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Budget & Management Services

Posted on: December 15, 2021

Bloomberg Philanthropies Recognizes Durham for Using Data to Improve Residents’ Lives

Budget team members hold up the What Works Cities award in front of City Hall/City logo

Durham is One of the First 50 U.S. Cities to Achieve What Works Cities Certification

The City of Durham is now the latest of 10 cities to achieve Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Certification in recognition of its use of data to guide decision-making and improve residents’ lives.

What Works Cities Certification, the national standard of excellence in data-driven city governance, evaluates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making.

What Works Cities Certification assesses cities based on their data-driven, decision-making practices, such as whether they are using data to set goals and track progress, allocate funding, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and achieve desired outcomes from contracts with outside vendors. The program also measures whether cities are publicly and transparently communicating about their use of data and evidence.

Over the past year, Durham’s demonstrated, measurable progress using foundational data practices lead it to being included in this latest cohort of cities to receive the Silver level designation. Some notable examples of Durham’s use of data include:

“We’re thrilled to be recognized with a Silver level certification for our use of data to make strategic decisions to better serve the needs of our residents,” said City Manager Wanda Page. “Our use of data and analytics allows us to unlock key information, improve transparency and efficiency in how we operate.”

What Works Cities is a national initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies to help cities use data and evidence more effectively to tackle their most pressing challenges. This new cohort of cities that includes Durham now joins 16 cities honored earlier this year, bringing the total number of U.S. cities certified for outstanding data practices to 50.

The Certification program launched in April 2017, and U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 and higher are eligible to participate. Cities are awarded Silver, Gold, or Platinum Certification depending on their level of data sophistication. In addition to Durham, the other nine new cities achieving Certification at the Silver level this fall include: Chicago, IL; Rochester, NY; Buffalo, NY; Salinas, CA; Long Beach, CA; Miami, FL; Denver, CO; Baltimore, MD; and Evanston, IL. 

“These cities are harnessing the power of evidence and data to accelerate progress in their communities,” said CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America Michele Jolin, the lead partner in the What Works Cities initiative. “As local governments begin investing billions in American Rescue Plan Act funds to meet urgent needs, these certified cities offer a roadmap for how local leaders can use evidence and data to increase the impact of these investments and deliver better results for residents.”

“Cities that are investing in building their data skills and capacity are seeing the results,” said Jennifer Park, founding director of What Works Cities Certification. “As the movement grows, we will see even more cities delivering better results through faster 911 response times, increased small business support, reduced waste and emissions, and greater civic engagement with residents.”

A report released earlier this year by the Monitor Institute by Deloitte, in collaboration with What Works Cities, detailed the growing movement of cities using data to drive decision-making and the benefits of this approach for residents. Since 2015, the percentage of cities tracking progress toward key goals has more than doubled (from 30% to 75%), the percentage of cities engaging with residents on a goal and communicating progress has more than tripled (from 19% to 70%), the percentage of cities with a platform and process to release data to the public has more than tripled (from 18% to 67%), and the percentage of cities modifying their programs based on data analytics has more than doubled (from 28% to 61%). These are several of the data practices assessed as part of What Works Cities Certification.

Certification was developed by a team of experts from Results for America in close consultation with the What Works Cities Certification Standard Committee and with support from the other What Works Cities partners - The Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, and The Behavioral Insights Team. Over 200 cities have completed a Certification assessment, benchmarking their practices against the national standard.