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Porto Alegre, Brazil

Data Story Coming Soon!

We are currently working hard on publishing Porto Alegre’s data narrative. Stay tuned for updates!

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Boise, Idaho, USA

Recycling Wastewater to Build a More Resilient Future

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Health and Wellbeing, Technology

At a Glance

$570 million: Bond amount voters approved with 81% support in November 2021, funding Department of Public Works Water Renewal Services projects slated through 2030. 

50+: Number of open house events held at the city’s water recycling pilot site

6 million gallons: Amount of additional water Boise will add to its renewal capacity each day when fully its Recycled Water Program is implemented, strengthening the city’s resilience against drought, population growth and climate change.

2029: Year the brand-new water recycling facility is slated to open.

In Boise, climate change and population growth all pose a long-term challenge to the most precious natural resource: water. The city of about 247,000 people draws 70% of its water from aquifers and 30% from the Boise River. Both water sources are under growing stress due to rising demand for irrigation, shrinking snowpack and increasing drought frequency.

To build resilience and support growth, the City of Boise has embraced water recycling. In 2020, the Department of Public Works’ Water Renewal Service utility issued a data-driven strategic plan to ramp up Boise’s water recycling capabilities over the next 10 years, with a new focus on aquifer recharging. A centerpiece of the plan is construction of the city’s first recycled water facility.  

City leaders have worked to rally Boise residents around their vision to ensure an adequate supply of water for both residential use and new businesses. They built buy-in various ways. The City held over 50 community meetings to show trade-offs of water treatment models to address limited water supply. The result was a $570 million bond measure that passed in 2021 with voters’ overwhelming support (81% voted in favor). This allowed the City to move on major water renewal capital projects, including a new $420 million water recycling facility, with minimal sewer user fee increases.

Leaders also leveraged the annual budgeting process to build stakeholder support. In recent years the City’s budget has included tens of millions of dollars in water renewal capital project investments, including for an advanced water treatment pilot to test new technologies. The pilot site, which opened in 2023, tests five different filtration technologies including reverse osmosis and ultraviolet advanced oxidation, to remove all chemicals and pollutants from industrial wastewater. Notably, one goal for data from the pilot is to build trust with residents.  The City aims to show that the recycling treatment will produce safe water for the community. 

As Boise city officials and residents deepen their knowledge of innovative filtration technologies, which aren’t common in Idaho, a more resilient future is coming into view. In February 2024, the City purchased a 76-acre plot of land where it will build the new state-of-the-art recycled water facility. Construction will start in 2025, a key step toward a more sustainable Boise.

The WWC team at the Boise water facility.

“The open houses we’ve done with community engagement of this pilot, the ability to show people the technology and talk about it, is really incredible.”

Haley Falconer, Environmental Division Senior Manager, Public Works Department
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Sugar Land, Texas, USA

Where Data and Curb Appeal Aim to Make a Stronger City

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Health and Wellbeing, Technology

At a Glance

Used the Neighborhood Health Report, which included GIS data on population stagnation, aging housing and code violations, to create a home renovation program which targeted investments of over $2.7 million to upgrade 166 Sugar Land homes (145 projects have been completed.)

95% of participants said the program significantly influenced their decision to renovate their homes.

Redevelopment is one of the city’s “All-In” Initiatives using cross-departmental collaboration and performance management to make progress on complex challenges.

Another All-In Initiative is to increase the City’s data-driven decision making and is led by a four-person “What Works Cities team”

Neighborhood blight is not something you hear much about in Sugar Land, a prosperous suburb that frequently ranks near the top of “best places to live” lists. And city leaders want to keep it that way.

But here’s the challenge: The first wave of subdivisions that began Sugar Land’s transformation from small town into a city of 110,000 are reaching middle age. Some of the homes built in the 1970s and ‘80s are starting to look rough around the edges. Property values are linked to a city’s economic health. Declining property values can discourage community investment, reduce revenue for the City and make it hard to attract new residents. 

In response, Sugar Land recently launched a successful program called Great Homes Update. It encourages homeowners to take on external home upgrades like painting, garage door replacement, or driveway repairs. And it’s built from top to bottom on data that city leaders used to understand the problem, rally political support, and devise a solution that meets residents’ needs.

