March 10, 2016 Press Releases

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Initiative Releases New Study Highlighting the Data Gap in City Hall Decision Making



NEW YORK – A report released by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative identifies the challenges and opportunities for closing the gap between cities’ desire to use data in decision making and actual ability to do so. The report finds that city leaders nationwide want to use data, evidence and evaluation to address challenges such as safety, economic development, and affordable housing, however many lack the resources, tools and expertise to turn their data into solutions. Findings were based on an analysis from The Bridgespan Group of detailed conversations with 39 cities visited by What Works Cities and supported by applications submitted by 115 cities, which represents 40 percent of mid-sized cities in the United States.

“Local leaders know that the unprecedented amount of data available today has the potential to help them to bring dramatic changes to their cities,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “What Works Cities can help them fulfill that potential.”

The analysis found that Mayors are eager to use data and evidence in decision making, but are hindered by a huge gap in know-how. Findings show that very few City Halls have structures in place to analyze and act on the information they have in ways that can help them to transform local government, for example:

  • Public Engagement: 81% of cities have engaged the public on a strategic goal, but just 19% publicly communicate their progress on meeting that goal.
  • Releasing Data: 72% have invested in a tool or platform to release data to the public, but only 18% have an established process for regularly releasing data publicly.
  • Performance Management: 64% of cities have a performance management program to track progress toward key goals, while 30% have a process in place for analyzing and following up on the information.
  • Taking Action: 70% are committed to using data and evidence to make decisions, but just 28% modify existing programs based on the results of evaluations.

Although the report relies on data obtained by applicant cities, and not cities selected at random, it provides a meaningful representation of the state of practice in mid-sized cities. The report’s findings indicate that assisting cities in developing these tools and expertise could unlock their potential to innovate, enhance decision-making and improve residents’ lives.

The full report can be viewed here.

Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies also announced the addition of six new cities to the What Works Cities program: Boston, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; Little Rock, Arkansas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Victorville, California. With these new additions, What Works Cities is now partnering with 27 cities in 18 states. Taken together, the cities represent nearly 11 million Americans, with annual budgets exceeding a combined $38 billion.

What Works Cities, launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015, collaborates with participating municipalities to review their current use of data and evidence, and provide technical assistance and strategic guidance on cities’ areas for growth. Cities commit to enhancing their use of data and evidence to improve services, inform local decision making and engage residents. The initiative is also focused on expanding the national movement toward the use of data in City Halls by celebrating cities’ accomplishments, connecting cities to form a network of support, and making resources publicly available.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $510 million. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramSnapchat, and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

About What Works Cities:
What Work Cities, launched in April 2015, is one of the largest-ever philanthropic efforts to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence. The initiative is providing technical assistance to 100 cities on a rolling basis through 2018. Cities around the country are receiving support, guidance and resources to succeed through a consortium of leading organizations assembled by Bloomberg Philanthropies: the Behavioral Insights Team, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation. What Works Cities was named by Forbes as “one of the biggest philanthropic bets on social change from 2015” and by Engaging Local Government Leaders this year as the “most important company operating in the local government arena.” For more information or to apply, visit


Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Former New York City Chief Analytics Officer Mike Flowers to Serve as 2016 What Works Cities Senior Fellows