Seven cities recognised for data-driven decision making

25th April 2019 Jonathan Andrews

Seven cities which have incorporated data and evidence in their decision-making processes have been recognised by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The What Works Cities certification, a US standard of excellence in city governance, identified Kansas City, Louisville, Washington DC, Memphis, Philadelphia, Scottsdale and Arlington as cities that are using data and evidence to solve local issues and improve residents’ lives.

“Data helps city leaders understand problems and measure success, and it helps citizens hold government accountable for meeting public needs on all the big challenges we face–from promoting health and safety to fighting climate change,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City.

Three cities–Kansas City, Louisville and Washington, DC–achieved gold certification, moving up from silver in 2018.

  • Kansas City passed a law requiring the local government use data in decision-making. This ensures that data-driven progress will continue, even as the city prepares for a mayoral transition.
  • Louisville built a platform that analyses data to improve traffic conditions and road safety. The city has now opened up this technology so that it is free for any city to use.
  • Washington DC is using its nationally recognised Lab @ DC to improve service delivery on a number of critical programmes, from its dockless bikeshare system to the delivery of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The big focus for us was how to plan the [mayoral] transition period,” Kate Bender, Deputy Performance Officer, Office of the City Manager, Kansas City, told Cities Today. “Data is a new enough field there hasn’t been a tonne of local governments that have tried to do that. With What Works Cities, their support network and the technical assistance they provide through their partners, we were able to approach that problem from a data-driven framework.”

Bender explained that the law has been used with residents’ surveys which are sent out every three months and ask residents their satisfaction with local government services and their priorities for the city.

“We integrate that data from how residents interact with services all the way up to budget and resource allocation onto the specific priorities for the city,” she added.

The four cities that achieved silver certification include Arlington, Memphis, Philadelphia, and Scottsdale.

  • Arlington’s ability to share data with the federal government opened up federal funding for the city’s public transit ridesharing partnership.
  • Memphis has developed a Good Government Performance Dashboard that tracks a variety of metrics, including 911 response times, crime rates and police employment statistics.
  • Philadelphia is now using data to make sure that millions of dollars in city contracts deliver value to residents. In 2017, the city switched from awarding contracts based solely on the lowest bid so that they can award contracts based on ‘best-value’ indicators, such as expertise, quality and experience. The city is now applying this approach to US$25 million in food services contracts.
  • Scottsdale is using sophisticated data analysis to predict future challenges and address them ahead of time. Scottsdale used predictive analytics to conserve the water in its underground aquifers, a crucial resource in the desert city.

Since 2017, nearly 200 cities have completed an assessment to have their practices benchmarked against certification’s national standard. Cities are evaluated on a range of factors, such as whether they are using data to set goals and track progress and also how they are engaging with the public about their use of data and evidence.

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