Great Homes is one product of what Sugar Land leaders call their “All-In” initiatives. These are cross-departmental collaborations aimed at using a performance management approach to make progress on complex challenges. Redevelopment in a mostly built-out city is one of those All-In initiatives. Improving data-driven decision making through What Works Cities coaching is another. 

To start, leaders conducted a neighborhood health report, mapping the age of homes across the city and where the most code violations were happening. They also sent staff out to different neighborhoods to do a qualitative assessment of the conditions of homes’ roofs, fences, and driveways. 

Next, they surveyed residents to make sure they understood the problem from the homeowners’ perspective. Residents confirmed that they would, indeed, implement improvements if a financial incentive were available. Before designing a pilot program, city leaders looked at how home-improvement programs work in 22 communities across the U.S. Their efforts to find evidence-based solutions in other cities paid off: The pilot they devised won nearly unanimous support from the City Council in February of 2023.

An example of the potential impact of exterior home renovations supported by the Great Homes program. Images Courtesy of the City of Sugar Land.

Through the program, owners of single-family homes are reimbursed for a portion of the cost of exterior house repairs, up to a maximum of $10,000. The City gave a higher rebate percentage to older homes and homes with less than the county’s median home value. .Another program offers owners of single-family houses and homeowner associations discounts on home design services. To make it easy for residents to find out exactly what benefits they’re eligible for, the City developed an easy-to-use address lookup tool based on resident feedback. 

Results from the first year of Great Homes were impressive. Homeowners carried out more than 145 home projects, including house painting, repairs to roofs and siding, and landscaping. The total of all repairs incentivized through the program was $2.3 million, with about $500,000 of that coming from city coffers. In follow-up surveys, users of the program overwhelmingly agreed that the City’s reimbursements influenced their decision to make home repairs. 

City leaders continue to use data to evaluate and improve Great Homes. Under a new iteration of the program, the list of eligible projects has expanded to include front door and gutter replacement.

In the long run, Sugar Land hopes the program will help make the City competitive with nearby areas and deter decline, helping to sustain a prosperous Sugar Land.

“What Works Cities Certification gives our organization a beacon to show: This is where we’re going and this is how we’re going to do it. We don’t need to create our own playbook.”

Mike Goodrum, City Manager
A data strategy brainstorming meeting. Image Courtesy of the City of Sugar Land.

“It’s a community effort that the program is inspiring. Keeping our neighborhoods in good shape is very important for the community.”

Joel Sanchez, Sugar Land resident and Great Homes participant

Residents leveraged about $500,000 in City funds to make more than $2.3 million worth of home improvements.

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Dallas, Texas, USA

An All-In Approach to More Equitable Budget Decisions

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Transportation

At a Glance

Used disaggregated data to drive budget decisions that address inequities based on race and/or income. All 42 city departments contributed to the establishment of over 220 metrics that are tracked publicly through the Racial Equity Plan, of which $40 million was allocated towards equity investments.

Launched the first Spanish-language 311 mobile app of any big city in Texas.

Reduced the number of steps in the procurement process from 82 to 23, speeding up the time it takes the city to purchase goods and services.

City leaders in Dallas know that if you want to get something done in local government, the budget is a good place to start. So when they took on the goal of creating a more equitable city, that’s exactly what they did.

The result is a process Dallas calls Budgeting for Equity. Rooted in sophisticated data practices, it’s one of the most robust City Hall systems in place anywhere for identifying and addressing disparities.

The effort began in 2019, with publication of the Dallas Equity Indicators report. The report measured equity across 60 social and economic indicators, from business ownership to home loan denials to kindergarten readiness. It also provided baseline data for local leaders to track citywide equity changes over time.

Next, eight departments used the equity indicators to identify disparities and change budgets to address them. For example, the 311 customer service center noticed that wait times were longer for Spanish-speaking residents. In response, the department hired bilingual staff and recently became the first big city in Texas to launch a Spanish-language 311 mobile app.

Budgeting for Equity has since expanded across all of city government. It’s led by the Office of Equity & Inclusion –in collaboration with the Office of Budget Management Services which guides the City’s 42 departments as they use a tool the Office created to help them prioritize equity in their budgets. Departments are required to use disaggregated data so they can spot disparities within the services they provide by race, ethnicity, age and other factors. They also must consider how their budgets may produce both positive and negative impacts in communities of color and lower-income neighborhoods.

