Skip to main content

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

Join Our Certified Cities!

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.

.

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

Join Our Certified Cities!

Bogotá, Colombia

Bogotá’s Evidence-Based Approach to Empowering Caregivers

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

At a Glance


The district administration built 21 Care Blocks, community centers that have provided support to more than 180,000 female caregivers and their families since January 2022.


Since its inception, the services of the Bogotá Care System have improved the lives of more than 546,500 women and their families. In 2023, it helped more than 550 women receive their high school diploma.


Through the Bogotá Public Innovation Laboratory – iBO, the Care Blocks are implementing new registration technology through a chatbot. The first stage managed to integrate more than 2,400 women to the system.


They successfully combined the use of data and feedback from residents to build a social support program that promotes economic mobility.

In a pioneering initiative aimed at supporting caregivers, Bogotá has successfully established 21 community centers throughout the city called Care Blocks.

During a visit from the What Works Cities Certification team to a Care Block in the Manitas neighborhood in the town of Ciudad Bolívar, which is considered a vulnerable area, the impact of the program was evident. As people danced and celebrated the Care Block’s third anniversary, caregivers expressed gratitude for the opportunity to receive support to improve their lives.

Care Blocks are designed to relieve the responsibilities and stress of caregiving. The goal is to allow caregivers to focus on other essential aspects of their lives that often get pushed aside due to their duties. All services provided are free, including community laundries. With these, more than 14,700 hours of care work were freed up for women, equivalent to 616 days.

According to the District Secretariat for Women, since January 2022, more than 180,000 female caregivers and their families have participated in the Care Blocks.

Image Courtesy of the City of Bogotá.

The District is actively involved in improving the program. Thanks to the Bogotá Public Innovation Laboratory – iBO, they are developing a system to register people in various activities offered in the Care Blocks, using a recently implemented chatbot to address queries and facilitate registrations. There are more than 2,100 engagements with the chatbot.

The results for residents and the emphasis of digitization and data have attracted the attention of leaders across the city and the country as a model to improve the lives of residents. Efforts are underway to conduct a comprehensive impact assessment and increase outreach.

Bogotá’s pioneering initiative highlights the cultural evolution around care. This model is proving to be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of caregivers throughout the city and a reference for other cities to follow.

“Here we can continue studying and fulfill our dreams. We [caretakers] are always told: ‘This is going to inhibit you and you will not be able to move forward,’ but this program really helps us a lot.”

Tatiana Guayara, San Cristóbal Care Block beneficiary (quote provided by the City)
Image Courtesy of the City of Bogotá.

“With this Certification it is evident that Bogotá has put data, technology and innovation at the center of government decisions on critical issues such as the District Care System, the environment and mobility. Our commitment is to continue with this effort, build on what has been built and continue promoting a conscious, responsible and strategic use of information to improve the quality of life of citizens.”

Carlos Fernando Galán Pachón, Mayor

550 caretakers have earned their high school diploma through Care Blocks

Join Our Certified Cities!

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

Join Our Certified Cities!

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Tulsa Scales Up Data-First Innovation.

Project Type:
Communications, Cross-Sector, Economic Development, Education, Energy, Equity, Finance, Health & Wellness, High-Performing Government, Housing, Public Safety

At a Glance


Created a cross-departmental team that identifies the most effective methods for achieving the city’s top goals and leads the city’s data-driven transformation.


Found patterns in 911 repeat call data that signaled the need for a new referral program to deliver specialized healthcare and social services for residents. Within the first three months of launching the program, there was a 70% reduction in calls from its top 911 utilizers.


Partnered city agencies and civic tech nonprofits to develop a text reminder system that reduced missed fines and warrants that have helped the City’s Court see an annual 187,000 increase in revenue.

Using Data to Power Innovation

G.T. Bynum has leadership in his veins. One of the youngest people ever elected mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he’s the fourth person in his extended family to serve in the role since the turn of the last century. But he is the city’s first mayor to place data-driven decision making at the top of a change agenda. Since becoming mayor in December 2016, his administration has marked a turning point in how Tulsa uses data to power innovation and improve the quality of life in Tulsa.

Mayor Bynum didn’t waste any time after being elected. The idea of improving city services and using data to make key decisions was at the core of his mayoral campaign. One of his first moves as Mayor was the creation of the Office of Performance Strategy and Innovation (OPSI). The office works to align the city’s top goals with effective strategies. It quickly became key to the city’s data-driven transformation, says James Wagner, who led OPSI at its inception and is now the city’s director of finance and CFO.

Ben Harris, OPSI’s Data Analytics Manager, convened a team of employees from 16 departments to lead the city’s data governance and strategic planning efforts. The Data Governance Committee, which sets the standard and strategy for data quality, integrity, and use for the city government, has helped integrate the use of data citywide through the creation of a Central Data Repository where any employee or resident can request data.

“Through this cross-departmental team, we encourage transparency, access to data, and a feedback loop; ultimately it creates a trust relationship between departments,” Harris said.

“In addition to teamwork, technology played a huge role in orchestrating communication, automating data movement, securing data, and making it accessible.”

