Socrata Supports Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Initiative

January 5, 2016 10:09 am PST | Data as a Service, Effective Governing

Socrata expects great things in 2016 for U.S. cities. Announced in 2015, the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative pairs mayors’ offices with nonprofits and university partners. The foundation, started by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has set aside $42 million to help cities improve their data-informed decision making and practices. What Works Cities plans to roll out their programs in 100 cities over the next two years and will hit its stride in 2016. Earlier this month, 13 cities were announced as the second wave of What Works Cities to join the program in its inaugural year.

To support program goals, Bloomberg Philanthropies funds programs like the Sunlight Foundation, Results for America, Harvard’s Government Performance Lab, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence (led by former Socrata Director Beth Blauer). The What Works City Standard articulately describes the goals and activities that Bloomberg hopes to take root in cities:

  • Commit to getting better results for residents by using data and evidence
  • Measure progress and engage citizens along the way
  • Take stock to review results, learn, and make corrections and improvements
  • Act on data and evidence for all major decisions

Socrata customers and open data veterans Seattle, Kansas City, New Orleans, Louisville, and Chattanooga led the first wave of cities. These cities have existing programs and performance management teams, including some of the most mature open data programs in the country. The What Works City Standard is well represented in these innovative cities:

  • Commit: Since Hurricane Katrina, urban blight has been a priority for residents of New Orleans. The city supports data and evidence to “pull back the curtain,” enabling residents and city workers to see the status of all code violations and inform the work that the city of New Orleans does to reduce blight. Apps like Civic Insight have even been built to manage the process.
  • Measure and engage: Kansas City, Missouri, has one of the most successful and dynamic performance management teams in the country, a model for cities around the country. Want to see how KC builds and maintains high quality water systems for residents? There’s a public goal for that. And to engage citizens, KC recently unveiled an inspiring first-of-its-kind project, the Art of Data, re-imagining data as visual media.
  • Take stock: There’s no topic of higher priority for a mayor than keeping residents safe, and when Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke set goals, breaking the cycle of family violence was deemed crucial to keeping citizens safe. By measuring progress, understanding and meeting the needs of victims as well as targeting chronic offenders, the city will take strides in protecting families throughout Chattanooga.
  • Act: The city of Seattle has long supported transparency on the work the city does to keep goods and people moving. Seattle’s Capital Project Dashboard provides key project status information on current large transportation projects, such as estimated cost and spending, whether the project is in design or construction, if it is on schedule and within the budget, and its expected completion date. “Seattle is committed to openness and transparency,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Transportation construction can be complicated and the public expects that we will spend their resources wisely. This new website keeps the City accountable for transportation budgets and timelines.” The trust of the public in the city’s DOT was recently demonstrated then Seattle voters passed a $930M transportation levy.

To date, 21 cities have been announced as What Works Cities. The majority of these What Works Cities are already Socrata customers and participating in Socrata’s Open Data Network. And recently, cities like Jackson, Mississippi, and Richmond, California, have entered the Open Data Network as Socrata customers.

Socrata fully supports the goals and vision of this ambitious and important program. Our commitment in 2016 is to work side by side with our city customers and the What Works teams to further this mission and realize the What Works Cities Standard. We expect great things.



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