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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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Recife, Brazil

Community Needs Lead in Recife

Project Type:
Education, Health and Wellbeing, High-Performing Government, Public Safety, Technology, Youth Development

At a Glance


15% drop in violence in neighborhoods covered by COMPAZ, more significant when compared to levels of violence throughout the City.


E.I.T.A! Recife, a City-run innovation lab, elevates and experiments with resident solutions to City challenges. More than 660,000 have tested these solutions.


Through an initiative to enable experimentation with digital solutions, the City reduced the time by 70% necessary to implement new solutions.


Development of a vaccination app for COVID-19 that registered 1.6 million users and allowed residents to receive vaccines in an orderly and safe manner, especially compared to vaccine uptake in Brazil overall.


It received resources for climate adaptation via a credit operation with the IDB, which will allow Recife to invest US$364 million in a social, territorial and climate justice initiative called ProMorar. It will be the largest urban resilience program in Brazil and guarantees decent housing for more than 150,000 people.

With an air of historic architecture and an incubator for startups and innovative research, Recife, Brazil, stands out for connecting tradition, modernity and technological expertise. However, Recife has historically had one of the highest levels of income inequality in the country, one of the main factors contributing to conditions that have led to high crime rates in the city. Ranked as the 22nd most dangerous city in the world, Recife recorded 55 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017.

To combat this violence, as well as drug trafficking, the City drew inspiration from other cities, even traveling to Medellín, Colombia (which successfully implemented a similar project) more than 40 times, to formulate and launch an innovative community center project, COMPAZ. COMPAZ offers a wide range of quality programs and services, from math classes to martial arts classes, to support crime and violence prevention efforts.

With COMPAZ, the city leverages neighborhood-level data and evidence to find and implement solutions by and for communities. Thus, Recife equitably and efficiently supports needy neighborhoods, addressing issues such as public safety and economic mobility with localized and targeted interventions.

“This helps us legitimize the vision that Recife has…when we make data-driven decisions, it leads us to the right solution. We have scarce resources, we need to prioritize allocation and maximize impacts. How can I reach more people with fewer resources?”

João Henrique Campos, Mayor
Image courtesy of the City of Recife.

Data-driven decision making is an integral part of COMPAZ. Using Recife’s open data portal, the city’s evaluation policy unit collaborates with academic institutions to collect data and evaluate program effectiveness, enabling the development of evidence-based policies and programs that provide solutions to issues revealed by the data. The results speak for themselves, with a 15% drop in violence in a COMPAZ neighborhood within four years of starting the project — a significant improvement over the city level, which remained stagnant during that same period.

Recife is not only implementing evidence-based programs like COMPAZ, but it is also at the forefront of innovation. That includes urban space in the city in a testing environment for innovations, making Recife the largest urban open innovation laboratory in Latin America, with an area of 218km². Open Innovation Cycles allow solutions developed by startups to be accelerated by the City Hall through a special contractual regime.Open Innovation Cycles recognize that there are challenges that the public sector cannot achieve alone – transformative solutions must be built with the end user, the resident. The ultimate goal is a city with more equal opportunities for everyone. So far, these innovation cycles have developed:

  • (I) algorithm for completing the electronic medical record integrated into public health systems;
  • (II) software for managing queues for free public health consultations and medical examinations; It is
  • (III) Internet of Things (IoT) sensing for flooding and rain in regions susceptible to disasters to generate real-time alerts and create operational protocols.

The population is at the center of innovative data-driven solutions in Recife. This approach allowed us to tailor policies and programs to the specific needs of the community, using data to determine where resources are most needed and identify opportunities for success.

“We are not reinventing the wheel, we are eager to learn from other cities, from other teams. What works for other cities, we try to adapt to ours.”

João Henrique Campos, Mayor
Image courtesy of the City of Recife.

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New York City, New York, USA

A Data-Driven Process to Reach Net Zero Emissions: Climate Budgeting

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

At a Glance


100% of City agencies have already submitted emissions impact data with all capital project budget requests


April 2024: When NYC will publish its first Climate Budget.


$4 billion: Amount the City will invest in a school electrification plan, which will contribute a 3% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from government operations.

Climate Budgeting to Help Reach Zero Net Emissions

New York City has a goal to reach net-zero emissions citywide by 2050.

To reach that goal, city leaders must put data at the heart of day-to-day operations. One way the City is doing this is through a new municipal climate budget. As part of the climate budget, the City bolstered requirements for capital project budget requests to include projected emissions data, which are now being met by 100 percent of city agencies, contributing to a 27 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from government operations.