Data Analytics Manager Ben Harris

OPSI and the Committee also facilitate regular sessions with department leaders to focus on the value of performance metrics. These meetings aren’t just about tracking progress reviewing data — they’ve created a new space within the city to cultivate innovation.

“Mayor Bynum and other city leaders have consistently looked to OPSI to drive data-driven innovation work in Tulsa. This matters because we’re making real changes that improve city services and save taxpayers money.”

Chief Financial Officer James Wagner

A Caring Fire Department

For years, the number of calls to the Tulsa Fire Department was increasing, putting stress on their resources and capacity. By analyzing the data, the fire department discovered the source of the increased calls was not an increase in fires, but instead an increasing aging population who needed lift assists. Lift assists are calls to the 911 system for a non-emergency fall — the help the resident is requesting is to literally be picked up off of the ground. The city discovered a repeat lift assist pattern, with some residents requesting a lift assist as many as nine times a day.

Under the direction of Chief Michael Baker, the Fire Department developed and launched the Tulsa Community Assistance Referral and Educational Services (CARES) program, which was designed to connect high-utilizers of the emergency system to healthcare and social service providers. Visits to the highest utilizers became proactive, with the CARES team working on simple fixes such as installing low-cost solutions like handrails and opening up a dialogue with the resident’s primary care doctor. Within the first three months of the pilot, the fire department saw a 70 percent reduction in calls from its top 911 utilizers.

With preliminary results in hand, Baker presented his findings through the TulStat forum.

“TulStat,” based on the successful “LouieStat” program out of Louisville, Kentucky, has created a forum for change in Tulsa. City leaders gather to discuss priority problems, define success, innovate solutions, and develop methods for measuring progress. They identify specific, quantifiable goals, such as average time for reviewing building permit applications (previously 5 weeks, now 92 percent completed in 5 days) or responding to a 911 call, and troubleshoot obstacles to achieving them.

While CARES was developed before Bynum’s administration founded TulStat, having a space to build off of the pilot’s success was critical in connecting more residents to much-needed services. The program has served 204 clients; in 2020, four Tulsans have “graduated” the program and have the needed support services in place for them to live safely in their homes.

In the future, CARES hopes to work with OPSI to expand their data capacity to learn how to predict who is at risk for becoming a repeat caller to the 911 system and intervening early to distribute tools and services. Aligning community resources to provide innovative, proactive care will not only save the city’s Medicare and Medicaid partners money, it could save a resident’s life.

Breaking the Cycle

Working with What Works Cities and the Behavioural Insights Team, OPSI also helped the Tulsa Municipal Court solve a problem that had burdened the court and vulnerable residents for years.

Previously, when the court issued a resident a fine in a criminal case, but that resident wasn’t able to pay that fine on time, the court would offer an extension in the form of a “Time to Pay Order.” Some found themselves with a fine due more than 12 months in the future — enough time for them to save money for the payment, but also plenty of time to forget when it was due. As of early 2018, more than 70 percent of those orders resulted in a failure-to-pay warrant. For many, a warrant can exacerbate the cycle of poverty: a driver’s license might be suspended and additional fines can accrue, pulling someone further into the criminal justice system.

To combat the problem, OPSI partnered with the Court and Code for Tulsa to figure out how to reduce the number of warrants issued. Within a month, a text message pilot project was underway, designed around a simple hypothesis: Many people missed their Time to Pay Order deadline because they forgot the due date or lost paperwork. Together, OPSI, the Court, and Code for Tulsa developed a system to text simple, personalized reminders to a randomly selected pool of Time to Pay Order recipients. The test group received a text message reminder once a month leading up to their deadline.

Image Courtesy of the City of Tulsa.

The results were remarkable. During the six-month pilot, 63 percent of those who received a reminder paid all of their outstanding fees, compared to 48 percent of residents who did not receive reminders. Armed with data showing this 15 percent point increase, the Court system adopted the new reminder system. It now estimates an additional 320 people are paying their fees on time each year, avoiding warrants and additional problems because of the system. The Court benefited as well, seeing an annual $187,000 increase in revenue and a morale boost among employees who helped implement the solution.

“I’ve never been so excited about a job,” said Jamie King, a cost administrator at the court.

At the City’s Core

OPSI’s successful partnerships with city departments go beyond the fire department and courts. Three years in, OPSI has implemented practices and programs that have positioned Tulsa as a leader in data and innovation. In 2017, the office launched Urban Data Pioneers, an award-winning program consisting of teams of residents and city employees who analyze data to help the city solve key challenges and present policy recommendations.

With OPSI’s clear-cut ability to drive innovation, Mayor Bynum decided to integrate the office into the city’s key funding decisions. When Wagner became Director of Finance and CFO in early 2019, he brought OPSI with him to the Finance Department. This has changed the way Tulsa funds innovation. In essence, a data-driven approach has been institutionalized and scaled. Today, the city bases funding on data that proves programs work. OPSI vets data.

“We had the opportunity to take the approach and plug it into the finance department,” Mayor Bynum said. “It helps make it have much more of a citywide cultural impact.”

Join Our Certified Cities!

