Skip to main content

Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

Bajo Luján’s Journey to New Housing.

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

At a Glance


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Esteban Allasino, Mayor

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

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

Seven hundred safe and practical homes is a significant achievement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join Our Certified Cities!

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.

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!

Carlsbad, California, USA

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

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

At a Glance


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Graham, Chief Innovation Officer

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

Scott Chadwick, City Manager

Join Our Certified Cities!

Montevideo, Uruguay

Proving That Smooth Data Practices Translate to Smooth Traffic

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

At a Glance


10 transit intervention plans created for hotspot traffic areas.


Reduced annual traffic fatality rate to 6.2 per 100,000 residents—half the country’s overall rate.


Used strong Data Management practices to develop impactful traffic interventions with real-time data.


In recent decades, the leaders of Montevideo, Uruguay, have become familiar with a simple fact with far-reaching consequences: more people means more vehicles. As Uruguay’s commercial, political and cultural hub, Montevideo is no stranger to traffic. In 2015, its leaders set out to address the City’s massive traffic problem in a data-driven way. The City installed dozens of real-time sensors along major routes, created a new Center for Mobility Management to monitor and manage traffic data collection, and implemented a new mobility plan to cool off hotspots.

After building a data visualization platform that displays real-time traffic levels across Montevideo’s road network, and holding neighborhood meetings to understand residents’ traffic concerns, the City focused transit interventions on 10 particularly congested hot zones. Leaning heavily on sensor data analyses, they simulated the impact of different traffic engineering solutions—such as changing the timing and duration of traffic signals, or making a street one-way—and then settled on the most impactful options for each site. This access to high-quality, real-time data, combined with strong data governance practices, allowed the City to better understand the problem and then to develop and test tailored solutions for the hotspot zones.

“We don’t want to collect information just to verify the reality, we want to collect information to change the reality.”

Carolina Cosse, Mayoress

In addition to real quality-of-life improvements for Montevideo drivers, the City also realized environmental benefits, including reduced CO2 emissions, due to less idling, and better fuel economy. Moreover, the City’s commitment to improving traffic flow is helping to save lives. Montevideo’s annual traffic fatality rate is now 6.2 per 100,000 residents—half the country’s overall rate. City leaders believe that the installation of speed radars across the City, along with efforts to lower congestion in hotspots, has helped change driver behavior and prevent traffic-related deaths.

When you can measure a problem, you can manage it—and that’s exactly what Montevideo officials are doing, street by street.

“For us, What Works Cities Certification is a way to measure our performance. The goal isn’t to be happy with where we are now—although we’re proud of our progress—but rather to evolve and provide better services to residents.”

Carolina Cosse, Mayoress

Join Our Certified Cities!

Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Creating a One-Stop-Shop to Track Progress on City Goals.

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

At a Glance


Charleston’s TIDEeye app helps the city and its residents monitor the effects of severe weather by providing real-time data on road closures and weather information.


Charleston has added almost 800 affordable housing units since 2016, and 500 more currently in the pipeline.


Data has shown that 86% of the affordable housing units in development are within .5 miles of public transit.


Known as a tourist destination with idyllic horse-drawn carriages, the City optimized equine waste management with GPS tracking. The system helped reduce cleanup time from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.


Using outcomes-based performance management practices to understand if programs are achieving their intended impact.

For cities with competing priorities and limited resources, making city-wide strategic goals built on data and evidence is an achievement in itself. But tracking progress, engaging residents and strengthening accountability is a tougher feat.

In 2022, the City of Charleston outlined six mayoral priorities and launched PriorityStat, an online dashboard and public meeting series to increase transparency and help the City and residents track progress on these six goals. While traditional city open data dashboards are organized around departments or services, PriorityStat takes a more innovative approach and is centered on City—and residents’—priorities.

