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Bloomberg Philanthropies Launches $42 Million “What Works Cities” Initiative

Program is the most comprehensive initiative to help city halls use data and evidence effectively

 Goal is to Support 100 Mid-Sized US Cities

Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the launch of the What Works Cities initiative, a $42 million program to help 100 mid-sized cities better use data and evidence. What Works Cities is the latest initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation portfolio which promotes public sector innovation and spreads effective ideas amongst cities.

Through partners, Bloomberg Philanthropies will help mayors and local leaders use data and evidence to engage the public, make government more effective and improve people’s lives. U.S. cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million people are invited to apply.

“While cities are working to meet new challenges with limited resources, they have access to more data than ever – and they are increasingly using it to improve people’s lives,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “We’ll help them build on their progress, and help even more cities take steps to put data to work. What works? That’s a question that every city leader should ask – and we want to help them find answers.”

The $42 million dollar effort is the nation’s most comprehensive philanthropic initiative to help accelerate the ability of local leaders to use data and evidence to improve the lives of their residents. What Works Cities will provide mayors with robust technical assistance, expertise, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities that will help them enhance their use of data and evidence to improve services to solve problems for communities. The program will help cities:

1. Create sustainable open data programs and policies that promote transparency and robust citizen engagement;

2. Better incorporate data into budget, operational, and policy decision making;

3. Conduct low-cost, rapid evaluations that allow cities to continually improve programs; and

4. Focus funding on approaches that deliver results for citizens.

Across the initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies will document how cities currently use data and evidence in decision making, and how this unique program of support helps them advance. Over time, the initiative will also launch a benchmark system which will collect standardized, comparable data so that cities can understand their performance relative to peers.

In cities across the country, mayors are increasingly relying on data and evidence to deliver better results for city residents. For example, New Orleans’ City Hall used data to reduce blighted residences by 10,000 and increased the number of homes brought into compliance by 62% in 2 years. The City’s “BlightStat” program has put New Orleans, once behind in efforts to revitalize abandoned and decaying properties, at the forefront of national efforts.

In New York City and other jurisdictions, open data from transit agencies has led to the creation of hundreds of apps that residents now use to get around town, choose where to live based on commuting times, provide key transit information to the visually impaired, and more. And Louisville has asked volunteers to attach GPS trackers to their asthma inhalers to see where they have the hardest time breathing. The city is now using that data to better target the sources of air pollution.

A consortium of leading organizations has been assembled to inspire, challenge, and support cities. Together, these partners will deliver a comprehensive program of support, promoting tested as well as innovative new approaches.

  • Results for America will lead and coordinate the What Works Cities partner consortium and advance a nationwide dialogue on the need for cities to use data and evidence in decision making.
  • The Behavioral Insights Team will help cities conduct real time, low-cost evaluations of programs so they can continually improve city services.

“With Bloomberg Philanthropies’ investment in What Works Cities, the national movement to use data and evidence to solve government challenges has just been elevated to a new level,” said Michele Jolin, CEO & co-founder of Results for America. “This investment will give a critical mass of Mayors the tools and expertise they need to use data and evidence to increase public confidence in their local governments and improve lives. It is exciting for Results for America, and all of the partners who have been working on this agenda, to be part of this extraordinary commitment.”

The What Works Cities initiative will capitalize on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ data-driven approach. Bloomberg Philanthropies uses data to identify some of the world’s most pressing problems, implement solutions, and monitor their progress. In 2014, Fast Company named Bloomberg Philanthropies as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for “doing good, methodically.”

To learn more and apply to be a What Works City, visit

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million. For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.