13 New ‘What Works Cities’ Announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma, Washington Christopher Boswell / Shutterstock.com


Connecting state and local government leaders

Improving data-driven government is the aim of the municipal-focused initiative.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies on Thursday announced its next round of What Works Cities participants, 13 U.S. cities that join an existing group of eight previously named local governments that will work with a coalition of partner organizations that will help leverage their data to improve decisionmaking, public services and engagement with citizens.

The program is a $42 million initiative launched in April and spearheaded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies in conjunction with Results for America, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence, the Government Performance Lab at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the Sunlight Foundation and the Behavioral Insights Team.

The 13 new cities are Anchorage, Alaska; Bellevue, Washington; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Denton, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Independence, Missouri; Las Vegas, Nevada; Lexington, Kentucky; Saint Paul, Minnesota; San Francisco, California; San Jose, California; Tacoma, Washington; and Waco, Texas.

“Cities around the country are looking to use data more effectively, and the new What Works cities range from Alaska to the East Coast. They understand that data is a tool that every city can use to improve public services, and our What Works Cities initiative will help them do just that,” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in Thursday’s announcement.

What will the 21 cities—the program aims to name 100 cities in total through 2017—work on?

According to What Works Cities:

  • Anchorage, Bellevue, Cambridge, Denton, Denver, Independence, Las Vegas, Lexington, Saint Paul, San Jose, Tacoma, and Waco will establish and improve open data practices in order to make the city’s data more accessible to city managers and the public, engage residents around government priorities and services, and increase transparency and accountability. By publishing high-quality city data, a city can, among other things, collaborate with businesses to create new technology applications that make it easier for the public to access government services.
  • Anchorage, Bellevue, Cambridge, Denton, Denver, Independence, Las Vegas, Lexington, Saint Paul, Tacoma, and Waco will establish and improve performance management programs to set, track, and share progress toward priority goals, strengthen accountability, and achieve better results. For example, cities may create processes to set goals for increasing the availability of affordable housing, tracking their progress toward meeting those goals, and making adjustments as needed to deliver for residents.
  • Denver, Lexington, and San Jose will 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. For example, cities might test the most effective ways to engage residents on the design of new public works projects.
  • Saint Paul and San Francisco will shift contracting practices to focus on structuring and managing contracts to deliver better results, bringing greater accountability to how public funds are spent. For example, a city may reform their contracts with workforce development providers to track how many people actually find jobs, rather than how many people they train for new jobs, and to actively manage the contract to drive better performance during the course of a contract.

The eight original cities named to the program are Chattanooga, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Mesa, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; Seattle, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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