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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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Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

Bajo Luján’s Journey to New Housing.

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

At a Glance


Relocated more than 1200 families who lived in flood-prone areas.


Created a workforce development initiative that employed residents, renovated public land and expanded access to recycling centers.


Improved access to territorial data, which made getting land permit data faster—going from months of waiting to just three clicks. The platform, Luján 3D, allows renovations and housing development to have substantial improvements.


Improved accessibility for residents with disabilities through an adapted bicycle program.

In 2016, a survey conducted by the city of Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, revealed a heartbreaking reality. There were about 3,500 families who lived in marginal or informal neighborhoods, of which 700 were concentrated in the Bajo Luján area, often without basic services. The most vulnerable residents lived near a flood-prone river, underscoring the urgency for change. As a result, the City developed an ambitious urbanization and relocation project, supported by the World Bank.

At the heart of the initiative was a resident-driven approach. Residents were surveyed to identify and prioritize needs, including proximity to employment, family size, and level of need to minimize disruption to their daily lives. Efforts to monitor the impact of this relocation were key. A survey and audit process was initiated, capturing residents’ experiences before, during and after the move. This data was visualized through PowerBI dashboards, allowing real-time tracking of project progress.

“Governing is making decisions. Doing it well requires exceptional use of data. If we intend to achieve real impact in the community, our public policies must be data-driven. We dream of becoming an international example of well-managed local government.”

Esteban Allasino, Mayor

The result was the construction of 700 homes in 11 neighborhoods.

This enormous initiative not only provided new homes, but restored a sense of human dignity and trust in government for those who had long been marginalized.

Seven hundred safe and practical homes is a significant achievement.

Additionally, the community intervened and regularized other settlements benefiting 500 families, completing a very ambitious stage that managed to reach more than 35% of the most vulnerable sector of the City.

But the government did not stop there. City leaders knew that housing is only one part of poverty. Thus, in an effort to create employment opportunities, the city turned its attention to residents who worked at the landfills as urban recyclers.

These families made a living collecting recyclable materials from garbage dumps. To help them, the following public policies were promoted: Closure and remediation of garbage dumps, Social inclusion of urban reclaimers, Inclusive Recycling Program – Centro Verde. In this way, the city, together with a group of neighbors, mainly women, officially formed a cooperative. The City provided land and necessary infrastructure.

The Fortress of My Earth, which now has nearly 30 members, launched a program that uses geographic information system (GIS) data to strategically place recycling bins throughout the city. This project successfully increased the number of Green Dots from 8 to 65, ensuring that residents could easily find a container within 500 meters of their homes. This caused a notable increase in recycling from 2021 to 2023.

The story doesn’t end there. In 2021, the City cut the ribbon on Luján Park,  located in the previously abandoned housing settlement Bajo Luján. The area has been transformed into a lively community space, with children’s play areas with equipment made from recycled plastic from the cooperative.

The Bajo Luján and Centro Verde projects reveal how intertwined initiatives can have an exponential impact on residents’ lives. They boosted citywide sustainability, helping hundreds of Luján de Cuyo residents achieve housing stability and financial independence and building much-needed trust in local government.

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Rionegro, Colombia

Leveraging Data for Fiscal Sustainability

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transportation

At a Glance


Has one of the lowest unemployment rates for mid-sized cities in Colombia at 7.5% in 2023, compared to the national unemployment rate of 9.3% in 2023.


Created the Tax Intelligence Center (CIF), through which the City developed its internal data management capacity and increased tax revenue by USD $14,000 in 2022.


In 2021, improved public safety by increasing the number of cameras throughout the City from 65 to 337, which has corresponded to reductions in theft, sexual and domestic violence, and extortion.


Implemented a data-driven triage system for hospital emergency rooms, saving the city $377,500 USD in operating costs (a 91% decrease according to the Secretary of Family, Health, and Social Inclusion).

In recent decades, Rionegro, Colombia, has invested heavily in sectors to improve quality of life for residents, such as housing, sanitation and public spaces. However, this investment has come at a cost, and since 2017, the Rionegro government has operated with a budget deficit. At the same time, the population of Rionegro has grown and its economy has diversified. At the same time, Rionegro’s population has grown and its economy has diversified, and while these developments open opportunities for Rionegro, they also come with challenges.

