What Works Cities


In cities across the United States, mayors lack the tools to use data and evidence to improve how governing gets done.

The What Works Cities initiative tackles this challenge head-on. By providing robust technical support, access to expertise, and peer-to-peer learning to cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies is encouraging mayors and cities to better use data and evidence to engage the public, improve services, evaluate progress, and fund “what works.”

The What Works Cities program is run in collaboration with five partners: Results for America; the Behavioral Insights Team; Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab; Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence; and the Sunlight Foundation.

In 2017, the program created What Works Cities Certification, a standard that measures the extent to which cities have the right people, policies, and practices in place to use data for decision-making, and inspires many more cities to improve their practices. Over its first two years, 13 U.S. cities have received official What Works Cities Certification, including four (Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Louisville, Kentucky; and Washington, D.C.) that have achieved certification at the gold level.

In November 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies expanded the What Works Cities program in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ballmer Group. The joint effort will help a group of ten cities use data and test new ways to improve opportunity, particularly in neighborhoods where children lack access to good schools or face systemic barriers to economic mobility.

The What Works Cities program is part of the American Cities Initiative, a suite of investments that empower cities to generate innovation and advance policy that moves the nation forward.