For instance, FloodStat, one of the dashboards, is focused on protecting the City from sea level rise and flooding. In the 1950s, Charleston was impacted two  days per year on average by nuisance flooding. In the past five years, that average is now 61 days per year. Traditional dashboards would have relevant metrics, such as police complaints about flooded roads and properties, and city carbon emissions, in different dashboards since they’re in different departments. But addressing flooding and coastal challenges requires many departments to effectively work together. FloodStat helps break down silos by developing and regularly tracking metrics that require cross-agency collaboration. Additionally, it gives residents one place to see a more complete and clear picture of how the City is combatting its challenges.

Another one of the mayoral priorities is affordable housing. Home prices have jumped 78% since 2011 in Charleston—an unsurprising trend for a City with a 25% population increase since 2010 and more than 7 million visitors each year.

HousingStat allowed Charleston officials to develop a 10-year comprehensive plan to improve housing. To eliminate affordability gaps by 2030, the City learned that it needs more than 16,000 affordable units. HousingStat has also led to new programs, such as a Senior Homeowner Initiative, that has already helped 18 seniors become first-time homeowners. Regularly disaggregated data has helped the City allocate resources where they are needed most and develop more targeted strategies.

“We’ve been able to cut red tape on affordable housing initiatives. This is the largest, most ambitious affordable and workforce housing initiative in our city’s history.”

John Tecklenburg, Mayor

The City is clear that PriorityStat is still a work in progress. Two more dashboards are on the docket for 2024: one for mobility and transportation, and the other for neighborhood livability and resident quality of life. While these are being built, the City is actively seeking feedback and encouraging residents to watch public meetings on Charleston’s YouTube page.

PriorityStat is a performance management grand slam for the City. But more importantly it’s a win for residents. An unwieldy and unorganized performance management dashboard isn’t a platform that performs for residents. Charleston’s PriorityStat is different: by embedding accountability, transparency and collaboration into the fabric of the City’s strategic goals, residents know the City is making strides with them in mind.

Join Our Certified Cities!

Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil

Where Urban Planning is for the Children of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Health and Wellbeing, Infrastructure, Parks and Recreation, Youth Development

At a Glance


Created Participa Mogi – an online platform for citizen participation. In its first year, the City received over 1,300 public contributions.


When employment data showed that 25% of Mogi workers were commuting outside of the City, Mogi added 7,000 new jobs in 2022 and increased revenue by 33% ($700 million BRL).


To combat hunger, Mogi das Cruzes created the Social Market Program, which connects farmers to over 1,200 families in vulnerable situations to receive free food.


Deployed innovative Qualitative Data Practices to better understand residents’ needs.

Mogi das Cruzes has found a winning combination. The City of more than 470,000 in São Paulo State is setting itself up for success by using data and community engagement as the foundation of its strategic plan.

Part of this plan includes giving the mic to Mogi’s youngest residents. Mogi das Cruzes wants to be a child-centered city. City officials are asking children for ideas for improving their neighborhoods so that the next generation engages with their government and community. In December 2022, Mogi announced its first “Our Neighborhood Detectives.” Between the ages of 9 and 12, these 24 children will participate in discussions and make suggestions about how to improve the quality of life and urban landscape for all children and adults living in Mogi.

“These boys and girls will represent the children in their neighborhoods and help us create a better city. Their input is an important complement to our data that will improve our decision-making and inspire civic engagement in young people.”

Caio Cunha, Mayor
Image Courtesy of Warley Kenji.

The Neighborhood Detectives project is part of the Mogi Cidade da Criança (City of Children) program, which uses an innovative community engagement and design approach to inform the City’s investments in the wellbeing of its children. Another project within Mogi Cidade da Criança is monitoring air quality for its impact on children’s health. The air quality data is used to make decisions and create action plans, such as enhancing green spaces and encouraging active mobility to reduce emissions.

