Denver Recognized for Using Data, Evidence to Improve Residents' Lives

Published on December 15, 2021

Denver among first 50 cities to achieve What Works Cities Certification

The City and County of Denver has been named one of 10 new cities to have achieved What Works Cities Certification, in recognition of their exceptional use of data to guide their decision-making and improve residents’ lives. What Works Cities Certification - the national standard of excellence in data-driven city governance - 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.

“Denver’s proud to be recognized by What Works Cities 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 the city,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Using data to help us empower our community and improve outcomes in health, housing and safety is critical, and we look forward to building on this achievement moving forward to continue making a positive impact on the lives of all our residents.”

“The most effective mayors use data to define problems and craft bold new solutions, and this milestone of 50 certified cities highlights the critical progress local governments are leading across the country,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City. “By building a culture of data-driven decision-making, these cities will be more resilient and better equipped to fight climate change, protect public health, increase economic mobility, and much more.”

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, Denver has demonstrated measurable progress on these foundational data practices. Some notable examples of the city’s use of data include:

  • The Hancock Administration’s Denver Support Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative was the first pay-for-success Housing First model of its kind. Denver has successfully increased housing stability and decreased jail stays among participants who were experiencing chronic homelessness and had frequent interactions with the criminal justice system. From 2016-2020, 365 individuals were served and 77 percent remained in stable housing after three years. The project was so successful, it passed the contract threshold in which investors agreed to share success payments with providers. The success of the Social Impact Bond helped Denver secure a $5.5 million grant from the U.S. Treasury Department to build on that effort and house and support another 125 people over the next seven years. Denver is the first US city to receive a Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act award (SIPPRA) from US Treasury.
  • Denver Public Health & Environment’s award-winning Love My Air program provides real-time data to monitor air quality in Denver schools by using low-cost, cutting-edge air pollution sensor technology, equipped with solar, battery storage, and data connectivity.
  • Sharing data and resources with the city of Aurora, Denver is creating a regional, community-focused approach to combating youth violence in our cities. This Youth Empowerment Compact is key to providing educational and employment opportunities for our youth to support their growth and safety.

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 percent to 75 percent), the percentage of cities engaging with residents on a goal and communicating progress has more than tripled (from 19 percent to 70 percent), the percentage of cities with a platform and process to release data to the public has more than tripled (from 18 percent to 67 percent), and the percentage of cities modifying their programs based on data analytics has more than doubled (from 28 percent to 61 percent). 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 whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/certification/.

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