Press & Media

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Initiative More than Halfway to Goal of Supporting 100 Mid-Sized US Cities

Fifty-five Cities Committed to Making Government More Effective by Using Data and Evidence

Sixteen New Cities Today Join the Growing National Movement

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ today announced that its What Works Cities initiative has reached a critical benchmark: 55 mid-sized U.S. cities are now working to better use data and evidence to improve services for residents, inform local decision making, and engage citizens. All together these 55 cities come from 33 states, represent 19 million residents, and have annual budgets exceeding $63 billion.

“Mayors in every part of the country and across the political spectrum recognize that data can help city governments continuously improve how they serve citizens, and they are eager to learn from one another,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “We have an outstanding and diverse group of cities participating in What Works Cities, and we look forward to welcoming more to the program in the weeks and months ahead.”

Launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015, What Works Cities has developed a growing network of local municipal leaders, leading global experts and practitioners who are sharing best practices for data- and evidence-based governance. With support from a consortium of partners, the cities are creating new methods to evaluate programs and improve performance; identifying more effective ways to use resources to serve their communities; and addressing a range of social challenges – from tackling poverty to increasing resident engagement.

In 18 months, What Works cities has stimulated the largest movement of cities and city leaders across the country sharing lessons and best practices to improve the effectiveness of government. The initiative has inspired 90 U.S. Mayors to better use data and evidence to improve services, and has engaged over 1,700 city employees on performance management, analytics, and other leading practices. What Works Cities has produced 130 resources that cities around the world are using to improve their communities and drive better outcomes for residents.

Early examples of What Works Cities impact include:

  • Lexington, Kentucky used low-cost interventions to increase customers paying delinquent sewer bills by 132%.
  • Mesa, Arizona created an index that combines data on code violations, crime rates, graffiti, and vacant properties to identify the city’s most blighted neighborhoods, allowing Mesa to redirect over $780,000 in funding to target the communities that need it.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana ran a text message campaign that prompted over 350 low-income, uninsured residents who had not visited the doctor in over two years to schedule a free medical appointment.
  • Saint Paul, Minnesota piloted its performance management program, helping the city’s library department increase girls’ participation in a teen program by 17% after data analysis uncovered gender disparities in attendance rates.
  • San Jose, California turned to behavioral economics to convince homeowners not to dump junk illegally, resulting in an increase of over 4,900 households using the city’s large item collection service over three months.
  • Seattle, Washington, which declared a state of emergency around homelessness last fall, is now using data to monitor and improve how their providers serve the city’s homeless population.

The 16 new What Works cities announced today are Albuquerque, NM; Birmingham, AL; Boulder, CO; Des Moines, IA; Fort Worth, TX; Hartford, CT; Knoxville, TN; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Nashville, TN; Olathe, KS; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; South Bend, IN; Syracuse, NY; and Virginia Beach, VA. They will collaborate with What Works Cities’ expert partners to expand their use of data and evidence.

Cities will:

  • Improve open data practices in order to make municipal data more accessible and engage residents around government priorities and services.
  • Establish and improve performance management programs to set, track and share progress toward priority goals, strengthen accountability and achieve better results.
  • Develop the capacity to conduct low-cost, real-time evaluations of their programs so that managers have better information to make adjustments and improve results.
  • Shift contracting practices to focus on structuring and managing contracts to deliver better results, bringing greater accountability to how public funds are spent.

The consortium of leading organizations assembled by Bloomberg Philanthropies and delivering a program of support to cities includes Results for America, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, The Sunlight Foundation, and The Behavioral Insights Team.

To receive updates on the What Works Cities initiative, please visit www.whatworkscities.org.

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 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $510 million. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, InstagramSnapchat, and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

About What Works Cities:
What Work Cities, launched in April 2015, is one of the largest-ever philanthropic efforts to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence. The initiative is providing technical assistance to 100 cities on a rolling basis through 2018. Cities around the country are receiving support, guidance and resources to succeed through a consortium of leading organizations assembled by Bloomberg Philanthropies: the Behavioral Insights Team, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation. What Works Cities was named by Forbes as “one of the biggest philanthropic bets on social change from 2015” and by Engaging Local Government Leaders this year as the “most important company operating in the local government arena.” For more information or to apply, visit whatworkscities.bloomberg.org.

Contact:
Bloomberg Philanthropies, Rebecca Carriero, (212) 205-0182, rebeccac@bloomberg.org
What Works Cities, Kristin Taylor, (646) 854-5572, kristin@results4america.org