Bloomberg Philanthropies Monday added 12 names to its What Works Cities initiative, which aims to help U.S. midsize cities better utilize data to drive decision-making and improve transparency: Baltimore, Maryland; Buffalo, New York; Cape Coral, Florida; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Greensboro, North Carolina; Gresham, Oregon; Kansas City, Kansas; Naperville, Illinois; Providence, Rhode Island; Scottsdale, Arizona; Topeka, Kansas; and Wichita, Kansas bring the total number of participants to 39.
What Works Cities partners with cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million, and will work with 100 cities on a rolling basis through 2018. But everyone can get some open data help now with the new What Works Cities Resource Toolkit, also just released. The online guide, created in partnership with Results for America, is a roadmap to open data best practices. Drawing on lessons learned in the first year of the initiative, the guide breaks down the case for open data and using evidence-based practices to deliver government services that are more effective, more cost efficient and driven by results. An earlier report by Bloomberg Philanthropies found that while many city leaders say they are committed to using data to improve services and accountability, they often lack the resources and expertise to use data well.
In the guide, public officials will find draft language for an open data policy, tips on how to communicate with the media about a city’s progress using data and evidence-based practices, case studies of city accomplishments in this arena, and specific advice on implementing a variety of open data initiatives, from results-driven contracting to effective program evaluations.
The cities announced Monday will work with Bloomberg Philanthropies to review their current use of data and evidence and receive technical assistance to implement more best practices. Several will work with the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University (GovEx) to develop strategies to make their data more accessible to the public and city managers, and to better engage residents in government processes. Some will work with GovEx to develop performance standards and management programs to better track progress toward city goals. Two will work with Behavioral Insights to conduct low-cost, real-time evaluations of programs. Wichita will work with the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School to restructure its contracting process to deliver better outcomes and create greater accountability on how public funds are spent.
“These city leaders are committed to utilizing data to make better decisions, engage residents and hold themselves accountable,” said James Anderson, the head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation program, in a statement.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.