In addition to engaging its children in planning, the City seeks feedback from residents through regional meetings and neighborhood visits. By thoughtfully and rigorously soliciting resident input, the City is able to use this qualitative data to deepen community impact and better serve residents’ needs. For instance, the City asked for resident feedback about public transportation by conducting surveys in-person on the bus. Bus users were interviewed and the resulting data was used to optimize bus routes.

Mogi das Cruzes also created the Participia Mogi platform for residents to provide input on planning and budget priorities online. The City is opening its internal data up to residents as well, by hosting Open Data Days and making geospatial data available on the GeoMogi website.

“Staff perceive the need to use data in their day-to-day and Certification is helping with this culture shift. Once you have this cultural shift, you can’t go back.”

Caio Cunha, Mayor
Image Courtesy of Warley Kenji.

Additionally, under the guidance of Mayor Cunha, the formula of data and resident input is being used to create a long-term, 40-year plan for the City. The ultimate success of the plan requires institutionalizing recent progress on collecting, managing and analyzing the City’s data. The Mayor’s hope is that residents will expect future administrations to continue the shared vision within a long-term plan: “We wanted this to be a plan for everyone, so we are building a sustainable program that represents the needs of the City as a whole, for today and for the next generation of Mogi residents.”

Join Our Certified Cities!

Fortaleza, Brazil

Data-Driven Approach Cuts Traffic Deaths by 57%.

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

At a Glance


Reduced traffic fatalities by 57% over 10 years (2012-22)


1,086 lives saved


Eight consecutive years of fatality reductions


Mayor José Sarto signed a commitment to reduce fatalities by another 50% in the next 10 years


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

At a recent public hearing on traffic accidents in Fortaleza, everyone participating shared that they knew someone who had lost their life or was critically injured in an accident. With 5 million daily trips and 29% of motorists on motorcycles, traffic fatalities have been an unfortunate part of life for Fortaleza’s 2.6 million residents.

In 2012, Fortaleza took action. Starting with historic traffic data, the City set goals and made evidence-based decisions about speed limits and traffic patterns. In 2021, it launched the Vida platform to consolidate traffic data from varying institutions and make it publicly accessible.

With these performance management and data-driven approaches, the City reduced traffic fatalities by 57% over 10 years. Additionally, the City established a road safety committee that meets every 15 days to review crash data and predictive analysis, using it to adjust strategies. The first city in Brazil to have a municipal road safety plan as law, Fortaleza has saved 1,086 lives and saved the City close to $42 million Brazilian Reals ($8.3 million USD).

“All of our actions, everything we do, is based on data and evidence.”

Elcio Batista, Vice Mayor

Still, Mayor Sarto is acutely aware that the City saw 158 traffic deaths in 2022, and he is committed to reducing fatalities by another 50% by 2031.

Fortaleza’s aim to realize Vision Zero—an international program working to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries—is just one of the data initiatives that has helped the City achieve What Works Cities Gold Certification. With its focus on data, the City has reduced school dropout rates, digitized its construction permitting process and launched an app to track sexual harassment on public transit. Fortaleza has also made progress on building a data culture: They developed a clear governance structure to coordinate data use, launched an Open Data Plan to guide data oversight, and concentrated over 200 datasets from 28 organizations in an Open Data Portal. By making so much City data publicly available, the City is promoting informed decision-making, transparency and robust resident engagement.

Vice Mayor Elcio Batista sees even more progress on the horizon. “Being Certified makes me proud and hopeful. Proud of what we have accomplished and hopeful for what is still to come.”

“By achieving Certification, it shows we are trying to do things the right way. It’s an honor for us, for the team, and it gives us a passport for the future.”

Jose Sarto, Mayor

Join Our Certified Cities!

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

Join Our Certified Cities!