“It’s easy to talk about the ways we’re helping people,” says Dr. Lindsey Wilson, Dallas’ Director of Equity & Inclusion. “But how are we also burdening communities? We need to not only talk about the good things but also the not-so-good things that data is telling us.”

What makes Dallas’ efforts stand out from what other cities are doing is its thoroughness. Budgeting for Equity is not an occasional activity for a handful of departments at a time — in Dallas, every department does it every year. The process is aligned with a comprehensive Racial Equity Plan the City Council adopted in 2022, which includes a set of “Big Audacious Goals” meant to guide implementation of that plan; progress is continually tracked in a public dashboard. Individual departments in charge of libraries, arts and culture, planning, and water, have earned recognition from their own industry organizations. 

“Each year we hear from departments about adjustments we need to make,” Dr. Wilson says, noting that the number of questions departments are asked to answer through Budgeting for Equity has been reduced from ten to five to reduce burdens on them. “The one thing that never changed was the use of data to drive the outcomes.”

60 citywide measures included in Dallas’ Equity Indicators Report

3,203 individuals and 284 organizations were directly engaged in creation of the Racial Equity Plan.

5 “Big Audacious Goals” in the Racial Equity Plan

“If we continue to strengthen and hold ourselves accountable for this work, we should see disparities decrease and begin to see transformative change.”

Dr. Lindsey Wilson, Director Dallas Office of Equity & Inclusio
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Mendoza, Argentina

Using AI to Tackle Unregulated Landfills

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Finance, Health and Wellbeing, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transportation

At a Glance

Used an AI-powered digital tool to identify small but harmful garbage dumps scattered around the city.

Created a Directorate of Digital Transformation, Smart Cities and Open Government to take advantage of data and make better decisions.

Built dashboards for data on commercial activity and entrepreneurship, waste recycling, public safety, and more after seeing the power of collating data during the pandemic.

Making progress toward 2030 climate goals through innovations from the Municipal Climate Change Committee, which is made up of the Secretary of Environment and Urban Development, science and technical organizations, universities, the Institute of Environmental Sciences, and more.

Like many cities, Mendoza has a problem with illegal dumping, particularly in marginalized neighborhoods near the foothills of the Andes. These small piles of trash pose major risks to water quality and public health. However, they are not always easy to see: many of the spill sites are small and hidden in ravines.

City leaders are now using artificial intelligence to locate and clean these micro-landfills. In collaboration with the Bunge and Born Foundation, Mendoza developed an algorithm that used drone photography to detect landfills as small as one square meter. The initiative is part of a broader effort to use data to make smart decisions related to climate change and the environment.

In just one part of the city, the tool found 1,573 detected trash tags. The algorithm can also identify whether the material in these piles is plastic, branches, construction debris, or something else. This gives city leaders a plan to direct their cleanup efforts, impacting and improving quality of life. of 2,000 families in 19 neighborhoods.

Recognizing the global need for such a tool, the team behind the technology has released the code and it has presented to cities throughout Argentina. And to make it replicable, they have adapted the algorithm so that it can use free images from Google Earth, instead of drone photography, which can be expensive. They believe the same approach could be used to detect other environmental hazards on the urban periphery, such as deforestation.

“Managing open dumps is an enormous management challenge for national, provincial and local governments,” said the Secretary of Environment from Mendoza, Sebastián Fermani. “Not only because of pollution and climate change issues, but also because it is a problem that disproportionately affects the vulnerable population.”

“Local governments may not have the resources of a regional or provincial government, but through data-driven decisions, we can generate a better climate and investment to create jobs and economic development.”

Mayor Ulpiano Leandro Suarez
Comparison of detection of small dumpsites by AI versus humans.

Used AI to identify and classify 1,573 small dumpsites in just one section of the city.

“What Works Cities Certification is both a recognition of the work done by a great team here, and also shows us how we can improve city management based on international standards.”

Mayor Ulpiano Leandro Suarez

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Guatemala City, Guatemala

Improving the Quality of Life in Neighborhoods Through Public Space, Resident Participation and Preventive Security

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Health and Wellbeing, Technology

At a Glance

44% reduction in criminal activity (on average) in 2019 compared to 2016 in six neighborhoods prioritized through the program Prosperous Neighborhood. 12% reduction in crime victims and 26% increase in the perception of security in the Próspero San José La Chácara neighborhood in 2022.