 

In response, Rionegro created the Fiscal Intelligence Center (CIF). CIF is a comprehensive citywide initiative to use analytics and business intelligence to monitor, manage, evaluate and optimize Rionegro’s financial decisions, notably regarding taxes. Through this data-driven approach, the City is better able to combat tax evasion by using data to choose who to audit. CIF’s work to revamp tax collection is about more than making sure residents contribute their fair share—it aims to transform the culture through taxpayer outreach so that residents see themselves in Rionegro’s development and build trust in city government.

 

What are CIF’s results?

 

Rionegro’s industry and commerce revenues increased by 22% in 2022 and another 24% in 2023.

 

Residents and city staff alike understand that more revenue means more opportunities for the government to address issues that matter, such as employment, security, community projects and health care.

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For instance, Rionegro struggled with overcrowded emergency rooms as residents, especially those from rural communities, flocked to emergency rooms with non-emergency needs. In 2022, Rionegro found that 93% of patients were admitted to emergency rooms for non-emergency services.

 

With strong data practices and increased revenue, Rionegro launched the Te Acompaño platform in coordination with other health service institutions. Te Acompaño helps redirect patients who might not need emergency services from emergency rooms and educate them on how to best seek alternate forms of care. Within the first year, the platform reached 8,000 users, helped improve health care resource savings by 91%, and saved the city’s health care system USD $377,500 in operations costs. In a resident survey, 93% of Te Acompaño users said they were satisfied with the service.

 

CIF is not a behind-the-scenes government initiative, it’s a program that directly impacts residents. From health care to mobility to employment, Rionegro’s residents are seeing how increased digitization and efficiency allow the City to provide better services and build trust with residents.

“With the commitment, support and coordination between the municipal administration and all the actors in the network, it will be possible to improve access and opportunity to health services.”

Felipe Puerta, former Secretary of Family, Health and Social Integration

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Tres de Febrero, Argentina

Making Health Care the Starting Point of Community

Project Type:
Equity, Health & Wellness, High-Performing Government, Technology

At a Glance


15 minutes: The longest a resident in a target population needs to travel to reach a primary health center.


More than 50% of the local population is registered in the municipal public health system, with the proposed minimum goal being 35% (population with only public coverage).


Reduced emergency response time from an average of 60 minutes to 10 minutes, improving public safety and health outcomes.

There is a difference between having the right to health care and having access to health care.

In Argentina, health services are divided among levels of government, and while the country does have universal health care, many residents—especially vulnerable populations—lack access to critical health services. In the 24 municipalities that make up Greater Buenos Aires, 50% of people live in poverty and 54% do not have access to at least some public services.

Given this significant disparity in access, Tres de Febrero, a municipality of 350,000 in the Buenos Aires metro area, understood that it would take transformational change to solve its health care problem.

First, the City analyzed its community needs to identify a priority population of residents who lacked access to government-provided healthcare. The City embarked on an inside-out transformation of its health system with three strategies:

1) Digitize

  • Tres de Febrero invested in key digital infrastructure across its health services. This allowed the City to provide more efficient, more accurate and more user-friendly services for residents when they made appointments, filled prescriptions, got blood work, and more. Crucially, the City also transitioned from paper patient records to digital medical profiles, which directly improves patient care by enabling greater data sharing between health providers and faster access to information for patients. Through coordinated enrollment plans with the electronic registry, Tres de Febrero was able to reach a 100% enrollment rate.

2) Decentralize

  • A core challenge that Tres de Febrero faced was the distribution of its health services and primary care centers (CAPS). Using geographical data about its target population, the City built two new CAPS in strategic locations so that no one in the target population had to travel more than 15 minutes for primary care. They also increased the number of CAPS that could provide specialized services such as dentistry, gynecology and mental health care. For instance, in 2021, only one CAPS had a lab that could do blood tests. By 2023, all 14 centers could.

3) Revitalize

  • Previously, CAPS centers did not exemplify healthy community spaces. They were dilapidated, with exposed electrical wire, flaking paint and visible mold. Being in the buildings did not make residents feel good. Thus, the City renovated more than 14 health care facilities to improve quality of care.
Image courtesy of the Municipality of Tres de Febrero.

“It is not possible for me to pay for a gym membership, but I have been here every day to exercise because there is space to do so.”

Resident speaking about renovated public exercise space

The numbers in Tres de Febrero speak for themselves. The transformation has touched every branch of the City’s health system: emergency response times have dropped by 82%, lab results come in three days, not two weeks, and more than 450 medical professionals have participated in the city’s continuing training program.