“Climate budgeting is a significant shift in how we think about the value of tax dollars and their potential to power change. It’s the only way to use every budgeting decision to bring our climate ambitions to life. There’s no time to waste.”

Eric Adams, Mayor

Climate budgeting is a governance system that mainstreams climate targets and considerations into decision-making through the budget process and aligns the City’s resources with its climate goals. It is a paradigm shift from the traditional budget process to a holistic approach that considers the impact of every dollar the City spends on meeting its climate goals.

NYC’s climate budgeting is a core component of the City’s strategic climate plan announced in 2023 and is being led by New York City’s Office of Management and Budget, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ).

An early example of climate budgeting can be seen in the “Leading the Charge” initiative, a $4 billion plan now in motion, to ensure newly constructed schools will be all-electric and 100 existing schools will begin to phase out fossil fuel heating systems. The initiative will prioritize schools in low-income as well as predominantly Black and Brown communities which are particularly vulnerable to environmental injustices such as elevated rates of childhood asthma. The electrification plan illustrates how NYC is using emissions data to combat climate change and disaggregated demographic data to promote equitable health outcomes.


How else has NYC become a more data-driven government?

As one of the first big cities in the U.S. to adopt climate budgeting, New York City is showing how new decision-making processes can deliver urgently needed change. 

In 2024, it will implement a formal climate budgeting intake form for agency budget requests and publish its first Climate Budget alongside the Executive Budget. The Climate Budget will include a citywide greenhouse gas emissions forecast showing progress toward the 2050 net-zero goal, as well as data that shows how capital project plans could affect climate goals such as air quality and heat and flooding resilience. The 100% compliance rate across departments is a positive sign for standardizing climate budget processes and understanding the City’s emissions.

Does climate budgeting make funding decisions more complex? Yes. But the initiative is worth it. It allows New York City to understand the climate impact of dollars spent and then rally around forward-looking projects aligned to must-reach goals.

“By using a data-driven decision approach, our administration is delivering results for New Yorkers in the most efficient and equitable way possible. Data is more than just a spreadsheet — it is a tool to help government better improve services that impact the daily lives of residents. I’m proud that New York City is recognized as an international leader in operations and look forward to continuing to use data to improve the lives of New Yorkers.”

Sheena Wright, First Deputy Mayor

Córdoba, Argentina

From Paper to Digital in 3.5 Years.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Environment, Equity, Housing, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Technology

At a Glance


Three and a half years ago, Córdoba did not have any digital processes and used paper for nearly everything. Today, the City has a data governance practice and more than 100 out of 275 identified processes are digital.


88% of the people that uses the health system now have their medical records digitalized.


VeDi App, launched in 2019, has more than 1.1 million users, 70% of Córdoba’s population.


18,000 residents have been trained in digitization courses to reduce the digital gap, of which 80% are women.

In 2019, when Córdoba, Argentina, Mayor Martin Llaryora entered office with a mandate to improve data-led practices, the City of 1.6 million had a small budget and operated almost entirely on paper. For residents of this vast city, which covers an area more than three times the size of Buenos Aires, this meant frequent trips to municipal offices and bureaucratic struggles to address simple issues. 

Córdoba transformed this experience quickly by creating a data governance practice. That allowed the City to prioritize 275 procedures that could make lives easier for residents, such as obtaining driving licenses and building approvals. Mayor Llaryora is most proud of the City’s Citizen App, used by more than 1.1 million people — about 70% of the population. The app lets residents file claims and generates valuable data about problems around the City, helping officials focus resources on issues important to their residents, such as waste, lighting and traffic signals.

“This is an example of hope for Latin America because although we have a very low budget, we were able to develop a smart city.”

Martin Llayora, Mayor

Córdoba has also made progress in adopting digital tools in public health policies. Different community vaccination strategies are now digitalized on the basis of Epidemiology records or the “Mejorar” free electronic prescription program. This online provision and authorization system meant a change in the public drug dispensing system.

Along with its digital efforts, Córdoba is making progress to reduce the digital gap, particularly among women, with Corlab, the city’s Innovation Lab that offers training programs for residents. Through its “Menos Brecha, Más Comunidad” program, out of the 18,000 citizens who have been trained, 80% are women. For a city with a tight budget, adopting the cloud has been doubly beneficial: simplifying processes and eliminating paper waste has saved more than 3.5 billion Argentine pesos across 22 City departments and agencies.