Rochester, New York, USA

Rochester Multi-Pronged Housing Strategy Started With Data.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Economic Development, Finance, High-Performing Government, Housing

WWC - Silver Certification Badge for year 2021

At a Glance


Used a range of qualitative and quantitative data sources, including City-owned and U.S. Census data, to understand the housing market’s structural challenges to help develop affordable and market-rate housing units.


Used data-driven approaches to support projects in vulnerable neighborhoods and targeted investments to help stabilize home values and promoted long-term investments to the community.


Displayed housing data in Rochester’s Development Opportunity Sites initiative so that residents can understand how their government is working to attract businesses and produce more affordable housing and view a GIS-based map detailing investment projects.

Solving the Housing Crisis with Data

In many U.S. cities, residents face rising rents and home prices that put affordable housing out of reach. But Rochester, New York’s housing crisis is different. The city is a soft market in which supply exceeds demand. Median housing costs for homeowners and renters are significantly lower in Rochester than in New York State and nationwide, but high poverty rates and very low incomes still create major affordability challenges. There’s also a basic quality problem: An aging housing stock requires maintenance and upgrades.

“We have one of the oldest housing stocks in the country,” says Elizabeth Murphy, associate planner and administrative analyst in Rochester’s Office of City Planning. Nearly two-thirds of housing units in the city were built prior to 1950 and nearly 90 percent were built prior to 1980.

“That means a lot of deferred maintenance and healthy housing needs.” In many parts of the post-industrial city, houses have deteriorating roofs and mechanicals, as well as lead paint and asbestos. Renovation and remediation needs are high, but given low home values and high poverty rates, rehab or redevelopment at the scale that is needed only makes financial sense with “significant subsidies” in the mix, Murphy notes.

Image courtesy of the City of Rochester.

Rochester’s 2018 citywide housing market study, its first in more than a decade, crystallized officials’ understanding of the housing crisis. Drawing on a range of qualitative and quantitative data sources, including City-owned and U.S. Census data, the study painted a detailed picture of the housing market’s structural challenges as well as key market interventions the City could pursue to help develop both affordable and market-rate housing units. City leaders incorporated the data-driven housing analysis and recommendations into its new 15-year comprehensive plan, Rochester 2034, adopted by City Council in 2019.

“The housing study made the challenges of our market context clear,” says Kevin Kelley, manager of planning. “It also made clear that we need to strategically engage that reality to help reposition and revitalize our neighborhoods.”

Like the housing study, Rochester 2034’s blueprint for growth and development reflects the City’s commitment to foundational data-driven practice areas including stakeholder engagement, performance & analytics, and data governance. It draws on input gathered from over 4,000 community members and over 100 stakeholder groups to set specific, achievable goals across a range of areas — transportation, economic growth and housing among them. Recognizing that Rochester’s housing challenges are multidimensional, the Plan envisions the City playing multiple roles to spark and sustain positive change.

“There’s a spectrum of roles local governments can play with housing,” Kelley says. “In some instances it serves as a charitable giver and in others it plays the role of strategic investor. There’s a time and a place for each.”

As examples of the former, the City serves hundreds of low-income households each year through grants to pay for housing rehab, new roofs, emergency furnace/boiler/water heater repairs, and addressing lead hazards in pre-1978 housing units. As a strategic investor, the City is looking to take a data-driven approach to support projects in so-called “middle markets.” These are defined as neighborhoods vulnerable to decline where targeted investments could help stabilize home values and promote long-term benefits to the community.

Image courtesy of the City of Rochester.

Rochester 2034’s Housing Action Plan set six overarching goals with 37 specific strategies recommended for implementation. Staff track progress on the goals by updating a shared internal reporting site. In its first Two-Year Progress Report since Plan adoption, the City reports that work has been completed on one of the 37 housing strategies and is underway (i.e., “started” or “ongoing”) on 28 of them. Reports that describe overall progress on Plan implementation and provide detailed status updates on specific strategies will be released to the community every two years through 2034.

Image courtesy of the City of Rochester.

Leveraging RFPs and City-Owned Land to Catalyze Change

One of the Plan’s housing goals was to support the production of new high-quality, mixed-income housing that is both affordable and accessible to people across a wide range of incomes, abilities, household sizes, and ages. Rochester’s annual budget now sets specific targets for the number of affordable and market-rate units the City will create; current fiscal year goals are 152 and 103, respectively.

To spur production of units, the City updated its annual Housing Development request for proposals (RFP) requirements for any organization (whether for-profit or otherwise) seeking financial support from the City or looking to buy vacant City-owned land for a housing project. As of this year, to garner City support, developers of market-rate mixed-income projects that do not qualify for affordable housing subsidy programs administered by New York State have to make at least 20% of housing units affordable to individuals or families earning at or below 60% of the area’s Median Family Income (MFI).

Image courtesy of the City of Rochester.

The Rochester 2034 plan has also jump-started more strategic approaches to developing vacant lots; the City owns thousands of parcels across Rochester. City officials are working to customize redevelopment goals and RFPs for City-owned land to better reflect market context, with the goal of stimulating neighborhood development in more targeted ways. In low-demand areas, which tend to be lower-income, parcels may be reserved for businesses that will create durable jobs and thereby stimulate demand for housing. But if the parcel is in a higher-market area, the city may want to use the RFP to spur affordable and mixed-use development.

