7 cities honored with What Works Cities certification for data usage

  • Bloomberg Philanthropies honored seven cities with What Works Cities certification, recognizing the extent to which they use data and evidence in their decision-making. The cities honored were Arlington, TX; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Memphis, TN; Philadelphia; Scottsdale, AZ; and Washington, DC. They join previous honorees Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
  • Kansas City, Louisville and Washington achieved certification at the gold level — up from silver last year — having made progress in their use of data. That includes initiatives like Kansas City passing a new law requiring government to use data in decision-making; Louisville’s new platform to improve traffic conditions and road safety; and the Lab @ DC, which improves services in various areas including dockless bike- and scooter-share. Arlington, Memphis, Philadelphia and Scottsdale all are newly certified at the silver level for their use of data dashboards, accessibility and its use in contract awards.
  • “These well-managed cities are better solving the problems facing their communities and addressing residents’ needs,” Simone Brody, executive director of What Works Cities, said in a statement. “They are stretching every dollar by using data to set priorities, budget effectively, and ensure investments are yielding desired results. They are also putting data at the core of their efforts to prepare for future challenges.”

The certification, part of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s broad push to encourage leadership in local government, shows the importance of using data and fact-based evidence. Cities are evaluated on factors like whether they have dedicated staff that help them use data; if key data are publicly available and whether there is transparency around the goals set and the progress toward achieving them. Cities must also show that they have policies in place to ensure data is managed safely and kept secure.

Cities deal with an ever-increasing amount of data collected, and it has forced a rethink in their governmental structures as they try to break down departmental siloes and find ways to leverage the information they collect. Some have been ahead of the pack by introducing roles like Chief Data Officer, which can vary in scope and power but have a goal of helping governments understand how that data can be used and managed. A Bloomberg Philanthropies American Mayors Survey found 49% of surveyed respondents work in cities that have a dedicated staff for data.

Those involved with the challenge indicate there is plenty of work still to be done, both to expand the use of data nationally and to get the cities already doing good work to pick up the pace. What Works Cities offers the top-ranked platinum certification but has never awarded it to a city; there are around 200 cities that have completed an assessment to be certified and have their practices benchmarked, so while there is a lot of interest in using data, there is more work to do to make it stick. In a statement, Bloomberg said certified cities are “setting an example that can spread nationally,” indicating that there is plenty of room for this program and the use of data to grow across the United States.