This rapid digital conversion delivers more than savings for the City, it’s a transformation with far-reaching consequences—from everyday services like trash pickup and traffic lights—to the times when residents count on their government the most.

We have the data to know that we are going down the right track. The data is not there to punish you, it’s there to help you course correct.

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Buenos Aires,
Argentina

Public Policies Based on Data Lead to Significant Decrease in Infant Mortality

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

At a Glance


39% decline in the infant mortality rate between 2016 and 2022.


15 minutes: the maximum time it takes for a resident to reach a community healthcare center.


300 individual metrics are being tracked to support the quality and reliability of 115 public services.


100% of Buenos Aires community health centers now operate with electronic medical charts.


The City now has a thorough data strategy, clear evidence-based policies, 30 executive dashboards, and more than 4,300 indicators after creating the Undersecretariat for Evidence-Based Public Policies and the General Directorate of Monitoring and Evaluation.

Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate

Improving the infant mortality rate in Buenos Aires, which was 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016, required a multi-pronged strategy, especially because the hospitals and doctors offices are run by public and private entities as well as social security. Additionally, the strategy was not just medical—it required the coordinated approach of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Human Development and Habitat to carry out policies that considered both medical and social implications.

Effective solutions to complex and urgent problems require more than passion and good ideas. City leaders need the right data to illuminate the depth and breadth of an issue; that is what sets the stage for smart public policy.

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Mayor

The City, which had already worked to build a data-driven culture, took another step forward by implementing electronic medical records in all health and community action centers (CeSACs), collecting healthcare data from across Buenos Aires to better identify at-risk pregnant women and develop integrated interventions to both strengthen health services and create targeted solutions. Specific goals were established:

  • Make healthcare more accessible so that every resident has a community healthcare center less than 15 minutes from their home.
  • All women would receive at least five checkups over the course of a pregnancy and seven pediatric consultations during the baby’s first year.
  • Promote the healthy development of vulnerable children between 45 days and 3 years old through 76 early childhood centers.

With these clear, measurable targets and the increase in higher quality data, all of the goals had been reached by 2022. Additionally, the City reached their goals with an emphasis on transparency: Buenos Aires’ General Directorate of Statistics and Censuses allowed residents to have transparent and reliable access to data as well as a way to monitor and evaluate progress on the measures the City was taking to improve healthcare.


How else has Buenos Aires become a more data-driven government? 

  • Digitized and streamlined their procurement system and made data on city contracts open and accessible.
  • BOTI, the first city-developed chatbot for WhatsApp in the world, had 59 million conversations with residents in 2022. 
  • Developed “green streets” to create more natural space for pedestrian enjoyment and capture stormwater.
  • Created a 3D model of the City to aid neighborhood development and make it easier to see regulations and codes. 

The Ministry of Health constructed seven new health care centers and renovated 10 others. Pregnant women were given priority when making appointments online for primary care visits. Targeted campaigns involving workshops, at-work training and seminars—on subjects including sleeping and eating habits—had reached 7,000 families considered to be highly vulnerable. And the overall impact was clear: The City of Buenos Aires reduced its infant mortality rate by 39% from 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016, to 4.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022. 

Buenos Aires’ progress on maternal care and infant health is just one example of how the City’s commitment to improve data quality, quantity and practices is bearing fruit. But a 39% decrease in infant mortality rate is more than a success story for the City of Buenos Aires—it’s a number that represents the prevention of heartbreaking losses in scores of families—and incalculable joy as families watch their children grow up.  

We have a limited time to transform reality—and data-driven governance can accelerate positive change. By having shared standards and rules for data management, we create a common understanding and language, powering day-to-day change.”

Melisa Breda, Undersecretary of Evidence-Based Public Policy

Washington, DC, USA

Washington, D.C.: Excelling in Evaluations for Better Outcomes .

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Cross-Sector, High-Performing Government, Public Safety

At a Glance


Established a team of research scientists who deliver data-driven insights and analysis to inform District policymakers.


Increased data transparency with residents by publicizing CapSTAT meetings, welcomed online public opinion on data policy, and built feedback loops monitoring solutions.


Developed a command center within the Metropolitan Police Department that uses real-time data to analyze similar crimes, trends, and background for detectives in the field, which helped decrease all crime by 11% and violent crimes by 22%.


Analyzed data from resident interactions with the 311 system to eliminate inefficiencies, allowing the District to implement measures that have achieved a 90-second response time for 85% of calls made to 311.

