Excerpted from a letter by Simone Brody—Executive Director of What Works Cities—introducing an overview of the initiative's work.
What Works Cities (WWC) is a community of forward-thinking city leaders and partner organizations driving toward one goal: to help city residents thrive and reach their full potential. Increasingly, cities are realizing that being effective stewards means using 21st-century governance strategies based on data and evidence. That’s where we enter the picture, by providing city leaders with expert technical assistance and ongoing support via our partners. It has been a real pleasure to grow this movement, now 80 cities strong. If you’re new to WWC, welcome! If you are one of the many passionate and committed city leaders and frontline practitioners we’ve been so fortunate to work with across the country, I want to say thank you. You are real changemakers, and we are proud to partner with you to achieve even more for your communities.
We are proud to showcase here the progress of our cities in driving better outcomes for their residents. They are doing this by using data and analytical thinking to set goals, inform how they make decisions, and gather evidence to enable creativity and innovation. What works, and what doesn’t? What could work better? These are the questions that our cities are always asking.
Answering them has led to solutions like addressing homelessness by restructuring contracts so that providers can focus on moving people into permanent housing; gathering and publishing data to ensure equity across city services; and crunching the numbers to locate and protect homes vulnerable to fire. It also means using online surveys, social media, and other civic engagement strategies to build an ongoing dialogue with residents so that city leaders know and address the issues people most care about—and residents trust their cities’ efforts to do so.
Over two years, we have supported raising the bar for excellence in this work. In April 2017, Michael R. Bloomberg announced the launch of What Works Cities Certification, the first-ever national program to provide a rigorous benchmark against which cities can assess their use of data-driven programs and policies. Over 200 cities have raised their hand, applying to the program and committing to advance on the path to more effective governance.
As cities deepen their learning and expertise, they are solving each other’s challenges every day. We are happy to help cities share those solutions so that no one need reinvent the wheel, accelerating the pace of change and facilitating the transfer of knowledge from city to city.
Cities are striving to be more inclusive, equitably distributing services and ensuring that safe neighborhoods and opportunities for economic and social mobility are available to all. Economic disparity is a critical issue from coast to coast, and it is one that cities are eager to address. We look forward to being part of those solutions, and many others.
We owe our sincere thanks to so many: former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; James Anderson, head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation programs; our WWC Advisors; and—very importantly—our expert partners: the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab (GPL) at the Harvard Kennedy School, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation.
Read the full report here.