Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces What Works Cities Certification

Bloomberg Philanthropies – the New York City based charity – is introducing a new certification initiative which will publicly recognize the municipal governments that most effectively use data to allocate resources and improve residents’ lives. The ‘What Works Cities Certification’ offers a way for almost all cities to get involved. A team of national experts from organizations like Code for America and the Ash Center at the Harvard Kennedy School will assess each city’s data practices and then award qualified cities a silver, gold, or platinum status based on a list of 50 criteria from Bloomberg’s set of standards. These criteria measure, for example, how transparent the government is, how effectively it uses the data to spot challenges and opportunities, and how well they’re meeting community needs.

“It highlights the cities that are really the model across the country,” says Simone Brody, executive director of What Works Cities. “Toward the end of this year we’re going to announced the first set of certified cities and they will be the best in the country in doing this work.”

Any city with at least 30,000 residents can apply online at certification. Cities will assess the criteria they think they meet, and then a small percentage of applicants will receive documentation requests, phone calls, and visits. At a minimum, to get silver status, cities have to meet at least half of the standards from all categories.

“We’re trying to help all cities look at the standard and say, ‘here’s where we are relative to the 50 things we should be doing,’” says Brody. “When a city applies, we won’t just tell them how they’re doing. We will give them a road map for what they should be doing in three, six, or 12 months.”