Tempe, Arizona, USA

 

Project Type:
Communications, Cross-Sector, Health & Wellness, High-Performing Government, Infrastructure

2023 Platinum Certification

  • Launched Vision Zero, a data-driven traffic safety initiative with a goal to achieve zerofatal and serious injury crashes. The Vision Zero task force is composed of over 50 stakeholders including city departments (police, transportation, fire) and community stakeholders (Arizona State University, school districts, public health agencies) that conducted an analysis of crash data for the years 2012 through 2017. Using that data, the task-force created 37 transportation safety strategies, including the creation of four safety corridors based on statistical analysis of a higher propensity for collisions, plans for new road infrastructure, and community outreach plans.
  • Uses a performance-led budget process based on metrics, and resident and business satisfaction surveys. For example, following an increase in emergency service calls in the Salt River Bottom, an area with significant natural hazards and a large homeless population, an Incident Management Team was launched. In 2023, the City achieved several of its goals, including 66% of people engaged accepting shelter services and 52 tons of debris and over 3,200 tons of vegetation were removed. Based on these initial results, new, recurring funding has been allocated to support the City’s high priority “community health & safety” metrics.

2020 and 2021 Gold Certification

“I am enormously proud that our city has achieved Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities Platinum status. This award shows our community that we are leaders in using data to guide our community’s future and make informed decisions. We can show people that our city has saved time and money and has been able to benchmark progress to our goals because of our commitment to data.”

Corey Woods, Mayor

Compiled data from the city’s sewage system monthly to track community drug use patterns and understand the depth of opioid use.


Using this data, monitored areas with high opioid use and deployed emergency response resources and abuse prevention interventions to hotspots accordingly.


Utilized similar wastewater testing data and tracking methods to monitor COVID-19 levels and identify outbreaks.

The Desert City’s Approach to Data

Like so many other cities in the country, Tempe, Arizona has been deeply affected by the opioid abuse crisis. The desert city of nearly 200,000 is part of Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous area. This county also has the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state.

As this public health emergency became more devastating in Tempe and around the country, Tempe’s leaders realized they needed to step up in two ways. First, they needed to be transparent about the severity of the problem facing the community. Second, they needed to create innovative solutions to help stem the opioid epidemic.

In 2018, the Strategic Management and Diversity Office, in partnership with ASU’s Biodesign Institute, submitted a proposal to the Tempe City Council Innovation Fund. The proposal focused on using wastewater to track the presence of opioid metabolites at the community level. City leaders supported the idea with innovation funds and began a partnership with ASU to tap this unlikely resource for data and to better inform decisions. Today, Tempe is on the cutting-edge of opioid abuse prevention work in the United States and has expanded this partnership to gather data on the presence of COVID-19 in the community.

“Cities may not want to call attention to opioid overdoses or abuse in their community,” said Wydale Holmes, a strategic management analyst in the city’s Strategic Management & Diversity Office.

“In Tempe, we’re courageously saying, ‘Yes, we have that, but we’re also doing something about it.’

It turns out that sewage offers an abundance of public health-related data — including a community’s drug consumption patterns. Tempe leverages its wastewater to identify areas of the city with elevated levels of opioid compounds — and then deploys emergency response resources and abuse prevention interventions to hotspots accordingly. All of this aligns to one of Tempe’s performance measures: ending opioid-related abuse and misuse by 2025, as measured by the percentage of 911 calls likely related to the drugs.

“Tempe is committed to data-informed community solutions. This first of its kind city model using wastewater-based epidemiology data informs strategic policy and operational decisions to advance community health.”

Director of the Strategic Management and Diversity Office Rosa Inchausti

It’s great to have data, but if you’re not doing anything with it or connecting it to resources and strategies for change, then it’s just information.”

Strategic Management Analyst Wydale Holmes

A New Diagnostic Matrix

Testing wastewater for real-time information about key markers of public health — everything from viruses to food contaminants to drug compounds — has been around for decades. But the approach is relatively uncommon in the United States. And no other city is trying to map the needs of residents around the opioid abuse epidemic in this way, said Dr. Rolf Halden, a professor at ASU’s Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering.