This sweeping and dramatic improvement in how Tres de Febrero serves its residents was made possible by data. Tres de Febrero has done more than build health centers: It has created equitable community spaces that build trust in government, deepen community bonds and make lives better.

“As a neighbor, I can see the impact of using data to improve the lives of residents and the community.”

Ailén Gómez, Líder de Seguimiento

“Certification is a valuable tool for mayors. Using data and evidence adds value to strategic planning and increases your chances of success. Using data is essential but it is not enough. You also need to have empathy and political leadership is how you change people’s lives.”

Diego Valenzuela, Mayor

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Port St. Lucie, Florida

Residents Tag Mobility as Priority. Port St. Lucie Uses Data to Deliver.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transportation

At a Glance


In 2023, launched a newly formatted Port St. Lucie Stat program, moving from an annual review of operations to quarterly reviews. 


Collects resident input through an annual Citizen Summit and National Community SurveyTM.


In response to resident demand for better mobility options, the City  developed and found funding streams to support a Sidewalk Master Plan, Multimodal Plan and Mobility Plan.


Anticipating new jobs bringing over 9 million sq. ft. of new office, retail, research and industrial developments, the City created a jobs corridor with public art and green space requirements.

Port St. Lucie is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, adding more than 35,000 new residents in the past three years. This rapid growth comes with benefits and challenges. But, with the help of data and resident input, the Mayor, City Council and staff are successfully managing today’s growth and planning for the future. 

At the heart of their efforts is Port St. Lucie’s strategic plan. First developed in 2013, the plan is updated annually to reflect residents’ priorities as gathered at the #IAMPSL Citizen Summit and through a National Community Survey(NCS)TM. The City strives to make the Citizen Summit fun and easy for residents to attend – approximately 800 people came in 2023. The NCSTM takes a different approach for reaching residents. Run by the National Research Center at Polco, the survey is sent to a scientifically random sampling of households. 

For several years now, residents have made it clear – at both the Citizen Summit and through the NCSTM – that improving mobility around the city should be a priority. In 2023, only 4 in 10 residents said it was easy to walk around the city and even fewer thought it was easy to bike or use public transit. These findings are not necessarily surprising. Port St. Lucie was developed as a retirement community in the 1960s and included few sidewalks. But, in line with resident feedback, the City has made adding more sidewalks a key infrastructure priority in its strategic plan. 

In 2017, the City Council approved an enhanced  10-year Sidewalk Master Plan to add 35 miles of sidewalks, particularly on streets within a two-mile radius of schools, and to create a network of connected sidewalks. Progress on the plan has been helped by a resident-approved half-cent sales tax increase for infrastructure projects. As with its other strategic goals, the City tracks its performance on the Sidewalk Master Plan on a public dashboard. It also recently revamped its Port St. Lucie Stat program to meet quarterly and to align with best practices on strategic planning and establishing performance metrics. This allows the Public Works and Police Departments to better collaborate on mobility solutions in response to traffic data. The Police Department also has a Stat program in place as part of their data-informed approach.

In 2022, the City installed 4.9 miles of new sidewalks and repaved 49.94 miles of roads.

And the City has not stopped with the Sidewalk Master Plan. In 2021, it began exploring multimodal planning as a way to increase sidewalk connectivity, expand transit coverage, reduce congestion, and accelerate street repairs and improvements. State legislation allows local governments with multimodal plans to collect flexible mobility fees on new developments instead of road-specific impact fees. The City adopted both a Multimodal Plan and a Mobility Plan in order to access this flexible funding. As of September 2023, the City had collected $22 million in mobility fees to invest in projects that will have the biggest impact for current and future residents. 

“The City of Port St. Lucie has a strategic plan to bring the City towards an even better future. Each year, our nationally award-winning planning process begins with listening to the input and ideas of Port St. Lucie residents. Through this process, residents can truly help shape the future of their City.”

Kate Parmelee, Deputy City Manager for Strategic Initiatives & Innovation

“Basically everything we do here is based on our strategic plan.”

Shannon Martin, Mayor

According to the U.S. News & World Report #2 safest city to live in the U.S.

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Medellín, Colombia

Medellín’s Data Breakthrough Reduces Teen Pregnancy by 54%

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

At a Glance


Invested significantly in data infrastructure during the pandemic, resulting in increasing the number of intensive care units from 300 to 1000.