“We’re taking a more customized approach in how we think about land use and our role as a strategic investor. A basic goal here is to provide more jobs, with better wages, so housing options can become more in reach for folks.”

Manager of Planning Kevin Kelley

Because Rochester’s affordability challenges are rooted in very low incomes, its housing strategy and economic development strategy need to dovetail.

This is on display in Rochester’s Development Opportunity Sites initiative that markets 12 City-owned sites which, officials believe, are well-positioned to help revitalize surrounding neighborhoods. While those sites await buyers, residents interested in understanding how their government is working to attract businesses and produce more affordable housing can view a GIS-based map detailing projects the City has invested in during the last 10 years.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in embedding data-driven governance practices into our culture and grateful to What Works Cities for its support. There’s been a valuable shift in how we think about housing challenges and pursue solutions. In the coming years, I expect our new strategies will deliver more and more results to residents.”

Chief Performance Officer Kate May

Join Our Certified Cities!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Philadelphia Champions Collaboration and Data to Increase Opportunity.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Communications, Cross-Sector, Economic Development, Equity, Finance, High-Performing Government, Homelessness

At a Glance


Created an open data program that prioritized cross-departmental collaboration to secure the best possible equitable outcomes for residents.


Helped the city save money and amplify the impact of its programs and services such as reducing litter, social rewards and school district meetings with teachers through the Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative.


Through a detailed and thoughtful analysis of the City’s homeless intake system to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Philadelphia’s Open Data Program

In a room adjacent to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office stands a long wooden table where he often holds meetings. He chooses to sit in the middle of the table, embodying his commitment to distributed leadership and collaborative problem-solving in the City of Philadelphia.

As the birthplace of American democracy, the City of Philadelphia is no newcomer to collaborative leadership. To find sustainable solutions that get results, the City pairs data-driven decision-making with efforts to ensure key stakeholders — from inside and outside City Hall — bring their varied perspectives to the task of solving local challenges. Whether it be city agencies, academic partners, or local businesses, everyone has a role to play in building a better city.

Philadelphia’s open data program is executed by the Office of Innovation and Technology CityGeo team. By using the department’s platform, Atlas, residents can easily access city data on permit history, licenses, and 311, and more; much of the data is also mapped via GIS. To open up an additional 300 data sets of information on both municipal and non-municipal data across the region, the City partnered with a local geospatial firm to build OpenDataPhilly. And the Open Budget section of the Philadelphia website shares how the City is spending taxpayer dollars alongside data visualizations that make the numbers digestible. To make the connection between innovation and city data more apparent, the City has collaborated with Temple University’s Department of Journalism to showcase the experiences of residents, from business owners to activists, who have used the City’s open data.

The City’s strong collaborative foundation has enabled it to incorporate data into nearly every aspect of governance. From silo-busting behavioral science initiatives to equity-building workforce development efforts, Philadelphia’s increasingly innovative programs are delivering better outcomes for residents — and opening up even more seats at the table.

Spreading Behavioral Insights

The results of the trial were so promising that Mayor Kenny and his administration established the Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative (PBSI) in 2016 to continue improving the City’s delivery of services. In 2017, PBSI grew to become a key branch of GovlabPHL, the City’s multi-agency team focused on bringing evidence-based and data-driven practices to city programs and initiatives through cross-sector collaboration.
Now when departments have a policy issue or a possible project, they are teamed with local academic researchers whose expertise matches the nature of the work. From there, the City and academics collaborate to determine the goals and the kind of data that will need to be collected, and to create a data-licensing agreement. The trials run through PBSI have already helped the City save money and amplify the impact of its programs and services, including reducing litter, as well as putting social rewards and identity salience to the test with school district teachers. Each year, the City of Philadelphia co-hosts an annual conference to generate new research partnerships and ideas.

The relationship through PBSI is a win-win for everyone, with the City working to better serve residents, while academics are able to test hypotheses that could turn into potentially publishable studies.

Improving City Service Delivery

The Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) believes in a City government that supports the success and well-being of all Philadelphians. ODDT is composed of a multi-disciplinary team who has deep expertise in design research, service design, content strategy, product design, and accessible technology development. With these comprehensive skill sets, the team partners with policy-makers, service providers, and the public to transform policy ideas into holistic and implementable solutions that meet people’s service delivery needs — improving how the government serves the public from an evidence-based design perspective.

Stakeholder engagement is a crucial component of the PHL Participatory Design Lab.

For example, through the City’s PHL Participatory Design Lab which is co-led by ODDT and funded by the Knight Cities Challenge, the City’s homeless intake system has become a learning lab for service design. Through a detailed and thoughtful process of journey mapping, identifying “pain points,” and soliciting input and feedback from those seeking services and staff who help them, the Lab identified two main areas for improvement. They are: 1) approaching information as a service, such as through transforming informational materials like signs, videos, and forms to better equip people with knowledge of what to expect, and through making the service delivery process more of a partnership and 2) improving physical space. Both ideas seek to improve the experience of people entering the homeless system and the experience of the staff working with them to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Supporting Local Business Owners

Another crucial community partner — local businesses — were once disadvantaged by outdated contracting laws. The City’s charter formerly required that contracts be awarded to the bidder with the lowest price, regardless of the contractor’s level of experience or other considerations. In May 2017, the City went to voters with a measure to award contracts based on factors such as expertise, quality, and experience to ensure that taxpayer dollars were leading to the best possible outcomes. Voters passed the new law to shift from “low-bid” to “best-value” procurement. The $25 million the City spends every year on food services — from after-school programs to feeding people experiencing homelessness — is one of the first areas the City is applying the new approach toward, teaming up with the Sunlight Foundation.

