Building a Well-Managed Local Government: The Value of What Works Cities Certification

Cities face a range of issues these days – from public transportation and infrastructure to housing affordability and environmental concerns. Each has a direct impact on improving the quality of life of residents, which is exactly what our goal as civic leaders should be. That’s why the National League of Cities (NLC) and Results for America recently forged a new partnership to help more cities leverage data-driven solutions to better address their most pressing challenges.

Results for America is a lead partner in What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies-launched initiative that has set the bar for well-managed, data-driven cities through its Certification program. Certification builds on and complements NLC’s ongoing commitment to help cities meet the evolving needs of their residents by equipping local leaders with the tools, best practices and expert support that will help them govern most effectively.

Having served as a mayor for 24 years — and in my current role working with municipal leaders nationwide as NLC’s CEO and Executive Director — I have seen firsthand the powerful role that accurate, actionable data plays in cities. Data empowers local governments to enact smarter, more targeted policies that lead to more responsive, efficient services. And it gives local leaders the ability to make critical decisions in the best way possible. Put simply, data-driven government is the future of responsible city management.

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NLC member cities with populations greater than 30,000 now have unprecedented access to learn about and participate in What Works Cities Certification. The program helps city leaders take their efforts to the next level by benchmarking their current practices and developing a custom plan for improvement. Certification also helps cities stay on top of emerging trends and best practices by providing educational resources, as well as pro bono access to trainings from What Works Cities partners via the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University. Cities that complete a Certification assessment also have access to another invaluable tool: each other, to learn from and share challenges with.

The first group of nine certified cities are already leading the way in leveraging data to deliver more robust city programs and targeted services for residents and communities. For example, in Los Angeles, the only city to date to win Certification at the gold level, data-driven solutions are helping the city address issues like street cleanliness, affordable housing, public amenities, police hiring, the urban heat island effect, and civic engagement. In Boston, a more data-centric model of has enabled the city to improve on issues such as veteran and chronic homelessness, housing, EMS response times, local investment, and more.

What Works Cities Certification is the easiest way for cities with populations greater than 30,000 to get involved immediately and begin to understand how data can help them build the most well-managed local government possible.

Keep an eye out for the workshops What Works Cities partners will lead at our Congressional City Conference, in March. In the meantime, I encourage all eligible cities to start their data journey today by completing a Certification assessment.

About the Author: Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter: @ceanthony50.