In 2020, there were 3,792 teenage pregnancies. As of November 2023, that number was 1,743.


More than 626 public datasets and 61 open data dashboards and visualizations.


Pico y Placa traffic program reduced road congestion by 50%.

Latin America is a region with one of the highest rates of underage pregnancy in the world, and Medellín, Colombia, is not immune to the trend. In 2020, 40 in every 1,000 teenage girls became pregnant in the city of 2.5 million.

Teenage pregnancy comes with higher health risks for the mother and child, severely impedes economic mobility and has well-documented social costs. A few years ago, Medellín’s data related to teenage pregnancy lived under the umbrella of the Health Department. Yet, teenage pregnancy is influenced by health, social, economic and cultural factors—data in a silo meant Medellín was missing the big picture.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Medellín leadership recognized that the City needed significant and rapid investment in data. Former Mayor Daniel Quintero created the Digital Innovation Secretariat in September 2020, which prioritized investing in data infrastructure and innovation, and set the stage for lasting culture change. At the same time, the City laid out its strategic priorities in a development plan that included a focus on health. A reduction in the pregnancy rate of adolescents 10 to 19 years old was chosen as a key health indicator.

From there, the solution happened in three stages:

  1. Modernizing data management. City leaders transformed how the government manages data. The process of creating a centralized repository of data started with knocking on department doors asking for Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoints and other files with stored data. It took “plenty of love and plenty of patience,” said team member Julio Cesar Mendoza. But the labor of love was worth it: Now the City has access to essential insights into every policy and program.
  2. Co-creating solutions. Next, leaders from various government departments and community organizations held sessions to determine the best metrics to track and strategies to try to prevent teen pregnancy, including disaggregating data by neighborhood, age, marital status, education level and more (such as whether the mother had subsequent pregnancies.) Based on the data, this group found that schools were the most effective place to focus pregnancy prevention efforts, and that educating and empowering school-aged children would be critical to reducing early motherhood.
  3. Engaging the Community. These findings sparked a comprehensive community engagement campaign. Most significantly this includes the “I Decide When” campaign, a strategy across 11 city departments that focuses on the social determinants of teenage pregnancy and uses data to dictate tactics. For instance, there is a chatbot for sex education. Additionally, the City held a contest for schools to come up with ideas to prevent teenage pregnancy. The winning school was in a neighborhood with a high rate of adolescent pregnancy.
Image Courtesy of the City of Medellín.

Today, Medellín’s efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy continue. And with its strong data foundation, the City is committed to making headway on other policy priorities, such as reducing child malnutrition and expanding universal education. Learn more about how data is changing lives in Medellín.

“Our ultimate goal and obligation as public servants is the improvement of the quality of life of our citizens. Thus, when we identified a gap between the speed at which the city and citizens were progressing with data versus how the government was advancing, we began this entire transformation process.”

Ana Maria Valencia Cáceres, Subsecretaría de Ciudad Inteligente de la Secretaría Innovación Digital

“We created all the infrastructure and investment to increase internal capacity in terms of innovation: the Digital Innovation Secretary, technology and specifically increased capacity for data use.”

Mayor Óscar de Jesús Hurtado Pérez

5% of City revenue is allocated each year to projects chosen by residents in Medellín’s participatory budgeting process.

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Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA

Public Transportation Steered By Data

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

At a Glance


The percentage of residents who report using public transportation has more than doubled since their fare-free, all-electric public buses began in 2019.


More than 700 alumni of a 10-week civics course provided to residents by the City.


Increasing tree canopy by planting three trees for every one tree the City cuts down.

Rock Hill, SC, tried public transportation in the 1990s. It wasn’t a roaring success; people didn’t know about it and ridership was low. However, in 2015 a Winthrop University survey found that 80% of respondents identified transportation as a top need. With that data point, Mayor John Gettys knew it was time to give public transportation another go.

Data was a guiding force from the start. The City paired the survey with qualitative data from focus groups that also said fixed-route transit would minimize barriers and provide opportunities to residents. With the need established, choosing routes and schedules were the next items on the agenda. Again, the City leaned on resident feedback, partnering with United Way to hold interest meetings. At the same time, regional planning associations used census data and maps to plot routes that would most benefit residents who needed it most. For instance, they didn’t just look at neighborhood density, they looked at where residents without cars lived, and they made sure that routes passed parks, shopping centers, health care facilities and other places residents recommended.