More Than the Nation’s Capital

Whether it’s enabling residents to send text messages to 911, establishing a leading “open by default” policy for all District government data, or establishing a unique, in-house team of data scientists, Washington, DC, is using technology and data to improve its delivery of services and outcomes for residents.

“In the District, we expect our agencies to engage in fact-based decision-making. We understand that our decisions affect the lives of our nearly 700,000 residents, and we always want to know how well our policies and programs are working so that we have the opportunity to learn and adjust while we act. As we continue building a safer, stronger, and more resilient DC, we will continue to use data and scientific thinking to improve our day-to-day operations and deliver good government.”

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser

As part of her commitment to data, Mayor Bowser charged City Administrator Rashad Young to stand up The Lab @ DC, a team of applied research scientists who use data and scientific insights and methods to provide timely, relevant, and high-quality analysis to inform the District’s most important decisions. The Lab completed the District’s high-profile study of the impact of body-worn cameras on policing, and it is now studying the effectiveness of the District’s rat abatement program. While these two subjects are very different, they demonstrate the capacity of data to inform a range of decisions.

The District’s in-house team of data scientists, The Lab @ DC, recently tested the effects of police body-worn cameras.

Monitoring how agencies collect and use data is part of quarterly cluster performance meetings hosted by the Office of Budget and Performance Management. As part of these sessions, City Administrator Young reviews progress toward milestones and mayoral priorities along with the agencies’ implementation of data-based decision-making as part of their internal processes. The sessions also provide agencies with an opportunity to showcase successes and lift up obstacles.

“Managing a $13 billion, 35,000-person government is nearly impossible without accurate metrics to lead our decisions. These quarterly sessions ensure we are being good stewards of District resources, that we are keeping our commitments, and that we are evaluating and redirecting if our approaches are not rendering quality results.”

City Administrator Rashad Young

During a quarterly cluster meeting last year, reviews of the 311 system revealed that there were no standard definitions of open and closed cases across city agencies, no standard response times, and in certain instances, it was taking more than four minutes for calls to be answered. The agency was charged with developing a plan to address the significant lag times. After hiring additional staffing and providing extensive training as well as additional outlets for contacting 311 (via text and a smartphone application), the agency was able to achieve a 90-second response time, 85 percent of the time.

“Mayor Bowser and City Administrator Young embrace the use of data across our government agencies. This expectation motivates agencies to be on the ready with sound, reliable data to support program recommendations and initiatives. Agencies also understand that much of their data is now publicly accessible through our open data laws.”

Director of the Office of Budget and Performance Management Jennifer Reed

In April 2017, Mayor Bowser announced the signing of an executive order, creating a new policy that set an “open by default” standard for all District government data, including a directive to treat the City’s data as a valuable resource. The policy was based on recommendations made by What Works Cities partner the Sunlight Foundation, and provides a framework to make government more transparent and open while improving the quality and lowering the cost of operations.

The District has extended its commitment to data transparency by inviting residents to view the budgeting process, welcoming public opinion on its data policy, and building in feedback loops so that residents know when their problems have been addressed. The Mayor’s CapSTAT meetings — data-driven management tools designed to tackle timely policy issues and processes with analysis, mapping, business process reviews, and best practices — are also videotaped and shared with the public.

The Metropolitan Police Department embraced the use of data in past years as a tool for improving public safety. The Joint Strategic and Tactical Analysis Command Center pulls together real-time, robust analyses of similar crimes, trends, and background for detectives in the field. The department recently reported an 11% decrease in all crime, which includes a 22% decline in violent crimes.

“We’re delivering people the services they want and improving service delivery.”

City Administrator Rashad Young

City Administrator Young says, attributing the City’s use of data for much of that progress. Agencies ask for help unraveling particular challenges, and data and performance management experts are assigned to assist. For multifaceted challenges, resources from The Lab may be assigned to analyze the challenge and the path forward. Recently, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs experienced such a challenge when working to make the permitting process more efficient.

While data may not tell the full story, it gives agencies and decision-makers valuable insight into the District’s toughest challenges. City Administrator Young noted, “Fully utilizing data and evidence is the only way to really manage and have a rational sense of what you’re doing. Anything less feels random, and without context.”

Learn more about Washington D.C.’s journey with data here.

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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.”

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Topeka, Kansas, USA

Transparency, Engagement, and Results in Topeka.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Communications, High-Performing Government, Infrastructure, Transportation

At a Glance


Launched a series of interactive datasets and maps for residents to track the city’s budget and capital improvement projects, promoting accountability and transparency.