More than 275,000 residents benefitted directly or indirectly from the Prosperous Neighborhood between 2017 to 2023.

Residents of all ages created 1,216 drawings of their ideal neighborhood in the Neighborhood of Your Dreams workshops. These drawings informed the design of public space improvements.

In a 2023 survey, 90% of respondents in the Próspero San José La Chácara neighborhood said that improving public spaces contributes to improving relations between neighbors.

The preventive security and protection of a neighborhood is strengthened when residents feel empowered to improve and control public spaces. This simple but powerful idea is a fundamental premise of Guatemala City’s Prosperous Neighborhood Program, promoted by Mayor Ricardo Quiñónez, which combines data analysis and resident participation to increase safety and improve quality of life in neighborhoods in this growing city. The Prosperous Neighborhood Program, implemented by the Municipality of Guatemala, with the support of the Embassy of the United States of America in Guatemala and the Government of Guatemala, focuses on three main areas:

  1. Work in the neighborhood to revitalize and improve public spaces that promote social gatherings, recreation, and community events.
  2. Increasing civic participation of residents, through training, social, cultural, recreational and economic strengthening programs.
  3. Collaboration between police and the community to improve security, promoting peaceful coexistence and order.
Inauguration of the Lavarreda Community Kiosk with Mayor Ricardo Quiñónez, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, National Civil Police and residents. Image Courtesy of Guatemala City.

The first step was to identify where to start the program. In 2016, with the support of the Ministry of the Interior, the National Civil Police and other government agencies, Mayor Ricardo Quiñónez’s delegates identified the six municipal areas with the highest crime rates. These six zones comprise 38% of the city’s area and are home to 64% of its population.  Subsequently, the program team identified the areas where there was the highest concentration of criminal acts in each area. For the first phase of the program (2017-2019), six neighborhoods with high population concentration adjacent to these areas with higher crime rates were prioritized to make improvements, seeking to strengthen citizen coexistence and improve security with a preventive approach. For the second phase, three priority neighborhoods were added (2020-2022). 

The City sought a successful crime prevention model to inform improvements in public spaces. The municipal government team involved residents in priority neighborhoods through exploratory walks, surveys and workshops. For example, the “Neighborhood of Your Dreams” workshops allowed residents of all ages to express their visions for improvements through drawings.  

The improvements in public spaces varied depending on the neighborhood, since they respond to the needs that the neighbors expressed about each one. For example, in one of the nine neighborhoods intervened to date, in the area of ​​San José La Chácara and Saravia in Zone 5, more than 15,000 residents have directly benefited, since a new promenade has been implemented that includes a bike lane, exercise machines, trees and improved lighting.

Regarding preventive security infrastructure, a Community Kiosk was installed in the existing park. The strategy to locate these facilities seeks to build them close to squares, parks or public transport stations, integrated into a video surveillance system and constant training for police officers, since they are articulated with existing police stations, stations and substations of the National Civil Police.

The overall results are encouraging: more than 12,000 square meters of public spaces recovered in 9 neighborhoods, including squares, parks, walks and bike paths, directly benefiting more than 119,000 people.  

For residents, the benefits of the Prosperous Neighborhood Program included a reduction in crime rates and an increase in perceptions of safety. For example, a survey conducted in 2022 of residents of San José La Chácara and Saravia found a 12% reduction in crime victims, a 26% increase in the perception of safety and an increase of seven hours in the use of public parks.

Infographic of highlights and achievements of the Prosperous Neighborhood Program. Courtesy of Guatemala City.

Looking ahead, the Municipality of Guatemala will continue to expand the program while optimizing its approach based on data and lessons learned.  Since 2023, it has expanded the Program to 36 neighborhoods, benefiting 48% of the municipality’s population. The results so far confirm that sustainably improving public safety requires more than simply deploying police resources. When residents can confidently use the public spaces they feel are their own, it produces a deeper sense of community—and a more prosperous and secure Guatemala City. 

“The city is our home and the goal is for us to love it. Let’s take care of it, live in it and improve it together.”

Mayor Ricardo Quiñónez

“Strengthening coexistence between neighbors and improving security in the neighborhoods are priorities for the Prosperous Neighborhood program.  We aim to improve the quality of life and create a city with opportunities for all.” 

