we'd planned. In terms of data analysis, we got a very interesting leap in comparison to the usual kind of data journalism that's done in Brazil. The reporting is quite solid.
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