Civic News
Data / Municipal government

DC is now a part of the intercontinental City Data Alliance

Mayor Bowser was one of 20 mayors selected to be a part of the City Data Alliance from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Here's what she'll be doing in the program.

The City Data Alliance convening at Baltimore's Peabody Library. (Courtesy photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

As of today, data is at the top of the to-do list at the Wilson Building downtown.

DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser was one of 20 mayors from across North and South America selected to join the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance. The selected mayors will receive coaching and help to leverage data for everyday city operations and needs such as healthcare access, better waste management systems, more affordable housing and reducing homelessness. At an event today, the alliance mayors made a public commitment to use data to address community needs.

The selected mayors and cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Brooke Smith told Technical.ly, already have a lot of experience using data in decision-making but want to take it to the next level. The program expands on teaching from Bloomberg’s What Works Cities certification program.

“We felt like there was a real need to provide that next-generation suite of supports to mayors who wanted to do that building on the work that we’ve done with the What Works Cities program,” said Smith, the deputy director of government innovation programs. “This is the next chapter on how to progress their data practice. ”

The City Data Alliance was created in 2022 from a $60 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mayors from cities with over 100,000 residents from across North, Central and South America qualify to apply. This year, 20 new cities were added, bringing the total to 42 cities across seven countries; Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, one of last year’s selectees, will speak at a Wednesday session for the second cohort. The program works in partnership with the Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab, the Behavioral Insights Team and Public Digital.

“Mayors are unique in helping to change the culture of city halls in that they can really lead in any decision they make and any resource they decide to allocate by using data,” Smith said. “By insisting on data — whether it’s to better understand a challenge a city is facing, whether it’s to better evaluate what is or isn’t working or whether it’s to assess performance against an existing goal — that data is really the only way across city halls that you can collectively improve what you’re doing for residents. ”

Targets are set for each participating city so that they have a comprehensive plan for their municipality. Participating cities will partake in a six-month accelerator program of custom technical assistance in classroom sessions and then a deep dive city coaching for six-to-nine months on topics like performance management, procurement, evaluation and data as a service. The programming is intended to boost cross-government decision-making and resident engagement.

To become part of the alliance, Smith said mayors apply and then are assessed by whether or not they’re ready to take on the requirements of the program. That means making sure that leadership has both the desire and vision to participate in the alliance and a team in place to do the work. This year, 33 cities applied and 20 were selected.

This year, Smith said the programming goals are the same — help facilitate better data use — but now this new cohort will have last year’s mayors as an inspiration (especially from the neighboring city of Baltimore).

“Mayors can come in and really shape their vision for a citywide data strategy around their most pressing issues and capacities that they want to work on,” Smith said. “So we’re excited to see what [Mayor Bowser] focuses on.”

Companies: District of Columbia
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