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Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces the American Cities Best at Using Data to Improve Residents’ Lives in 2019

Second Annual What Works Cities Certification Recognizes Seven New or Advancing Cities that Are Using Data and Evidence to Solve Local Issues and Prepare for Future Challenges

 Thirteen Cities Have Received Certification Since 2018

New York, NY – Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the seven cities to achieve 2019 What Works Cities Certification, a 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. This year, the Certification recognizes Arlington, TX; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Memphis, TN; Philadelphia, PA; Scottsdale, AZ; and Washington, DC.

“Data helps city leaders understand problems and measure success, and it helps citizens hold government accountable for meeting public needs on all the big challenges we face – from promoting health and safety to fighting climate change,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City. “Congratulations to all the cities that earned certification this year. Their efforts are improving lives locally and setting an example that can spread nationally.”

Three cities (Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; and Washington, DC) achieved Certification at the gold level, moving up from silver in 2018. These cities demonstrated measurable progress over the past year in using data to make better decisions on numerous city challenges:

  • Kansas City, MO (Mayor Sly James) passed a law requiring the local government use data in decision-making. This ensures that data-driven progress will continue, even as the City prepares for a mayoral transition.
  • Louisville, KY (Mayor Greg Fischer), powered by its deep bench of data and innovation experts, built a platform that analyzes data to improve traffic conditions and road safety. The city has now opened up this technology so that it is free for any city to use.
  • Washington, DC (Mayor Muriel Bowser) is using its nationally recognized Lab @ DC to improve service delivery on a number of critical programs, from its dockless bikeshare system to the delivery of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Four cities (Arlington, TX; Memphis, TN; Philadelphia, PA; and Scottsdale, AZ) are newly certified and achieved the silver level. They stood out in a wide range of practices:

  • Arlington, TX (Mayor Jeff Williams) is notable for making data accessible so that it can be shared with key stakeholders, including residents and the federal government. For example, the city’s ability to share data with the federal government opened up federal funding for the city’s innovative public transit ridesharing partnership.
  • Memphis, TN (Mayor Jim Strickland) has developed a Good Government Performance Dashboard that tracks a wide variety of metrics, including 911 response times, crime rates and police employment statistics. This approach has already improved services. For example, the city is now deploying SUVs with medical personnel for non-emergency 911 calls and saving its ambulances for medical emergencies. The city has also increased adoption rates for stray animals over the past five years, from 46% to 94%.
  • Philadelphia, PA (Mayor Jim Kenney) is now using data to make sure that millions of dollars in city contracts deliver real value to the city’s residents. In May 2017, the city switched from awarding contracts based solely on the lowest bid so that they can award contracts based on “best-value” indicators, such as expertise, quality and experience. The city is now applying this approach to $25 million in food services contracts.
  • Scottsdale, AZ (Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane) is using sophisticated data analysis to predict future challenges and address them ahead of time. For example, Scottsdale used predictive analytics to conserve the water in its underground aquifers, a crucial resource in the desert city.

Additional accomplishments can be found here. No city achieved platinum in 2019, the highest level of Certification.

To date, a total of thirteen cities have achieved Certification:

Arlington, TX (2019 Silver), Boston, MA (2018 Silver), Kansas City, MO (2019 Gold, 2018 Silver), Los Angeles, CA (2018 Gold), Louisville, KY (2019 Gold, 2018 Silver), Memphis, TN (2019 Silver), New Orleans, LA (2018 Silver), Philadelphia, PA (2019 Silver), San Diego, CA (2018 Silver), San Francisco (2018 Silver), Scottsdale, AZ (2019 Silver), Seattle, WA (2018 Silver), and Washington, DC (2019 Gold, 2018 Silver)

“We are proud to celebrate these certified cities and recognize their achievements for others to learn from,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “These well-managed cities are better solving the problems facing their communities and addressing residents’ needs. 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.”

What Works Cities Certification evaluates how well cities are managed and how city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making. Cities are evaluated on factors such as whether they have dedicated staff responsible for helping departments use data to track their progress; whether contracts are awarded based on past performance; meetings are focused on numbers; key datasets are open to the public; and whether there is transparency both in the goals set and the progress toward achieving them. Cities must demonstrate that they have policies in place to manage the risks associated with sophisticated data practices. The program also requires that cities publicly communicate their use of data best practices and engage community stakeholders in the process.

The Certification program launched in April 2017, and U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 and higher are eligible to participate. Cities are awarded silver, gold, or platinum Certification depending on their level of data sophistication. The Certification was developed by a team of experts in close consultation with the What Works Cities Certification Standard Committee, which comprises leaders in the field from more than a dozen organizations that support cities. What Works Cities experts, along with members of the Standard Committee, then join in-person site visits to the highest-performing cities to determine the city’s Certification level. The seven 2019 certified cities were identified from over 90 assessments.

The program has inspired a movement of cities that are doubling down on their commitment to building the most well-managed local governments possible and using Certification as a roadmap for doing so. Nearly 200 cities have completed a Certification assessment to have their practices benchmarked against the national standard. The assessment is the first step to receiving exclusive support from What Works Cities to continue building a more effective local government. To learn more about the program and how to participate, visit whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/certification.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in 480 cities in more than 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 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTube and Twitter.

Media Contact: Courtney Greenwald, +1 (212) 205-0361 or courtney@bloomberg.org