“The United States is behind Europe. Every community that has done this work has not abandoned it, which is a testament to how well it works and how successful it is,” said Dr. Halden, who leads the wastewater data collection project in partnership with the City of Tempe.

Dr. Rolf Halden and his team analyzing the wastewater samples.
Image courtesy of the City of Tempe.

Here’s how the wastewater analytics project helps the city identify opioid abuse hotspots and deploy resources strategically. Dr. Halden’s team takes raw sewage samples directly from five collection areas of the city for seven consecutive days each month. The scientists then test for four different types of opioids: fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, and codeine.

After processing the samples, the ASU team hands off data to Tempe’s Enterprise GIS and Analytics team. The city can see where elevated levels of the four opioids are, and whether the opioids were metabolized or improperly disposed of. But the data contain no personally identifiable information — there is no way to tie data to specific addresses, neighborhoods or businesses.

Created by William Mancini for Fighting Opioid Misuse by Monitoring Community Health and provided courtesy of the City of Tempe.

All data are then published on the public Tempe Opioid Wastewater Collection Dashboard, created and maintained by Dr. Stephanie Deitrick, Tempe’s Enterprise GIS Manager. Through this dashboard and the Opioid Abuse Probable EMS Calls Dashboard, the information is analyzed by a multidisciplinary team, including Tempe’s Fire Medical and Rescue Department, to determine needed interventions. For example, if the data show a rise in opioid use among people under 18 in one area, the city might ramp up in-school outreach efforts. If one area suddenly becomes a major hotspot, the Tempe Fire Medical and Rescue Department can decide which emergency medical services and overdose prevention resources to move or increase to that area.

After implementing interventions, city officials can then track their potential effectiveness by monitoring changes in wastewater data alongside the EMS calls data. It’s a data feedback loop enabling the city to target its efforts — and, hopefully, prevent abuse and deaths.

“Dashboards allow people to quickly see overall trends within the data and to understand who is being impacted and where. Providing context is key when providing data to inform decision-making.”

Enterprise GIS Manager Dr. Stephanie Deitrick

Building a Data-Driven Culture

From its outset, the wastewater analytics project was directly tied to Tempe’s performance measure of ending opioid-related abuse and misuse. The Mayor, City Council, and City Manager set the expectation that reducing calls for opioid misuse or abuse was important to the executive leadership, and that both the goal and the performance measures supporting it needed to be shared internally with the City Council and administrative staff, community partners and externally to residents.

“Whatever we do, we always approach our employees and explain it to them and take the time to have the conversations about what we’re doing and why,” Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching said. “Every job has a purpose, and that job and that purpose exist within the framework of our strategic priorities and performance measures.”

City leaders also worked to communicate their efforts around the opioid abuse epidemic to the general public. The City of Tempe held an Opioid Town Hall in February 2019 to detail the wastewater project partnership and the types of support that Tempe provides to its residents struggling with opioids, their families and caregivers.

Anyone can visit the wastewater data dashboard and the Opioid Abuse Probable EMS Call Dashboard, designed and conceptualized by Dr. Deitrick and her team. The latter dashboard, which launched in 2018, gives Tempe Fire Medical and Rescue Department and the public a window into opioid abuse in the community. It details when calls related to abuse occurred, along with patients’ ages and genders, and the number of times Narcan/Naloxone overdose reversal medication was used during opioid-abuse related emergency calls.

Together, both dashboards inform Tempe officials’ efforts to end opioid misuse and abuse in the city, and help first responders and public health agencies on the ground see the impact of the targeted outreach and other interventions. It’s too early to tell how quickly the city will advance toward its goal — it was officially set in December 2019, when the baseline percentage of opioid-related EMS calls was 3.74 — but the right approach to data is in place to drive progress.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold around the world and in Tempe, city leaders have once again partnered with ASU wastewater researchers and are using this data in the same manner as the opioid data. The city is following the data to find areas of greatest need and is directing resources to help.

Join Our Certified Cities!

Disclaimer