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Posted on: December 15, 2021

Bloomberg Philanthropies Recognizes Buffalo for Using Data and Evidence to Improve Residents’ Lives

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Mayor Byron W. Brown today unveiled a plaque in the lobby of Buffalo City Hall recognizing the City of Buffalo for achieving silver certification from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities - the national standard of well-managed cities recognizing the most effective use of data to inform policy and funding decisions. Buffalo is one of 10 new cities to have achieved What Works Cities Certification, in recognition of its exceptional use of data to guide its decision-making and improve residents’ lives. What Works Cities Certification evaluates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making. What Works Cities is a national initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies to help cities use data and evidence more effectively to tackle their most pressing challenges. This new cohort of cities joins 16 cities honored earlier this year, bringing the total number of U.S. cities certified for outstanding data practices to 50.

“It’s great to be recognized by Bloomberg Philanthropies as one of the first 50 cities in the country to be Certified for our investment in data and transparency as part of our decision-making processes across Buffalo,” said Mayor Brown. “From our response to the pandemic, to our impactful lead remediation work, to equitably allocating funds from the CARES Act, analyzing data and constantly looking for ways to improve helped us accelerate our progress and provide the high-quality service our residents have come to expect and deserve in Buffalo. We look forward to building on this achievement moving forward to continue making a positive impact in our community.”

“Achieving What Works Cities Certification is a testament to the strategic vision of Mayor Brown to invest in new technologies that both create and leverage data,” said Kirk McLean, Director of Open Data for the City of Buffalo. “It also affirms the hard work of all City of Buffalo employees, from the front-line staff whose daily work turns into hard data to the database administrators who organize and manage data to the analysts who generate data-informed insights to the commissioners who use dashboards and analytics to gain operational efficiencies. I want to thank Bloomberg Philanthropies for recognizing our intentional efforts to create, through the use of data, a more transparent, inclusive, collaborative, and intelligent city.”

What Works Cities Certification assesses cities based on their data-driven decision-making practices, such as whether they are using data to set goals and track progress, allocate funding, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and achieve desired outcomes from contracts with outside vendors. The program also measures whether cities are publicly and transparently communicating about their use of data and evidence.

Over the past year, Buffalo has demonstrated measurable progress on these foundational data practices. Below are some notable examples of our city’s use of data.

  • Our community engagement work focuses on leveraging partnerships and technology to improve efficiency in how we support and engage Buffalo residents. Utilizing open data has created greater transparency so that the city, community partners, and residents can work together to execute equitable improvements to our programs and services.
  • With lead remediation work being extremely important to the safety of our residents, we have worked with community partners to secure federal HUD funding to tackle this issue. Using open data, we have transparently identified which houses and landlords to target and proactively provided lead information and cleaning supplies where they are needed most.
  • We used data from a study on broadband access across Buffalo that allowed us to target the distribution of federal funds to areas with weaker internet access.
  • Within the Buffalo Police Department, we created a new initiative allowing residents to file police reports online without having to call 911 and wait for an officer response.
  • With the help of the University at Buffalo and Cisco, we also created a remote 311 call center to help city staff remain in sync with up to 2,000 daily calls while they work from home.

The Certification program launched in April 2017, and U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 and higher are eligible to participate. Cities are awarded Silver, Gold, or Platinum Certification depending on their level of data sophistication.

The 10 new cities achieving Certification at the Silver level this fall include: Durham, NC; Chicago, IL; Rochester, NY; Buffalo, NY; Salinas, CA; Long Beach, CA; Miami, FL; Denver, CO; Baltimore, MD; and Evanston, IL. Earlier this year, 16 new cities achieved Certification. A list of all 50 cities that have achieved Certification is available here.

“These cities are harnessing the power of evidence and data to accelerate progress in their communities,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Results for America, the lead partner in the What Works Cities initiative. “As local governments begin investing billions in American Rescue Plan Act funds to meet urgent needs, these certified cities offer a roadmap for how local leaders can use evidence and data to increase the impact of these investments and deliver better results for residents.”

“Cities that are investing in building their data skills and capacity are seeing the results,” said Jennifer Park, founding director of What Works Cities Certification. “As the movement grows, we will see even more cities delivering better results through faster 911 response times, increased small business support, reduced waste and emissions, and greater civic engagement with residents.”

A report released earlier this year by the Monitor Institute by Deloitte, in collaboration with What Works Cities, detailed the growing movement of cities using data to drive decision-making and the benefits of this approach for residents. Since 2015, the percentage of cities tracking progress toward key goals has more than doubled (from 30% to 75%), the percentage of cities engaging with residents on a goal and communicating progress has more than tripled (from 19% to 70%), the percentage of cities with a platform and process to release data to the public has more than tripled (from 18% to 67%), and the percentage of cities modifying their programs based on data analytics has more than doubled (from 28% to 61%). These are several of the data practices assessed as part of What Works Cities Certification.

Certification was developed by a team of experts from Results for America in close consultation with the What Works Cities Certification Standard Committee and with support from the other What Works Cities partners - The Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, and The Behavioral Insights Team. Over 200 cities have completed a Certification assessment, benchmarking their practices against the national standard. To learn more about the program and how to participate, visit https://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/certification/.

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