Philadelphia has since structured its RFPs around strategic goals and desired outcomes that can be measured through performance metrics. And to help leverage the expertise of previously overlooked vendors, the City has implemented a point system in its RFPs that rewards contractors on certain criteria; one of them is being a local business, helping the City work toward its goal of reinvesting more taxpayer dollars back into the local economy through vendors that were once priced out by less expensive options. The City is also prioritizing increasing the number of contracts with minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Investing in the Future Generation

A focus on stronger collaboration between the city government and residents is also transforming the very composition of City Hall. Philadelphia yearns to build a government for its residents, by its residents. But when the City looked into employment data, the average age of a City employee was 45 years old, and Philadelphia’s diversity was hardly reflected in the government workforce.

Mayor Jim Kenny meets with a member of Philadelphia’s workforce.

The problem was not so much how to create talent, but how to get it into the pipeline. Part of the City’s workforce development strategy is designed to activate talent in the city and connect young people, communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and formerly incarcerated individuals to family-sustaining jobs — and City government is ripe with these kinds of employment opportunities. In collaboration with ten city departments, the City as Model Employer program hopes to transition a minimum of 200 underserved individuals from temporary work into permanent employment by 2020.

While there’s still progress to be made, Philadelphia’s vision is clear: The future will be imagined around an inclusive table.

Join Our Certified Cities!

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

New Orleans: From “BlightState” to Preventing Fire Fatalities.

Project Type:
Economic Development, Education, Energy, High-Performing Government, Housing, Public Safety, Youth Development

WWC - Silver Certification Badge for year 2021

At a Glance


Created a data-driven performance management program and a website that aggregates data about important housing information to address blighted homes post-Hurricane Katrina, resulting in more than 15,000 fewer blighted addresses by 2018.


Worked with What Works Cities partner the Behavioral Insights Team to devise a “nudge” letter to owners about housing violations, resulting in a 10 percent drop in cases moving to the hearing stage, saving staff time and city funds.


Developed a predictive model that identified which parts of the city were most at risk for fires and fire fatalities using that information to target its campaign to distribute smoke alarms to vulnerable households.


Targeted anti-gang violence via prevention efforts and rehabilitation, which led to an 18 percent decrease in the number of murders as of 2016.

New Orleans’ Creation of New Orleans

One Thursday morning, some ten city officials seated in a u-formation of tables faced an audience of some two dozen local residents in a room at New Orleans City Hall. The city staff and residents all knew each other by first name, and they bantered a bit back and forth, which was no surprise as many have been regulars at this monthly meeting for years, regularly returning to follow progress and to fight for the removal of blighted properties that have proven more difficult to address in their neighborhoods.

BlightStat, a data-driven performance management program, has been in place since 2010. When Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office in May 2010, New Orleans faced what has been described as one of the worst blight problems in the U.S., “with no strategy to address it,” the City notes. A large part of the problem was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city in 2005. Five years later, faced with thousands of homes that could not be saved, Mayor Landrieu instituted BlightStat to ensure that the City’s efforts to get rid of the blighted homes would proceed efficiently and effectively.

BlightStat set priorities for the inspectors and researchers who identify rundown properties and determine whether to levy fines, order a demolition, force a sale, or take some other action. Under the BlightStat framework, the City considers issues such as the condition of the roof and foundation, the owner’s history of tax payment, and the market for real estate in that neighborhood, trying to predict the cases that will have the best outcomes so that the Department of Code Enforcement can decide how to best to deploy its resources.

New Orleans has 15,000 fewer blighted properties thanks to BlightStat, a data-driven performance management program that’s helped the City strategically address the issue.

The City also created BlightStatus, a website that aggregates data about inspections, code compliance, hearings, judgments, and foreclosures, providing users with a simple search box that unlocks all the information available for any address in the city. It opened up a new, easy-to-use link between the city and community, keeping everyone on the same page and giving residents the chance to make their voices heard. The tool also helped city employees keep up-to-date with changes to properties and stay accountable for promised changes.

By 2018, New Orleans had more than 15,000 fewer blighted addresses, accomplished through a mix of demolition, sale, and owner repairs, aiding vastly in New Orleans’ recovery.

New Orleans also worked with What Works Cities partner the Behavioral Insights Team to devise a “nudge” letter to owners about housing violations, resulting in a 10 percent drop in cases moving to the hearing stage, saving staff time and city funds.

New Orleans’ use of data undergirds many of its major programs. “We use data to plan. We use data to create an iterative process that informs implementation. Data is baked into our culture; it’s a part of our subconscious,” says Oliver Wise, former Director of the Office of Performance and Accountability (OPA), who was succeeded by Melissa Schigoda.