Image Courtesy of the City of Rock Hill.

“The reason we accomplish big things is that we use data to drive decisions, something the City has done consistently over the last 20 years. I think being strategic and utilizing data to solve challenges attracts good representatives who want to come in and do big things, good things for our community.”

John Gettys, Mayor

“Basing decisions on data can minimize the vitriol of partisan politics, it’s an antidote to a lot of the divide we see in our country today.”

John Gettys, Mayor

My Ride not only improves accessibility, it’s making a more sustainable Rock Hill. The fleet of 10 buses are all electric and produced in South Carolina. The buses reduced about 337 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions compared to diesel buses in just their first year, they’re also quieter for riders and cost less to operate.

Data guided My Ride’s funding decisions as well. Evidence showed that it was cost-prohibitive to collect fares, and city leadership knew how much the buses contributed to accessibility. Thus, the buses are fare-free. Federal Transit Authority (FTA) funds help meet the majority of the costs, the rest is covered by the City and partner organizations.

As My Ride’s success grows, so too do the City’s ambitious goals for the bus system. When the program started, their ridership goal was 4,100 passenger trips per week—a goal they met in less than two months. Despite the plunge in ridership due to the pandemic, ridership has bounced back. In FY23, My Ride’s monthly ridership goal was 16,400. They averaged 20,839 passenger trips per month. And they did all of those rides with only three customer complaints the whole year.

This isn’t the end of the line for My Ride. The four, hour-long routes already serve about two-thirds of city residents, and the City is constantly collecting feedback and setting goals for improvement. For example, in 2023 My Ride began to serve additional areas on the existing routes and improved system efficiency.

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Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Data & Community Partnerships Key to Addressing Evictions in Alexandria

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Housing

At a Glance


Developed an automated system for gathering information on eviction court proceedings. The data informs the efforts of the Eviction Prevention Task Force, a City-community partnership that supports households at risk of eviction.


Since the CDC moratorium ended in August 2021 to the end of 2023, 7,968 evictions have been filed in Alexandria. With support provided by the Task Force and other community partners, only 1,018 of those evictions resulted in a resident being removed from their home.


An independent evaluation of the Alexandria Co-Response Program (ACORP) found that when its teams of trained law enforcement officers and behavioral health clinicians responded to 911 calls that could have resulted in arrests, 70% were diverted from legal action.


Launched an Equity Index Map in 2023 to identify disparities in key social and economic outcomes and to help city staff and community partners make equitable, inclusive and data-driven decisions.


Maintains 92 datasets and dashboards that track how well City programs are working, provide transparency to the community, and help inform collaborations with residents and stakeholders.

Housing affordability has been a priority and a work in-progress for the City of Alexandria for over a decade. Even before the economic volatility of the pandemic, 89% of renters earning $50,000 or less were housing cost burdened and paying over 30% of their incomes in rent. When the pandemic hit, many of these households had little financial buffer.

Hoping to stem a tide of evictions, legal and housing advocates across the city jumped into action. Rather than duplicate the work of local organizations, in June 2020, the City formed an Eviction Prevention Task Force to bring together local nonprofits, faith organizations, and City departments to share information and coordinate efforts.

“We have boots on the ground. We are triaging emergencies. This partnership with the City and faith-based community and nonprofits is unique to Alexandria,” Mary Horner, a housing attorney for Legal Services of Northern Virginia, said in July 2020. “It is the benefit of our size and our tight-knit community. Everyone is on the same team.”

One strength, in particular, the City brought to the partnership was in data collection and analytics. Legal Services of Northern Virginia had been collecting publicly available data on eviction proceedings from the Alexandria General District Court to guide outreach efforts to at-risk households – but that data collection was taking hours each week. The City’s Office of Performance Analytics (OPA) used funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to hire a data analyst to work with the Task Force. The analyst assessed the situation, built a web scraper that reduced the weekly data collection process to a few minutes, and developed a dashboard to follow trends and changes in the eviction landscape.

“We have boots on the ground. We are triaging emergencies. This partnership with the City and faith-based community and nonprofits is unique to Alexandria. It is the benefit of our size and our tight knit community. Everyone is on the same team.”

Mary Horner, Housing Justice Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Services of Northern Virginia

Coordinated, data-based outreach efforts by Task Force partners paired with state and local rental assistance proved incredibly effective in preventing evictions. Between June 2020 and September 2021, City departments helped 3,717 households secure city and state rental assistance.  In 2021, control of rental relief funds transitioned from local government to state government. From January 2021 to December 2023, Legal Services of Northern Virginia – with financial support from the City – provided legal assistance to over 3,500 people through courthouse outreach, representing 17% of tenants facing eviction.

