- Bloomberg Philanthropies and Results for America certified two additional U.S. cities — Carlsbad, California, and Charleston, South Carolina — in their What Works Cities program, which recognizes local governments that take a data-driven approach to city management.
- The groups updated their criteria for certification in 2022 to require more strategic data management as well as a focus on equity and quality-of-life outcomes, such as air quality and accessible services.
- Under the new criteria, seven U.S. cities were recertified and seven achieved a higher level of certification, the groups announced in June.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and Results for America have certified 62 cities across the Americas since they launched What Works Cities in 2017, including 16 certified in the United States this year. The program aims to create a standard for local governments’ use of data to make policy decisions, allocate funding, improve public services and track outcomes.
The partners updated their criteria in 2022 after a planned review in 2020 — which turned out to be an “upheaval year for local government” due to the pandemic, said Lauren Su, director of certification for What Works Cities.
The events of 2020 “revealed to us what we already knew: Data is important,” Su said. But it also highlighted the “systemic inequities that needed to be [addressed] in order to make sure that there was an equitable approach to [cities’] data collection and to data use for decision-making.”
That’s why they added criteria surrounding equity and made it a core benchmark for certification. In all, the groups use 43 criteria to determine which cities to certify. Municipalities that meet 51% to 67% of the criteria are recognized as silver-tier cities, while cities that meet 68% to 84% of them achieve gold status.
Both Carlsbad and Charleston met the silver-tier requirements. For Carlsbad, the groups highlighted the impacts of the city’s remote work policy, which saved the city more than $300,000 in office costs, curbed traffic and reduced carbon emissions by 424 metric tons, according to Results for America.
For Charleston, they noted its Flood Stat program, which consolidates data related to flooding and sea-level rise from multiple city departments into one dashboard, which is used for regular public meetings to address the issue.
U.S. cities that moved from silver to gold certification were Chicago; Cincinnati; San Antonio; Scottsdale, Arizona; Henderson, Nevada; South Bend, Indiana; and Syracuse, New York. Denver and Bellevue, Washington, were recertified at the silver level, while Seattle; Memphis, Tennessee; Arlington, Texas; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Washington, D.C., were recertified at the gold level.
No previously certified cities fell off the list in 2023. Su said the certification is good for three years, after which point cities may reapply to renew the certification or aim for a higher level.
Beyond certification, the What Works Cities program offers training, best practices and case studies for cities in the network. Any city in North, Central or South America with a population of at least 30,000 can join the network by completing an online self-assessment of its data practices.
“We try to be something for all of the cities, depending on where they are in their practice and how much time they have and the capacity they have to give,” Su said. “We're hoping this all leads to serving the residents better.”