Mayor Ricardo Quiñónez
Plaza El Limón was revitalized as part of Prosperous Neighborhood. Image Courtesy of Guatemala City.

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Las Condes, Chile

Crime Falls as Data-Driven Governance Rises

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Environment, Equity, Health and Wellbeing, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Technology, Transportation

At a Glance

More than 3,000 innovative security technologies, including cameras, sensors and drones in Las Condes. Of these, there are about 1,900 video surveillance cameras that stream data to an analytics software that detects possible crimes.

Robberies fell by 22% in 2023.

51 different movements the analytics program flags as potential problems.

Crime rates have risen in recent years in Latin America. But Las Condes, an affluent municipality of about 340,000 people that abuts Chile’s capital city, offers a different story: Its crime levels have fallen. For Las Condes’ leaders, this is proof that their strategy for improving public safety is working as planned.

Las Condes doesn’t have its own police force—instead there are municipal guards that are usually first responders. Municipal guards help uphold local regulations and maintain public order, but have limited law enforcement authority. Thus, state police forces are ultimately responsible for public safety. So leaders turned to technology, not manpower, to help make the city safer. Setting up a municipal network of security cameras around the city was key. To determine the most effective sites for thousands of cameras, the City identified locations with high numbers of thefts and other crimes between 2018 and 2022. The next step was integrating the cameras (there are now about 1,900 in place) with a predictive analytics software platform that could support fast police responses. The software analyzes data from the videos and automatically alerts municipal guards to potential crimes.

“For us, a smart city is not about gadgets; it’s a strategy and, of course, it’s always evolving.”

Daniela Peñaloza, Mayor

While Las Condes’ leaders were confident the security video network would boost safety, they also understood that residents had legitimate privacy concerns. To address them, officials make footage available to residents upon request. They’re also transparent about how the cameras are used—and how they fit into Las Condes’ larger public safety strategy.

Mayor Daniela Peñaloza calls the analytics system the City’s “brain.” And data-driven decision-making didn’t end once the strategy was up and running.

The City maintains a heat map detailing crime—e.g., where it happened, what was stolen, mode of transportation, etc. Each week, municipal inspectors review the map, while also tracking a predictive crime model fed by fresh data.

In 2022, crime fell across all categories except one: pedestrian robberies. After digging into the data, including video footage, officials realized there was a surge in crimes committed by people disguised as motorcycle delivery drivers. In response, the City’s public safety inspectors began using motorcycles to improve their mobility and address robbery hotspots. The result: Robberies dropped by 22% in 2023. As of May 2024, crime has dropped by 29% compared to the same period in 2023.

For Mayor Peñaloza, this is just one example that illustrates the power of data-driven governance. “In Las Condes, data paired with advanced analytics has become an essential part of our strategy for improving public safety,” she says.

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Issaquah, Washington, USA

Data Helps Issaquah Close Gaps in Homeless Services

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Housing

At a Glance

Staff from the City’s Homeless Outreach program had 1,555 interactions with unhoused community members between September 2021 and January 2024. On average, it takes four to five interactions with a person before they consider accepting services.

Created and launched Data Quah, a data training program for staff. All new hires participate in Data Quah 101 to learn about the City’s data collection and tracking systems. Over 50% of staff engaged with Data Quah in its first year.

Monitored crime trends and partnered with local businesses to gather and share data. In 2023, burglaries fell by 37% and thefts by 26%.

Using data to show how investment in the arts promotes tourism and economic development. The City tracks requests for arts grants, providing insight into community-wide needs and allowing for more strategic funding decisions. (Jakob is a city art highlight.)

Staff from the City of Issaquah’s Human Services team first met John in September 2021. At the time he was camping under bridges and had been homeless for four years. It took repeated meetings to build enough trust with John to begin the process of finding him a permanent home. With the help of the City, federal rental assistance and family, John moved into an apartment in March 2022. 

John is one of 37 people the City has helped move into permanent housing since it began its Homeless Outreach Program in June 2021. It has also provided unhoused community members with over 1,000 connections to services, such as temporary shelter, transportation and medical treatment. 

The Homeless Outreach Program started with a goal of filling information gaps about homelessness in Issaquah. Data collected by the Human Services team showed that homelessness was more prevalent than originally thought, and that shelter, treatment and affordable housing were needed in Issaquah. These findings were incorporated into the first-ever Human Services Strategic Plan, which includes goals and action steps for effectively responding to homelessness. In 2022, the City began using an online dashboard to track data from the Homeless Outreach Program and share timely updates with the community. 