Produced video tutorials and how-to guides to help residents understand and use the city’s new open data portals, encouraging public engagement and input.


Created a scoring index to measure the quality of every paved street in Topeka in order to prioritize street improvement projects and develop a cost-effective infrastructure improvement plan.

Topeka’s Not Afraid to Connect

If you had walked through the doors of Topeka City Hall earlier this year, a bright green and yellow banner would have greeted you with an engaging question: “How would you spend $96.5 million of the City of Topeka’s money?” The banner, jointly created by the city’s Administrative & Financial Services Department and Department of Neighborhood Relations, was posted in city administrative buildings downtown and invites people to visit the city’s performance portal to “Hold us accountable!” and “Track how we are measuring up.”

Topeka’s budget banner in the Cyrus K. Holliday Building.

It’s a high-visibility tactic to pull residents into the 2021 budget engagement process in Topeka, which sits along the Kansas River in the state’s northeast corner. The banner also signifies the capital city’s commitment to performance, transparency, and community engagement — all of which city officials see as crucial for building trust, meeting the needs of about 125,000 residents, and spending tax dollars efficiently.

A User-Friendly Foundation

Just a few years ago, Topeka’s government wasn’t nearly as open to its residents. The data revolution that spread across the country during the 2010’s changed that: city leaders committed to increasing access to data inside and outside of City Hall. And they started engaging the community to solve problems.

“The goal was and is to provide the public with greater access to city data and opportunities to work collaboratively on complex challenges facing our community. By increasing the city’s accountability, we were building trust with residents and changing the way the city operates.”

Deputy Director of Information Technology & Chief Software Officer Sherry Schoonover

The launch of Topeka’s open budget portal in 2015 marked a turning point. For the first time, residents could access datasets that showed, down to the line item, how the City aimed to spend their tax dollars. The City released its 2016 budget on the same portal, making the proposed budget accessible to residents for review and feedback. But the commitment to transparency didn’t stop there. In 2016, under the direction of Schoonover, the City launched the Topeka Capital Projects Dashboard. Its interactive map helps residents visualize the City’s capital improvement plan and get current information on capital projects across the city, including whether they’re on schedule and on budget.

Image of Topeka’s Capital Projects Dashboard and interactive map.

The same year, the City also set a strategic goal to increase data-driven decision making. Staff wanted to go way beyond offering snapshots of information through dashboards — so with the assistance of What Works Cities partners the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University (GovEx), the City launched a formal open data program, passed an open data policy and assembled a data governance team.

Proactive public engagement efforts also ramped up: the city manager launched a weekly report powered by the open data portal that offers updates from departments and divisions, and links to performance dashboards. To help residents navigate various portals, the City created video tutorials and how-to guides.

And for the first time in a decade, the City in 2018 conducted a Citizen Satisfaction Survey to align goals, policies, and spending with the priorities of Topeka residents. They voiced three top priorities: maintenance of city streets (the top concern), managing traffic congestion, and enforcing city codes and ordinances.

Data-Driven Streets

Well before survey results were in, City Hall staff knew that road conditions across Topeka were a weighty issue. A few years earlier, the city adopted a data-driven approach known as the Pavement Management Program (PMP) to prioritize improvements to this key infrastructure. The initiative would turn out to be crucial for winning public support for continued investments.

“The City of Topeka has been using data-driven decisions for years when developing our city’s goals and priorities. By using the Pavement Management Program, the City of Topeka has been able to build trust within our community in improving quality of life through infrastructure and transparency.”

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla

PMP has three core components: the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), improvement strategies, and funding. The index scores the quality of every paved street in Topeka on a 0–100 range. A Fall 2016 assessment of all streets within the city’s jurisdiction showed:

  • 57 percent in poor condition
  • 18 percent in fair condition
  • 25 percent in good condition
  • An average system-wide PCI score of 55 (between fair and poor)

With this baseline data in hand, the City created a strategic plan for cost-effective street improvements built around measurable performance goals. In 2017, the Topeka Governing Body set a goal of pushing the average system-wide PCI score to at least 60 by 2029, and to be on course to reach an eventual PCI score of 70.

Image of Topeka’s Pavement Condition Index map.

Pushing the average score higher would cost millions in additional annual funding — a reality the public works team illustrated with detailed forecasts it presented to the City Council.

Table presented by the Public Works Department to the Topeka Governing Body during on Feb. 7, 2017, detailing the different funding levels, and corresponding backlogs, to achieve different PCI goals for street conditions.

