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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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Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA

Public Transportation Steered By Data

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

At a Glance


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


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


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

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

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

Image Courtesy of the City of Rock Hill.

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

John Gettys, Mayor

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

John Gettys, Mayor

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

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

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

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

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Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Data & Community Partnerships Key to Addressing Evictions in Alexandria

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Equity, Housing

At a Glance


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor Justin Wilson

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Rochester, Minnesota, USA

Breaking Down Barriers to Build a Diverse Workforce.

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

At a Glance


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


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

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

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

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

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

The program includes:

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

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

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

  • Thirteen women involved in built environment training or entrepreneurship .

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

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

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

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

Chao Mwatela, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director

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

Kim Norton, Mayor

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New York City, New York, USA

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

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

At a Glance


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


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


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

Climate Budgeting to Help Reach Zero Net Emissions

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

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

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

Eric Adams, Mayor

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sheena Wright, First Deputy Mayor

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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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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Washington, DC, USA

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

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

At a Glance


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


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


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


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

More Than the Nation’s Capital

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

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

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser

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

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

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

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

City Administrator Rashad Young

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

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

Director of the Office of Budget and Performance Management Jennifer Reed

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

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

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

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

City Administrator Rashad Young

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

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

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

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Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Tulsa Scales Up Data-First Innovation.

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

At a Glance


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


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


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

Using Data to Power Innovation

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

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

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

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

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

Data Analytics Manager Ben Harris

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

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

Chief Financial Officer James Wagner

A Caring Fire Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the Cycle

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

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

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

Image Courtesy of the City of Tulsa.

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

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

At the City’s Core

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

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

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

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Topeka, Kansas, USA

Transparency, Engagement, and Results in Topeka.

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

At a Glance


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


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


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

Topeka’s Not Afraid to Connect

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

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

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

A User-Friendly Foundation

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

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

Deputy Director of Information Technology & Chief Software Officer Sherry Schoonover

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

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

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

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

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

Data-Driven Streets

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

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

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla

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

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

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

Image of Topeka’s Pavement Condition Index map.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holistic Neighborhood Improvements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Era Emerges

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

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

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

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

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

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla

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