The Task Force’s role has evolved with the changing eviction landscape. Pandemic-era federal and state eviction moratoriums and rental assistance programs have ended, yet evictions legally served to tenants are still below pre-pandemic levels. But the approach of using data and partnerships to improve housing stability is still producing positive outcomes. For example, when a state rental assistance program ended in 2022, a local church asked how much it would cost to stop evictions for the remainder of the year. Using data on the average amount of unpaid rent, the Task Force could answer and the church donated the money.

The City of Alexandria’s strong data foundation and investment in staff capacity made it a productive partner in the Eviction Prevention Task Force, helped bring housing stability to thousands of residents during the pandemic, and are informing the City’s ongoing efforts towards increasing housing affordability.

“The [Eviction Prevention] Task Force has done an impressive amount of work and, as you can see in the numbers, it’s making results. During the pandemic I saw a report that suggested that Virginia had the highest rate of any of the states in allocating federal rental assistance funds. That’s impressive for the entire commonwealth, but I would argue that it’s our efforts in Alexandria that probably made most of that happen.”

Mayor Justin Wilson

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Rochester, Minnesota, USA

Breaking Down Barriers to Build a Diverse Workforce.

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

At a Glance


Among 631 entries from around the globe, Rochester was one of only 15 cities to be awarded a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge in 2021.


Established Equity in the Built Environment, a flagship program to increase workforce participation for women of color in built environment industries

Overall, Rochester, MN’s poverty rate is part success story, part call for action. The city’s 7.4% poverty rate is well below the national average of 11.5%. But equity is top of mind for city leaders, and when they dug deeper to examine who in their community are struggling, they found an alarming disparity. Four in ten Black Rochester residents live in poverty—far above the citywide rate and more than double the national poverty rate for Black Americans. City leaders recognized addressing such a large disparity required a new way of thinking and fundamental changes. 

In 2020 the City of Rochester named Chao Mwatela as the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director. Instead of coming in with a laundry list of action items, she began by identifying potential priority areas using disaggregated data. Then, Mwatela focused on building relationships and listening. She spent time learning about past equity efforts and made recommendations based on what she heard from residents, City staff, and community organizations. A consensus emerged that in order to create a more equitable Rochester,  intentional engagement of the community members most impacted should take priority—this practice is a critical component of WWC Certification.

Also in 2020, the City participated in the Bloomberg Global Mayor’s Challenge which asked cities to identify new solutions for a persistent problem in their city. Rochester identified a problem and an opportunity – inequitable access for women of color to well-paying built environment careers. Nationally, women occupy about one in 10 construction jobs. In Southeast Minnesota, women of color are employed in less than 2% of built environment careers yet represent 13% of the population. As home to the renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester is undertaking a $5.6 billion public-private economic development plan to elevate the city and solidify its standing, globally, as a leader in healthcare and medical research. Community groups, City leaders, and DMC stakeholders recognized that intentional growth should prioritize equitable results, so everyone in the community benefits. One opportunity, made clear by the data, is for Rochester to recruit more women of color in built environment careers to meet these ambitious construction plans.

Together–using a co-design methodology–women of color and built environment professionals, along with representatives from Rochester Schools, Workforce Development Inc, and the City of Rochester created the Equity in the Built Environment program.

The program includes:

  • K-12 career exploration,
  • Training and mentorship for women of color,
  • Inclusive Workplace Employer (I/WE) designation for built environment employers hiring from the program, and
  • Entrepreneurship support for women of color starting a built environment business.
Photo Courtesy of the City of Rochester

Their efforts have been recognized. In 2021, Rochester was one of 15 global cities to receive a $1 million grant as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. Their award is focused on building a system that creates access to women of color into built environment careers. This system consists of education, workforce development, trades unions, and private employer partners all working in collaboration to ensure success for women of color. As of January 2024:

  • Four commercial construction companies earning their Inclusive Workplace Employer designation.

  • Thirteen women involved in built environment training or entrepreneurship .

  • Over one hundred 11th grade students were exposed to built environment careers through experiential learning economics curriculum.

  • A built environment framework now supports women of color on their chosen career path from training to employment and beyond.

