Skip to main content

Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces the American Cities Best at Using Data to Improve Residents’ Lives

Inaugural What Works Cities Certification Recognizes Nine Cities, Led by Los Angeles

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the inaugural group of nine cities to achieve What Works Cities Certification, a first-of-its-kind national standard of excellence in city governance. What Works Cities Certification rates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making. The certification recognizes Boston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Louisville, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C for their proven leadership in data-driven government. Through What Works Cities, the nine cities will each receive additional expert assistance to accelerate progress and deepen their leadership in using data. What Works Cities is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Initiative, a suite of investments that empower cities to generate innovation and advance policy that move the nation forward.

“Congratulations to each of the nine cities that earned certification for their use of data, which is improving services for people and setting a great example for other cities,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City. “Data allows local governments to know what’s working and citizens to hold leaders accountable for results – but the fact is, many cities aren’t capturing it and putting it to use in making decisions. The more cities that integrate data into their planning and operations, the more progress our country will be able to make on the common challenges we face.”

Los Angeles emerged as the top-performing city and received the Gold Level of What Works Cities Certification. The city has demonstrated a strong commitment and impressive track record with data-driven initiatives. Immediately upon assuming office, Mayor Eric Garcetti embraced an aggressive approach to data and analysis to better understand and map the most pressing issues in Los Angeles. Now in his second term, the Mayor is using the foundation created by these efforts to develop a system-wide, evidenced-based approach to address the problems of affordable housing, crime, traffic, and pollution. Through its Data Science Federation, the City is also partnering with local universities to accelerate its use of data-driven tools at the same time that it is creating a pipeline to bring new talent into local government.

“Numbers tell compelling stories, and they help us find answers that make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “It is an honor to receive this award for L.A.’s success in using data to improve how we target and deliver services — and we’re grateful for what the partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped us accomplish for communities across our city.”

Eight cities earned the Silver Level of Certification. Boston, MA (Mayor Marty Walsh); Louisville, KY (Mayor Greg Fischer); and San Diego, CA (Mayor Kevin Faulconer) applied data insights and evidence to advance road-improvement projects. Kansas City, MO (Mayor Sly James) and San Francisco, CA (Interim Mayor Mark Farrell) found new ways to give citizens a voice in public service projects and increase government transparency. New Orleans, LA (Mayor Mitch Landrieu) tackled blight and natural disaster response through data while Seattle, WA (Mayor Jenny Durkin) made strides to improve homeless individuals’ access to housing. Washington, D.C. (Mayor Muriel Bowser) is beginning to see its rigorous approach to data spread throughout the city’s public agencies. These are just some of the projects these leading cities are pursuing and many other data-driven initiatives are underway in each city. No city has achieved Platinum, the highest level of Certification.

“We are proud to recognize these leading cities as the best managed nationwide, using data and evidence to drive results. All over the country local governments are jumping into this movement and dramatically improving how their cities operate,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities at Results for America. “Our hope is that What Works Cities Certification will continue to accelerate and celebrate the progress of cities as they improve opportunities for millions of residents.”

What Works Cities Certification evaluates whether cities have the right people, processes, and policies in place to put data and evidence at the center of decision-making. Cities are evaluated on factors such as whether they have dedicated staff responsible for helping departments use data to track their progress; contracts are awarded based on past performance; meetings are focused on numbers; key datasets are open to the public; and whether there is transparency in both the goals set and the progress towards achieving them.

The What Works Cities Certification Standard was developed by a team of experts in close consultation with the What Works Cities Standard Committee. The Committee is comprised of leaders in the field including: Beth Blauer, Executive Director of the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University; William Eggers, Executive Director of Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights; Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Mark Headd, Innovation Specialist at 18F; Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities at Results for America; Elspeth Kirkman, Senior Vice President at the Behavioral Insights Team; Neil Kleiman, Director of NYU Wagner Innovation Labs at New York University; Myung Lee, Executive Director of Cities of Service; Jeffrey Liebman, Director of the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School; Christy McFarland, Director of Research at the National League of Cities; Tara McGuinness, Senior Fellow of Cities and Innovation at New America; Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, David N. Dinkins Professor in Urban and Public Affairs at Columbia University and Homeland Security Advisory Council; Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America; Stephanie Sykes, Executive Director of African American Mayors Association; and John Wonderlich, Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation.

What Works Cities Certification has been endorsed by the National League of Cities as well as many of the country’s leading urban thinkers and practitioners.

The Certification process launched in April 2017 and cities with populations over 30,000 are eligible to apply, with successful cities awarded Silver, Gold, or Platinum Certification depending on their level of data sophistication. A team of experts from Results for America and other What Works Cities partners conducts independent research and interviews. These experts, along with members of the What Works Cities Standard Committee, then join in-person site visits to the highest-performing cities to determine the city’s Certification level. The nine Certified cities were selected from more than 115 applications.

The What Works Cities Certification provides cities with a rigorous benchmark against which to assess and build best practices. Accomplishments of each of the certified cities can be found here.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in over 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $702 million. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramSnapchat, and Twitter.

About What Works Cities:
What Work Cities, launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015, is one of the largest-ever philanthropic efforts to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence. Through the initiative’s expert partners, cities around the country are receiving support, guidance and resources to succeed. In 2016, What Works Cities was named by Forbes as “one of the ten most promising philanthropic bets” of the year and by Engaging Local Government Leaders as the “most important company operating in the local government arena.” For more information and a full list of participating cities, visit

Media Contact: Courtney Greenwald, +1 (212) 205-0361 or