June 22, 2015Article

Government Executive: Driving Results in Cities Could Influence Federal Performance Efforts

by Patrick Lester

Local/ What Works Cities/ 2015/

Federal efforts to increase the use of data in performance management and evaluation may soon cross paths with a parallel effort at the city level. What Works Cities, a new $42 million, three-year initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April, will be helping 100 mid-sized cities build out their data capabilities, but its reach may extend to the federal level, too.

One of the principal barriers to better federal agency performance is the federal system itself. The work of the largest federal programs is often done by states and local governments. Cities in particular are responsible for a vast range of issues, including education, housing, transportation, law enforcement, and many others.

Unfortunately, many of those on the front lines need help to make the most of their data. The new Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative has placed a bull’s-eye on this problem.

James Anderson, head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ government innovation program, said the idea for What Works Cities came from the organization’s previous work, which showed cities were “incredibly hungry to get better using data and evidence.”

The initiative will focus on cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million—cities large enough to take advantage of the assistance, but not so large that they already have substantial capability.

The project is being overseen by Results for America, an organization that has also been actively supporting the use of evidence and data in federal programs. Last year it released a book, Moneyball for Government, which outlined several proposals to increase the use of evaluation, evidence and cost-benefit analysis by federal agencies.