 More than anything, Rochester’s data story is about using data to see innovative ways to solve problems and create opportunities. It’s about economic growth being a benefit for all residents and a catalyst for equity. While the program is early in the implementation phase, it’s poised for success. By developing solutions with residents, the City has used data to create pathways to high-paying careers, enhancing economic mobility for historically marginalized communities.

“Aggregate data is meaningful, but does not tell us the stories and experiences of specific communities – those most impacted in our communities. It is imperative that we disaggregate data to understand impacts to specific groups and communities.”

Chao Mwatela, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director

“What Works Cities Certification shows the community that our staff are not only trained and certified in the use of data, but that we’re actually using data to make progress and being recognized for it. In a time of widespread distrust of government, having What Works Cities Certification is a chance to increase trust in government.”

Kim Norton, Mayor

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Carlsbad, California, USA

Data and a Cross-Sector Approach Lead to Street Safety in Carlsbad.

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

At a Glance


Using road collision heatmaps and other data to inform interventions, the City saw a 19% decrease in all injury collisions.


Monitored progress and changed course when needed to achieve traffic goals using Performance & Analytics strategies.


City’s staff telecommuting policy reduced employee commute time by 47,000 hours and saved the City between $300,000 – $400,000. It has also improved traffic conditions for all city residents and eliminated 424 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.


Budget and finance processes require data and alignment with the city’s 5-Year Strategic Plan, to ensure funds are efficiently and effectively allocated to address the most important priorities of the community.

The number of collisions involving bikes and e-bikes was already surging in Carlsbad when, in August 2022, two bikers were killed during a 10-day period. The City had issued an ordinance on e-bike safety a few months before, but the tragedies and an alarming 233% increase in collisions involving bike and e-bikes between 2019 and 2022 promoted greater action. City Manager Scott Chadwick declared a 6-month local emergency, which was ratified by the City Council at its next meeting. The emergency allowed the City flexibility to move quickly and focus resources on encouraging everyone to be safer on the road.

Some residents worried that the emergency declaration would lead to less access for bikes or more traffic. But Chadwick was able to reassure them. “We’re going to let the data guide us,” he said. And that is exactly what they did.

Immediately after declaring the emergency, the City began gathering and analyzing additional data on collisions. They created heatmaps to identify the most dangerous intersections, did a 5-year trend analysis, and set up tracking for the future. Armed with data and streamlined procurement processes as part of the emergency declaration, the City was painting key intersections and bike lanes with high-visibility green paint within two weeks. In fact, they moved so fast that they exhausted the supply of green paint in the region.

Within 30 days of the emergency declaration, the City had a full plan in place for improving street safety. The Safer Streets Together Plan seeks to change public behaviors and attitudes by focusing on education, engineering and enforcement. “It wasn’t just, ‘Here’s an emergency.’ The public saw real things happening in the first weeks and months and that’s how this has changed things so quickly,” Chief Innovation Officer David Graham said.

Six months after declaring an emergency, injury collisions across all transportation modes were down by 19% compared to the same time period in the previous year, and injury collisions related to bikes and e-bikes had decreased 13%. Graham points to qualitative measures of success as well – street safety yard signs and car window clings on display throughout the community, residents saying they are wearing helmets and slowing down, and the city’s partnerships with schools and bike organizations.

Because of the positive trends and evidence of behavior change, in March 2023 the City Council voted to extend the emergency declaration for a few more months. City staff hope that a year’s worth of data and analysis will help build a sustainable approach to traffic safety and that the early positive trends will become permanent.

The traffic safety emergency is not the first emergency that Carlsbad has tackled with data-driven decision making. It took a similar and equally successful approach during COVID. Hopefully the City won’t have cause for testing its emergency response again anytime soon, but having a well-honed system for collecting and analyzing data, and for innovating and tracking outcomes means that no matter what the future holds, Carlsbad will be well prepared to handle it.

“To see transformation in government you have to invest in areas that aren’t readily apparent like data and analytics, process improvement and operational excellence. When we work together with our community to discover shared insights around issues like traffic safety, we can create impactful change.”

David Graham, Chief Innovation Officer

It’s not easy to change the way people behave on the road. Often, you’re trying to change habits people have had for years or decades, for better or worse. By taking a balanced approach to traffic safety and digging into the data, we can see what’s working and what isn’t working, and learn how to be more effective as we move forward.

Scott Chadwick, City Manager

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