Bloomberg Philanthropies has selected six new cities to participate in its What Works Cities initiative, which is working to enhance the use of data and data-based evidence by municipal governments to improve services, inform local decision making, and boost citizen engagement.
Boston, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; Little Rock, Arkansas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Victorville, California, will join twenty-one other cities already participating in the initiative in reviewing their use of data and data-based evidence and will receive strategic guidance and technical assistance with respect to areas for improvement. In making the announcement, Bloomberg Philanthropies noted that despite evidence showing that the use of data to inform decision making can drive improvements at the municipal level, many cities fail to do so owing to a lack of capacity.
Based on an analysis by the Bridgespan Group of thirty-nine cities and supported by What Works Cities applications from more than a hundred cities, the report, What Works Cities Brief: The City Hall Data Gap (7 pages, PDF), found gaps between municipal officials' desire to use data, evidence, and evaluation to address issues such as safety, economic development, and affordable housing and their cities' access to the resources, tools, and expertise needed to turn data into solutions. For example, the report found that 72 percent of the cities included in the analysis have invested in a tool or platform that enables them to release data to the public, but only 18 percent have a process for regularly releasing data publicly; 64 percent have a performance management program to track progress on key goals, but just 30 percent have a process for analyzing and following up on the information; and 70 percent are committed to using data and evidence to make decisions, but only 28 percent have modified an existing program based on evaluation results. To close that gap, the brief argues, city leaders must "commit, measure, take stock, and act" to create a stronger foundation for using data and evidence effectively.
"Local leaders know that the unprecedented amount of data available today has the potential to help them bring dramatic changes to their cities," said Bloomberg Philanthropies founder and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "What Works Cities can help them fulfill that potential."