Data-driven Local Government Delivers Results for Residents – Lessons from Gold-Certified Cities in Bloomberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities Initiative
Through collaboration, the sharing of data and a 'universal toolkit' for larger change, cities like Kansas, Washington D.C. and Louisville are being recognised for finding solutions to urban problems
Launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015, What Works Cities is first-of-its-kind national standard of excellence in city governance that helps mid-sized American cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve services, inform local decision-making and engage residents.
Named by Forbes as one of "the biggest philanthropic bets on social change from 2015,'' the initiative, part of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s broader push to encourage leadership in local government, offers cities the tools and resources they need to drive change and improve the quality of life of their residents.
Participating cities pursue Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Certification – a national standard that lauds cities with silver, gold or platinum recognition. They are evaluated on factors including whether data is publicly available, and whether there are policies in place to ensure data is managed safely and kept secure.
To date, nearly 200 cities have completed a Certification assessment to have their practices benchmarked against the national standard. In 2019, three cities achieved gold level, moving up from silver in 2018.
So what does it take for a city to be honoured with the coveted Gold Certification?
Gold-certified Kansas City passed a law requiring the local government use data in decision-making. The city used data to analyse how employees, particularly women, were affected by a lack of maternity leave. The analysis led to Kansas City becoming one of the first cities to implement paid parental leave.
The city of Louisville, Kentucky built a platform that analyses data to improve traffic conditions and road safety, and opened the technology to the public so that it is free for any city to use.
The city of Washington, D.C. set up a team of applied research scientists at The Lab @ DC, who use data to inform the city's most important decisions. To date, the city has used data from 911 calls to solve an ambulance shortage and improved service delivery on a number of critical programmes, such as its dockless bikeshare system and the delivery of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The long-term effects of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative are far-reaching. Through collaboration, and the sharing of data and a universal toolkit for larger change, cities are finding solutions to urban problems.
For any city hoping to accelerate its work toward Certification, Jennifer Park, an Associate Director for What Works Cities has shared advice in this downloadable PDF.