If Topekans wanted streets to improve, they’d have to pay for it. In November 2018, they elected to do just that. Sixty-one percent of voters in the city approved a ballot measure that extended a half-cent sales tax for 10 years to fund street maintenance projects. If it had failed, the PMP would have lost more than half its budget — and the City wouldn’t have been able to maintain the 55 PCI score, let alone make progress on its goals.

The stakes were clear, so the City launched an interactive website informing residents how the money from the current half-cent sales tax was used for road repairs and what could be done if voters approved a 10-year extension. Videos showed road improvement strategies and before-and-after photos of repaired roads. Using predictive modeling, residents could peruse the data to see the impact of not renewing the sales tax.

All the upfront data-building work paid off — and the City Council brought into the PMP as well. To accelerate progress on street improvements, it allocated an additional $6 million over three years to ensure the city stays on track to achieve its PCI goal of 60.

Image of Mill and overlay work being completed at SW 17th Street and SW Fairlawn Road in Topeka. Courtesy of the City of Topeka.

Many Topeka residents likely haven’t heard of the Pavement Condition Index. But behind the scenes, it’s powering progress. If residents call the public works department asking why their neighbors’ street was repaved but theirs wasn’t, staff can now explain the decision, backed up by data.

Holistic Neighborhood Improvements

Streets are just one aspect of a neighborhood’s quality of life. Topeka has also taken a data-driven approach to understand the overall health of neighborhoods, and then outline a plan for strategic reinvestment. The City’s Team Up to Clean Up initiative, run by the Division of Community Engagement, provides hands-on help. Through this program, residents, city staff, local businesses, and community partners volunteer their time and services to breathe new life into areas in need.

It all starts with the data underpinning the City’s Neighborhood Health Map. Here’s how it works: every three years, the planning department updates the map to give each neighborhood an overall health rating based on poverty level, public safety, average residential property values, homeowner tenure, and the presence of boarded houses. Neighborhoods receive one of four overall ratings, akin to triage at a hospital. A “Healthy” rating is optimal; “outpatient,” is favorable; “at risk,” means negative conditions are emerging; and “intensive care,” means conditions are seriously distressed.

Image of Topeka’s 2017 Neighborhood Health Map. Courtesy of the City of Topeka.

The City prioritizes disadvantaged and socio-economically challenged neighborhoods rated as intensive care for Team Up to Clean Up, but selection also depends on the willingness of the Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA) to work with the city. Once neighborhoods are selected, the Division of Community Engagement leads walk-and-talk sessions with community members to listen to their concerns, learn what supports are needed beyond home and street repairs, and link residents with social service organizations via a neighborhood resource fair.

In 2019, Topekans teamed up to clean up two neighborhoods, East End and Ward Meade. Volunteers painted home exteriors, trimmed trees, and replaced porches, and city staff repaired streets and sidewalks, among other activities. In the East End, Habitat for Humanity held workshops on home maintenance topics like siding repair and gutter care. The fire department, one of six city departments helping to improve the neighborhood, installed fire detectors and house numbers. By providing the NIA with tools and resources needed to sustain many of these efforts, the city aims to improve neighborhoods’ overall health ratings.

City of Topeka Utilities Department employees working in the Ward Meade neighborhood during the fall of 2019 as part of the Team Up to Clean Up initiative. Image courtesy of the City of Topeka.

“This program illustrates that despite economic conditions, with community-wide support networks it is possible for disadvantaged neighborhoods to thrive and promote resources to improve the overall quality of life for their neighbors,” says Monique Glaudé, the city’s Director of Community Engagement.

A New Era Emerges

Years ago, city leaders heard criticism from stakeholders that the government was not transparent, that officials had something to hide. The City of Topeka still has its share of internal and external challenges — no city is perfect — but a lack of transparency is no longer one of them.

City leaders are committed to providing the public with timely and reliable information on decisions and performance, via City Manager Brent Trout’s weekly reports and other resources. Under Trout’s leadership, a Rapid Process Improvement initiative has streamlined city processes to eliminate redundancies and waste. That’s led to cost-savings for taxpayers and time-savings for city staff.

2019 summary of results achieved by Topeka’s Rapid Process Improvement. Image courtesy of the City of Topeka.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed by Topekans, says Mayor De La Isla.

“There’s an overall feeling that we are more approachable and responsive, and people have an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish for our community. We can go to sleep every night knowing what we are doing for our community and that we can show results.”

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla

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