OPA runs the City’s data analytics initiatives. Along with BlightStat, they include ResultsNOLA, which evaluates the performance of city departments, and NOLAlytics, which helps those departments conduct their own data analytics projects to support their missions.

In one project, OPA developed a predictive model that identified which parts of the city were most at risk for fires and fire fatalities. The City used that information to target its campaign to distribute smoke alarms to vulnerable households. Using analytics, it identified twice as many households in need of smoke alarms than it had when the City chose households at random. Less than a year later, there was a fire in an apartment building in one of the neighborhoods that the City had identified, and eleven people escaped — all because of a very cheap, but strategically installed, smoke alarm.

To address its high murder rate, the City instituted its NOLA for Life initiative in 2012, targeting anti-gang violence via prevention efforts and rehabilitation, which led to an 18 percent decrease in the number of murders, as of 2016.

Mayor Landrieu, who left office in May 2018 after serving two terms, says he has always been data-driven, realizing that if you can’t measure something, you can’t assess outcomes. “Data shouldn’t make you look good — it’s intended to tell you the truth,” he says. “The results can speak for themselves.”

Mayor Mitch Landrieu signs the City’s open data policy, in 2016.

Landrieu says he told staff from the start that he “wanted to count everything” and to fold that sensibility into the budgeting process to run a “leaner, more efficient government.”

Landrieu says a “culture of counting” will have a real impact on the ground and make a difference in people’s lives. He created a Neighborhood Engagement Office to ensure managers are more connected to residents and see to it that “everybody’s data can matter.

As he looks back at his administration, Landrieu says he’s most proud of the team he assembled for their focus on getting things done in a data-driven fashion, and the processes they put into place to encourage innovation. “These processes were designed to last,” he says, “not to be a flash in the pan.”

“If you measure and it’s real, you gain the confidence of the public.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Join Our Certified Cities!

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Minneapolis’ Data-Driven Green Cost share Program Delivers Environmental Justice.

Project Type:
Cross Sector, Economic Development, Energy, Environment, Equity, High-Performing Government

WWC - Silver Certification Badge for year 2021

At a Glance


Prevented more than 11,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere through a data-driven incentive program to help Minneapolis property owners invest in energy efficiency upgrades and other green projects.


Developed a Green Career Program to increase solar and energy-efficient jobs, economic opportunities, and awareness – particularly in underserved neighborhoods where data showed less participation in green initiatives.


Created the 4d Affordable Housing program for building owners to keep units affordable and maintain energy efficient upgrades for residents.

Minneapolis’s Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gasses

The City of Minneapolis has a long history of enacting progressive policies to tackle climate change. Back in 1993, it joined forces with neighboring St. Paul to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) into the atmosphere with its Urban CO2 Project Plan. In 2012, Minneapolis set the ambitious goals of cutting GHG emissions 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050.

That same year, Minneapolis took another innovative step with the creation of its Green Cost Share program. It was launched by the City’s Department of Health as an incentive-based — rather than punitive — way to reduce pollution and address climate change. The basic idea is this: The City offers matching funds to residential, commercial, and industrial property owners as an incentive to invest in energy efficiency and pollution reduction projects. The resulting improvements help the City move closer to achieving its climate change goals while also addressing public health inequities.

Data-driven performance management and open data are at the core of the Green Cost Share program — and are playing a growing role in the City overall. In recent years, Minneapolis has strengthened other foundational practices as well, including general management and data governance, all of which help in the City’s efforts to monitor and utilize relevant data. Leaders of the Green Cost Share program collect data on dollars invested, estimated lifetime energy bill savings, and pollutants reduced. And they make everything public through a dashboard presenting all the metrics.

“From how we track progress toward program goals to how we target underinvested parts of the city overdue for environmental justice, data is in many ways the engine of Green Cost Share,” says Patrick Hanlon, who runs the program as director of environmental programs for the City of Minneapolis.

The program kicked off by building partnerships with dry cleaning companies to end their use of perchloroethylene, a cleaning solvent and known toxic air pollutant that may cause asthma, birth defects, and cancer. By 2018, Minneapolis became the first city in the country to be completely “perc”-free.

A rooftop solar project incentivized by the Green Cost Share program. Image courtesy of the City of Minneapolis.

That was just one program goal. By offering property owners 20 percent of project costs (up to $20,000), the Green Cost Share program has also incentivized the installation of solar arrays, insulation, high-efficiency water heaters and furnaces, and other pollution-reduction improvements across the City. The program’s specific impacts since 2013 are detailed in the dashboard: 580 projects have received match funding, saving 31.8 million kilowatt hours of energy. That’s prevented more than 11,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere — the equivalent of taking over 2,400 cars off the road. Combined, program recipients will be saving over $50,000,000 over the lifetime of their projects.

“Tracking and analyzing data has helped us both define and prove success, as well as course-correct as the program has evolved over the years.”

Director of Environmental Programs Patrick Hanlon

Data-Driven Course-Correcting

The Green Cost Share program’s use of data goes beyond demonstrating impact, however. To ensure the program helps improve public health measures and delivers environmental justice, staff have ramped-up efforts to engage property owners in areas of Minneapolis defined as high-need.

