Cities across the United States have access to a vast amount of data and information, yet many lack the skills and capacity to effectively use it to get the best results. In response to this challenge, Bloomberg Philanthropies set out to introduce mayors and their senior leadership teams to what best-in-class use of data and evidence looks like, help them assess how their city measures up to that standard, and identify tactical steps to improve practices for using data to improve the lives of residents.
To support this effort, Bloomberg Philanthropies engaged Bennett Midland to help design and launch a national grant-making initiative called What Works Cities. Our team worked closely with Bloomberg Philanthropies to recruit and engage a robust group of expert partners—including the Harvard Kennedy School, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation—and developed a methodology for assessing current “what works” practices in cities across America. We developed an empirical understanding of how cities currently use data and evidence in everyday decision-making and used it to establish the What Works Cities Standard, a set of aspirations and activities that create a foundation for the effective use of data and evidence within city government. We then supported Bloomberg Philanthropies in testing the effectiveness of this methodology, considered the operational implications of managing the initiative on a national scale, and helped establish a new nonprofit organization at Johns Hopkins University—the Center for Government Excellence—to serve as the hub of What Works Cities technical assistance and expertise.
What Works Cities has built a network of 100 mid-sized American cities that are committed to enhancing the use of data and evidence to engage residents and make government more effective.