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What Works Cities Certification
Bloomberg Philanthropies announces Memphis as American City Best at Using Data to Improve Residents’ Lives
Posted on 04/24/2019
What Works Cities

Wednesday, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that Memphis is one of seven cities to achieve "2019 What Works Cities Certification," a national standard of excellence in city governance. What Works Cities Certification rates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making.

Memphis achieved Certification at the silver level. The accomplishments that Memphis was recognized for include developing a Good Government Performance Dashboard that tracks a wide variety of metrics, including 911 response times, crime rates and police employment statistics. This approach has already improved services. For example, Memphis is now deploying SUVs with medical personnel for non-emergency 911 calls and saving its ambulances for medical emergencies. The city has also increased adoption rates for stray animals over the past five years, from 46% to 94%. Additional accomplishments can be found here.

“Data helps city leaders understand problems and measure success, and it helps citizens hold government accountable for meeting public needs on all the big challenges we face – from promoting health and safety to fighting climate change,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City. “Congratulations to all the cities that earned certification this year. Their efforts are improving lives locally and setting an example that can spread nationally.”

“We are extremely proud to receive the Silver designation from What Works Cities,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “Since taking office, our team has been dedicated to improving services, and we know using data and holding each other accountable is the best way to achieve our goals. It improves the public's faith in government not only by improving service but by showing them the data. Even when the data is not good, it improves faith. And I think in Memphis in particular, but throughout the country, we must restore faith in government."

“We are proud to celebrate Memphis and the other certified cities and recognize their achievements for others to learn from,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “These well-managed cities are better solving the problems facing their communities and addressing residents’ needs. They are stretching every dollar by using data to set priorities, budget effectively, and ensure investments are yielding desired results. They are also putting data at the core of their efforts to prepare for future challenges.”

What Works Cities Certification evaluates how well cities are managed and how city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making. Cities are evaluated on factors such as whether they have dedicated staff responsible for helping departments use data to track their progress; whether contracts are awarded based on past performance; meetings are focused on numbers; key datasets are open to the public; and whether there is transparency both in the goals set and the progress toward achieving them. Cities must demonstrate that they have policies in place to manage the risks associated with sophisticated data practices. The program also requires that cities publicly communicate their use of data best practices and engage community stakeholders in the process.

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 Certification program was developed by a team of experts in close consultation with the What Works Cities Certification Standard Committee, which comprises leaders in the field from more than a dozen organizations that support cities. What Works Cities experts, along with members of the Standard Committee, then join in-person site visits to the highest-performing cities to determine the city’s Certification level. The seven 2019 certified cities were identified from over 90 assessments.

To date, a total of thirteen cities have achieved Certification:
Arlington, TX (2019 Silver), Boston, MA (2018 Silver), Kansas City, MO (2019 Gold, 2018 Silver), Los Angeles, CA (2018 Gold), Louisville, KY (2019 Gold, 2018 Silver), Memphis, TN (2019 Silver), New Orleans, LA (2018 Silver), Philadelphia, PA (2019 Silver), San Diego, CA (2018 Silver), San Francisco (2018 Silver), Scottsdale, AZ (2019 Silver), Seattle, WA (2018 Silver), and Washington, DC (2019 Gold, 2018 Silver)

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in 480 cities in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million.

For more information, please visit

About What Works Cities:
What Work Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, helps cities use data and evidence to tackle their most pressing challenges and improve residents’ lives. The initiative’s What Works Cities Certification program is the first-of-its-kind national standard of excellence in city governance that evaluates how well cities are managed and whether cities have the right people, processes, and policies in place to put data and evidence at the center of decision-making. Through the initiative’s expert partners, cities around the country are receiving support, guidance and resources to succeed. For more information, visit

Click here to read U.S. News and World Report's feature "Cities Earn Accolades for Using Data to Drive Government."

Click here to view the City of Memphis Smart City plan.

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