“We’ve got some good data over time. But are we really able to tell that we got the outcome that we were trying to? Not just that we tried, but that we moved the needle.”

Mayor Mary Lou Pauly

Trends emerged from the data. Because Issaquah didn’t have an emergency shelter, people had to leave town for a bed, something many did not want to do. Even when they were willing to accept shelter, 43% of the time no beds were available in the regional shelters. To fill the need, the Homeless Outreach Program began collaborating with a local hotel franchise to provide emergency shelter during extreme winter weather.  

The initiative was modeled on a successful hotel-based emergency shelter program King County ran during the pandemic to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Human Services staff found that people were more likely to accept shelter in a motel room in Issaquah during extreme weather than other shelter options. The stability of the motel also allowed staff to engage more consistently with individuals, build trust faster and make quicker progress on service goals.

Seeing the positive outcomes, the City proposed expanding the collaboration with the motel beyond short-term shelter and into emergency housing. Data gathered from the homeless outreach encounters led to the City Council’s approval of a pilot program. The pilot program dedicated 12 rooms in the motel to supporting community members as they move from homelessness to permanent housing. The Human Services team, in partnership with the City’s Performance Program Analyst, will continue to collect and analyze data, look for trends, and evaluate whether their approach is alleviating homelessness in Issaquah.

1,073 connections to services, including temporary shelter, basic needs and transportation

From left WWC’s Emily Ferris, Issaquah’s Assistant to the City Administrator Dale Markey-Crimp, and WWC’s Jake Hemphill in front of Issaquah’s troll, Jakob Two Trees. Jakob is one of six trolls that form a large-scale public art installation.

“I was approved for a voucher to find housing. They did that for me!! The City of Issaquah rescued me but that’s only part of it. The man, Amir, who helped me went above and beyond the call of duty. He drove me places to apply, he paid deposits and holding fees. He started out as a case manager, but I consider him my friend.” 

John, Issaquah resident who experienced homelessness

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San Pedro Garza García, Mexico

Data Makes A Resident Service Platform Go From Good to Great

Project Type:
Health and Wellbeing, High-Performing Government, Youth Development

At a Glance

Evaluated the City’s resident services chatbot, found room for improvement and made changes that reduced response times by 50% and saved $8.5 million

Visited 9,000 homes in 18 priority neighborhoods to interview caregivers about what services they needed. Services included transportation, grocery assistance and weekly breaks from caregiving. On average, caregivers in the resulting program reported a 30-point improvement in well-being after five weeks.

In response to feedback from caregivers, the City created—and then expanded—a mini public transportation route with 14 stops.

Reduced park maintenance costs by centralizing park management with a public-private partnership.

In February 2020, San Pedro Garza García launched a WhatsApp-based, resident service chatbot called Sam Petrino, or “Sam” for short. Previously the City received service requests – about potholes, broken street lights, overflowing garbage bins and more – by phone, through its website or in person at City Hall. But the Office of Innovation and Citizen Participation believed more residents would engage if they could use WhatsApp, the most common communication platform in Mexico.

They were right. Within two weeks of its launch, Sam was receiving more reports than any of the other reporting methods. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Sam’s purpose evolved. The City expanded Sam to include options for requesting food assistance or other support, reporting domestic violence, making donations or volunteering, and, eventually, registering for vaccines. By the end of 2020, Sam was averaging over 1,000 reports each month and gaining international acclaim, including receiving the National Institute of Transparency’s Innovation Award.

The City could have called Sam a success and shifted into autodrive. But, in 2021, data showed that Sam was not working as well as it could. The flood of new reports was creating internal problems, response times were slow, resident satisfaction was dropping, and the data being gathered through the chatbot was stuck in silos. The City interviewed staff, reviewed processes and made changes.

The entire government is, so to speak, connected to the bot.

Mayor Miguel Treviño de Hoyos

The City made 15 improvements to the Sam Petrino chatbot.

The City re-engineered Sam, making more than 15 improvements. Now, Sam is fully automated and digitized, internal reporting operations have been streamlined, and the public has clear accountability channels. Data from Sam is reliably gathered, shared across departments and publicly, and used in decision making.