In 2017, program staff noticed they weren’t receiving many applications from areas designated as Green Zones. Mostly located in north and south Minneapolis, the zones were defined by community groups based on demographic, economic and public health data provided by the City. They have higher concentrations of low-income residents and communities of color, and histories of practices like redlining and lease covenants. Not coincidentally, these areas also often have high levels of pollution related to traffic and stationary pollution sources, brownfield sites, and substandard housing. The City’s Green Zone task force expressed a desire for more investment in renewables, energy efficiency, and green jobs.

With the goal of inspiring more projects in the zones and support from the mayor and City Council, the Environmental Programs team adjusted the program’s match funding formula. It began offering a 30 percent match rate of up to $30,000 to applicants in the Green Zones or Great Streets program, another revitalization program that targets areas where people of color and low-income residents are concentrated. Before 2017, only about 20 percent of program participants were environmental justice properties. Today, the figure is 58 percent.

The City of Minneapolis has developed various strategies to support economic recovery from the pandemic and address racial inequities. As part of that comprehensive approach, the Green Cost Share program matches 40 percent (up to $40,000) of the cost to rebuild properties damaged during protests last year following George Floyd’s killing at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, which sparked a national movement for racial justice. The program continues to look for ways to provide additional incentives, prioritize projects, and build relationships in environmental justice communities. One way it is doing this: A Green Career program launched last year in partnership with the Department of Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) that focuses on training residents in BIPOC communities for jobs with solar and energy-efficiency contractors. The City is tracking data to evaluate program outcomes.

Green Career program participants and city staff. Image courtesy of the City of Minneapolis.

For all its activities and projects, the Environmental Programs team collects and analyzes data to identify areas for improvement. One need that’s emerged from analysis: a better group purchase program allowing solar developers to aggregate smaller projects like single-family homes to be submitted in bulk to both take advantage of the incentive and reduce overall project costs.

The team also received community feedback about the lack of energy-efficiency projects being done in larger apartment buildings with low-income tenants. A data analysis bore this out, so the Environmental Programs team partnered with the CPED department on its successful 4d Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing program. The 4d program, which provides incentives for building owners to keep units affordable, has successfully helped building owners make energy efficiency upgrades after they signed up for the incentives. The results were significant — Green Cost Share projects in buildings with over 1,000 tenants rose sharply, from three to 49.

“Those are the kind of opportunities that can be revealed by regular, robust project data analysis.”

Contract Manager Isaac Evans

The program is also working to obtain better demographic data about project applicants to make further progress on environmental justice goals. Applications can request (but cannot require) demographic data from applicants; the team is working to improve data sharing between city departments to supplement information and improve demographic data tracking.

“The Green Cost Share program can’t succeed in a silo and it can’t succeed without strong data practices,” Hanlon says. “To align with the City’s overarching climate and equity goals, we know we have to work hand-in-hand with colleagues across city government and residents in need. Sustained collaboration and proactive data-driven performance management are both key to success — for all City programs, really.”

“We look at this program as a way we can intentionally invest back into communities that have been discriminated against historically.”

Director of Environmental Programs Patrick Hanlon
Join Our Certified Cities!

Long Beach, California, USA

Data Takes Center Stage in Long Beach’s Pandemic Push to Help Small Businesses.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Communications, Cross-Sector, Economic Development, High-Performing Government

WWC - Silver Certification Badge for year 2021

At a Glance


The BizCare team set up a data collection system to track who visited a BizCare site, applied for relief, and successfully received funds during the height of the pandemic. They fed data back into GIS maps in real-time, and regularly reviewed them to adapt how the City was meeting communities’ needs.


Working alongside other departments, the economic development team was able to adapt their practices to best support local businesses during the height of the pandemic.


Data dashboard supported COVID-19 response and recovery efforts by informing the community of updates and tracked vaccine distribution.

Community Outreach

COVID-19-related restrictions hit local businesses hard in Long Beach, California, as they did across the country. Along with uncertainty and confusion related to evolving public health orders, many business owners grappled with a simple existential question: How will my business survive?

The City of Long Beach’s Economic Development Department stepped up to help, launching a call center to help business owners navigate health orders and access financial resources such as grants and loans. But the department’s team quickly realized this approach didn’t go far enough. Demand for relief was very high, but staff knew from tracking callers that many business owners were not accessing available services.

With government buildings closed due to the pandemic, the need for better outreach methods to help businesses survive was clear and urgent. So the City pivoted to a more targeted data-driven approach. In November 2020, the department launched the Long Beach BizCare Program, which allowed City staff to more directly engage local businesses in high-need areas. BizCare created outdoor pop-up sites offering free one-on-one in-person services to small business owners, helping them complete business relief grant applications and learn about other available resources.

A group of “community ambassadors” who supported the City’s COVID-19 health outreach efforts attend a meeting. Image courtesy of the City of Long Beach.

This new strategy required close collaboration across departments so that pop-ups could be located in areas of high-need.

“The economic development team is small — the pandemic only heightened the importance of working with other departments. I served in the military, and the way staff came together to support the outreach effort felt like a military deployment. Everybody was moving at rapid speeds to assist business owners.”

Economic Development Project Manager Adelita Lopez

A first step was to understand which communities in Long Beach were most impacted by COVID-19 and least likely to have accessed relief resources. The City’s geographic information system (GIS) analysts worked with the BizCare team who provided layers of data detailing neighborhoods’ average income levels and engagement with City resources. To further prioritize outreach to high-need businesses, the BizCare team leveraged business license datasets to identify which businesses were open.

“Designing and rolling out the BizCare program was a crash course in how the right data is critical for designing a new service in a time of crisis,” says Ryan Kurtzman, Smart Cities Program Manager at the City of Long Beach.

“Residents are our eyes and ears on the streets, So if we’re looking for a mix of projects that will maximize benefit to the community, it makes sense to turn to people who are knowledgeable about what’s needed.”

Chief Data Officer Joseph D’Angelo

Building Trust, One Conversation at a Time

Many of the business owners visiting BizCare pop-ups had never previously interacted with the City of Long Beach or accessed government services. Building trust was a huge part of the outreach effort, especially since many grant applications require personal information such as Social Security numbers.

To build trust, the BizCare team chose to staff pop-up sites with people who lived in, or were originally from, priority outreach neighborhoods. It partnered with the City’s workforce innovation network Pacific Gateway to hire young people. With multilingual translation services available at each site, they helped business owners understand relief options and complete grant applications.

A BizCare street outreach team visits a local business. Image courtesy of the City of Long Beach.

The pop-up sites demonstrated the City’s commitment to careful stakeholder engagement. Staff in the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department as well as the Library Department helped BizCare identify safe spots for tents, with access to bathrooms and electrical outlets. With personal protective equipment (PPE) and laptops, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, printers, and scanners borrowed from the City’s Technology and Innovation Department, BizCare staff helped business owners without their own computer or internet connection take significant steps toward protecting their business.

A basic goal of BizCare was to dynamically align pop-up locations to areas of high-need as the pandemic wore on. To that end, the team set up a data collection system to track who visited a BizCare site, applied for relief, and successfully received funds. They fed data back into GIS maps in real-time, and regularly reviewed them to adapt how the City was meeting communities’ needs.

As it happened, the BizCare team realized there were significant pockets of communities where businesses were not accessing available relief services. So it innovated again, developing a complementary street outreach team to go door-to-door in these areas. “Our goal was to offer business owners seamless support resources, between the call center, pop-ups, and the street team,” Lopez says.

One data point suggests the BizCare program succeeded in building trust in high-need areas. Eighty percent of pop-up attendees said they discovered BizCare through word of mouth. Maria Zepeda of Lili’s Store and Long Beach Snacks was one of the first business owners who worked with BizCare. It was her first time applying for any type of city aid. She received a commercial rental assistance grant of $4,000 and has since helped several other business owners on her block connect with BizCare.

The program’s targeted stakeholder engagement efforts have produced impressive results. As of December 2021, BizCare’s pop-ups supported 795 business owners, who have collectively received $760,750 in grant-based relief funds. The street outreach team engaged with 1,048 businesses, who have accessed over $100,000 in funds. The Call Center team answered 6,361 calls. The Community Based Organizations Partnerships team connected with 27 non-profit organizations to partner and reach some of the hardest-to-reach communities. Access to grant funding for business owners who don’t speak English increased more than 40%.

“Having team members with personal connections to the community was really helpful in building trust. For a lot of our staff, we were talking about their neighbor’s store or their uncle’s friend’s restaurant.”

Economic Development Project Manager Adelita Lopez

Strong Foundation Into the Crisis

BizCare’s success is a reflection of Long Beach’s investments in foundational open data and stakeholder engagement practices. Current data efforts kicked off in 2016 with the City’s launch of an open data portal and the development of a data governance structure to provide training and promote data-driven decision-making. During its creation in 2017, the City’s Economic Development Department developed a blueprint for inclusive economic growth informed by deep community engagement, including community listening sessions and interviews with community-based organizations.

One of Long Beach’s community ambassadors. Image courtesy of the City of Long Beach.

All this work laid the groundwork for BizCare, which launched within the context of a deepening data-driven culture of innovation.

“It’s been incredibly helpful that we have City staff invested in measuring what good governance looks like. The technical assistance we’ve received via What Works Cities as well as the Certification process itself have been really foundational for our COVID response and recovery efforts.”

Smart Cities Program Manager Ryan Kurtzman

Through the BizCare program, the City continues to engage with Long Beach business owners and use data to understand where support services might be the most impactful. Many of the data-driven outreach strategies honed by BizCare will be considered best practices for future COVID-19-related grant distribution programs, as well as deployment of Long Beach Recovery Act funds.

“I am proud of our efforts to use data to guide decision-making and improve community outcomes during the pandemic,” says Lea Eriksen, Long Beach’s director of technology and innovation/CIO.

“Cities need to design services with a digital equity lens to meet people where they are. Programs like BizCare showcase our commitment to building a data-informed culture, and that’s something we’ll be investing in for years to come.”

Director of Technology & Innovation/CIO Lea Eriksen

Join Our Certified Cities!

Disclaimer