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Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

Bajo Luján’s Journey to New Housing.

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

At a Glance


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Esteban Allasino, Mayor

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

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

Seven hundred safe and practical homes is a significant achievement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rionegro, Colombia

Leveraging Data for Fiscal Sustainability

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

At a Glance


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


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


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


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

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

 

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

 

What are CIF’s results?

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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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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Carlsbad, California, USA

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

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

At a Glance


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Graham, Chief Innovation Officer

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

Scott Chadwick, City Manager

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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

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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.

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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

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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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