The result: Despite 110% more citizen service reports submitted in 2023 than in 2019, the City responded 8.6 times faster – sometimes within hours – with the same amount of staff and the same amount of funding. Citizen satisfaction with Sam and the City’s response to service requests has increased from 67% before the changes to 84% after the changes were implemented. The majority of City staff also approve of the new internal processes behind Sam, which have helped foster accountability and recognition for those responding to the reports.

The City’s willingness to listen to the data, its residents and staff allowed it to see that even award-winning innovations can be improved. It’s a successful approach San Pedro Garza García is now broadly applying to better serve its residents.

What I would tell all other mayors is, ‘If your resources are scarce – which they are – you have to understand what you are achieving with these resources. And the only way to do that is to measure what you are doing.’

Mayor Miguel Treviño de Hoyos

Monterrey, Mexico

Improving Quality of Life Through a Data-Driven, Resident-Oriented Municipal Budget

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Health and Wellbeing, Technology

At a Glance

5% of the City’s annual real estate tax is allocated to projects proposed by residents through the Participatory Budget.

10,254 of votes cast by residents in 2023 for participatory budget proposals in 2023—five times higher than votes cast in 2022.

313 project proposals submitted by residents for the 2024 participatory budgeting round.

30 projects funded in 2023.

In late October 2023, Monterrey residents and city leaders gathered at the Rube Bridge in the Bella Vista neighborhood to celebrate a resident-led transformation. A once nondescript concrete underpass, which many neighbors avoided due to open-air drug use and loitering, was inaugurated as a recreational space featuring a soccer field, basketball and tennis courts, modern lighting and benches. Plans for security cameras, a playground and murals are in the works.

This revitalization is the result of the City of Monterrey’s participatory budgeting (PB) program, which allocates five percent of annual property tax receipts to fund resident proposals each year. Launched in 2022, the proposal is part of the city’s growing commitment to collaborative government and data-driven decision making.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. A resident of the Bella Vista neighborhood submitted a proposal to revitalize the bridge underpass.
  2. The City approved the proposal and included it on the ballot.
  3. Voters approved related proposals in 2022 and 2023.
  4. Bella Vista neighbors formed a committee to review construction project bids and monitor work site progress. (The commitment to this project from Bella Vista residents is remarkable—residents helped keep construction materials secure by sleeping at the construction site.)
Image Courtesy of the City of Monterrey.

Residents are clearly powering Monterrey’s participatory budgeting process—and behind the scenes, so is data. To ensure that wealthy enclaves don’t receive a disproportionate amount of funding, the City divided Monterrey into 30 sectors based on their respective socioeconomic conditions. It then prioritized funding projects in vulnerable areas. Additionally, the amount of funds made available to a particular proposal depends on four factors: the number of inhabitants of the area, the correct payment of property taxes, the level of segregation and the amount of active neighborhood councils in a sector. All proposals put up for vote must also meet technical and legal requirements, as well as being aligned to the City’s strategic goals.

One signal of the PB program’s success? Its growing popularity. In 2022, residents proposed 265 projects, of which 160 were accepted by the City; 2,452 residents ultimately approved 30 to receive funding. Last year, the City received 280 proposals, with 172 deemed feasible and 30 selected by voters. More than four times as many people (10,254) voted on those projects, thanks in part to a city communications campaign that drew on results from a performance analysis of the PB program’s first year.

Today, with civically active residents and an administration that routinely uses data to identify and prioritize local needs, progress is happening in Monterrey. Across the city—the first in Mexico to earn What Works Cities Certification—public spaces are being rehabilitated and reforested, and mobility infrastructure is being made safer. This is what smart, open government looks like in action.

“By having transparency mechanisms in place so citizens can understand how we use resources and make decisions with data, we’re promoting collaboration between society and government. It’s about being able to understand and recognize what can be improved. If we don’t listen to citizens, we lose a fundamental way to keep growing and improving.”

Monica Medellín Estrada, Director of Proactive Transparency, City of Monterrey
Monterrey city staff share more about the participatory budgeting process. Image Courtesy of the City of Monterrey.

“As leaders we have to make decisions every day, otherwise things can fall apart. Whatever our intentions, data helps us know what to do. When you have data, you know you are making a good decision.” 

Luis Donaldo Colosio Riojas, Mayor

30 resident-proposed projects funded by participatory budgeting

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