9 U.S. Cities Certified for Excellence in Data-Driven Decision-making

Flying over Los Angeles City Hall

Flying over Los Angeles City Hall Michael Grass / Route Fifty


Connecting state and local government leaders

This stamp of approval for governance is certainly not a rubber stamp.

What Works Cities , the Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded initiative to assist U.S. cities with their data performance management practices, is announcing its first certifications, a program for municipalities where data-driven decision-making and city hall governance are assessed according to national standard of excellence.

On Thursday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 86th Annual Winter Meeting in the nation’s capital, What Works Cities is recognizing nine cities with certifications.

One city from that group, Los Angeles, achieved a gold rating. The remaining cities, Boston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Louisville, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., achieved a silver rating.

In its announcement, What Works Cities is recognizing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for his city’s “strong commitment and impressive track record with data-driven initiatives” and efforts to “develop a system-wide, evidenced-based approach to address the problems of affordable housing, crime, traffic and pollution.”

Pictured from left, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jim Anderson of the Bloomberg Philanthropies, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. (Photo courtesy What Works Cities)

Five additional cities have been selected for a Certification Honor Roll, meaning they’re on “the path” to being certified. Those cities are Las Vegas, Nevada; Providence, Rhode Island; Scottsdale, Arizona; South Bend, Indiana; and Topeka, Kansas.

What Works Cities launched in April 2015 with a team of partners to manage the initiative, including the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Results for America , the Sunlight Foundation and the Behavioral Insights Team , a performance management consultancy originally launched by the government of the United Kingdom.

It set a goal of building a network of 100 mid-size cities to work with on efforts to improve data governance and decision-making, a milestone What Works Cities reached earlier this month, as Route Fifty reported . City halls in the WWC network include Boise, Idaho; Mesa, Arizona; Rancho Cucamonga, California; Syracuse, New York; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

At the annual What Works Cities Summit in New York City last year, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the new certification program , where any municipal jurisdiction with a population of 30,000 residents could apply to be measured against a national standard developed by a team of experts.

Among the criteria used to assess the cities, according to What Works Cities’ certification announcement:

Cities are evaluated on factors such as whether they have dedicated staff responsible for helping departments use data to track their progress; contracts are awarded based on past performance; meetings are focused on numbers; key datasets are open to the public; and whether there is transparency in both the goals set and the progress towards achieving them.

One-hundred-fifteen cities applied for certification.

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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route FIfty and is based in Seattle.

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