Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded 10 cities a “What Works Cities Certification” in recognition of their “exceptional use of data to inform policy and funding decisions to improve residents’ lives.” The 10 cities are Baltimore, Md.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Durham, N.C.; Evanston, Ill.; Long Beach, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Salinas, Calif.

In a press release, Bloomberg Philanthropies said that the data-informed strategies used by the 10 cities have enabled the cities to “increase resident satisfaction, create employment opportunities for residents, help local businesses thrive, [and] decrease youth and gang violence.” The new cohort of cities brings the total number of U.S. cities certified for outstanding data practices to 50 since 2017.

“The most effective mayors use data to define problems and craft bold new solutions, and this milestone of 50 certified cities highlights the critical progress local governments are leading across the country,” Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former mayor of New York City, said. “By building a culture of data-driven decision-making, these cities will be more resilient and better equipped to fight climate change, protect public health, increase economic mobility, and much more.”

The certification program assesses cities on their data-driven decision-making practices, includin whether they are using data to set goals and track progress, allocate funding, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and achieve desired outcomes from contracts with outside vendors. The program also measures whether cities are publicly and transparently communicating about their use of data and evidence.

Bloomberg Philanthropies highlighted some ways the newly certified cities are using evidence and data to address current and future challenges include:

  • Long Beach used data to micro-target over 1,250 COVID-impacted local businesses, which then received more than $700,000 in grants.
  • Salinas launched a program to track and respond to 24 data points to help inform youth and gang violence prevention strategies, resulting in a 60 percent decline in youth violence.
  • Durham used data to remove barriers to employment for 46,000 individuals by suspending fines and fees, and restoring residents’ driver’s licenses.
  • Miami deployed a resident-powered app to help map the highest-risk areas for flooding to protect neighborhoods and save lives.
  • Buffalo used open data to identify properties in urgent need of lead remediation, and secured $2.3 million in federal funds to help address the issue.

Cities that participate in What Works Cities Certification receives a customized city assessment that “highlights their unique strengths and opportunities for improvement.” Cities are then provide coaching, training, and technical assistance to help leaders improve their data and evidence capabilities, embrace new practices aligned to the certification standard, and drive outcomes for their community.

“These cities are harnessing the power of evidence and data to accelerate progress in their communities,” Michele Jolin, CEO and co-founder of Results for America, the lead partner in the What Works Cities initiative, said. “As local governments begin investing billions in American Rescue Plan Act funds to meet urgent needs, these certified cities offer a roadmap for how local leaders can use evidence and data to increase the impact of these investments and deliver better results for residents.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs