"Cities across the country would love to emulate that formula: better service for less money. But at a time when data-driven government effectiveness research is having a moment in Washington – most recently, in a bill introduced last week by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) – most local governments are just waking up to its possibilities.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is making a big bet that it can accelerate that process. It will announce on Monday that it is spending $42 million to create the What Works Cities Initiative, which is aimed at helping 100 mid-size cities make better use of data and evidence in their policy making.
Cities with between 100,000 and 1 million residents will be eligible to apply for help from the program. The money will fund work from several partners, including Results for America, the new Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University’s Government Performance Lab, all of which will work with the cities selected to participate.
“There’s very little data on the use of data and evidence in local governments,” said James Anderson, a former Bloomberg mayoral aide who leads the government innovation program for Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Mayors are just hungry for tools and resources that help them use data more effectively. What we’ve found is there’s a gap” between what they’d like to do and what they can do."