Opening data for stronger cities: The ‘What Works Cities’ initiative

The New York City skyline. (Photo credit: actor212/Flickr)

We let you know a few weeks ago that we were beginning a new effort to improve open data across mid-size American cities. Today, we’re so happy to be able to tell you more about what we’re doing.

Sunlight is proud to announce that we’ve joined a collaboration called the What Works Cities initiative, a three-year, nationwide program to accelerate the use of data and evidence in American cities. The initiative aims to help local governments make better use of the data they create in order to engage the public, make government more effective and improve people’s lives. Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, What Works Cities will provide the resources of five different data-focused organizations to mid-sized cities with populations that range from 100,000 to 1 million.

Sunlight’s role in the program is to provide support for cities who are interested in creating or improving open data policies, while our partners at Behavioral Insights, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and Results for America will help cities get the most from their data by using it to improve city decision-making. This partnership represents a valuable new step in our effort to encourage as many governments as possible to make their public data open and accessible.

Not only will we get the chance to talk about open data in many new places across the country, but the What Works Cities initiative ties the goal of opening data to helping cities achieve the goals they set for themselves. In doing this, the program provides additional answers to the kinds of questions about open data — who uses it? And what do they do with it? — that we still often hear. With this program, cities will get the support they need to use their high quality, released data in the way that’s most effective for them, putting it to work in answering their most pressing questions. Meanwhile, they will also be supported in improving the way they use public input about their data.

It’s a tremendous opportunity to improve the way that many of our most important cities across the country conduct business. We’re so excited to participate, and we’re very excited about all of the new open data this will create. We’re looking forward to seeing the value this will create for participating cities and the national governance ecosystem as a whole. We can’t wait to see what new national examples emerge from this initiative to show how decisions made with improved data, transparency and public input improve lives. And we can’t wait to get started!