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Bloomberg Launches Smart City Certification

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

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Two years after its inception, Bloomberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities program announced an initiative that will direct cities on how to use data to improve their smart infrastructure.

The “What Works Cities Certification” was introduced at Bloomberg’s second annual What Works Cities summit, March 27-29 in New York City, in an effort to expand its initiative of offering technical assistance to cities for their data-driven policy and project efforts.

What Works Cities

Launched in April 2015, What Works Cities is Bloomberg’s national initiative to help “100 mid-sized American cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve services, inform local decision-making and engage residents.”

The program pairs these cities' technology think-tank partners—like the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School, the Behavioral Insights Team, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University (GovEx), Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation—for help in using their data to improve services.

JCT 600, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

The certification is point-based, modeled after other programs like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. Cities can earn a silver, gold or platinum status by adhering to Bloomberg’s list of 50 criteria.

“We realized very quickly the demand was really great for this,” said Simone Brody, executive director of What Works Cities.

In the past couple years, the organization has worked with 77 cities and has identified four main components as its “standard” for the governmental bodies of those cities.

  1. Commit – Make powerful, public commitments to getting better results for their residents by using data and evidence.
  2. Measure – Use the data and tools at their disposal to measure progress and engage residents along the way.
  3. Take Stock – Consistently review and reflect to measure progress, learn, and make corrections and improvements.
  4. Act – Use data and evidence to inform major decisions and take action.

After working with these cities and identifying what was making an impact, the initiative wanted to share its findings.

“We want to be able to show the world what the best cities are doing,” said Jenn Park, associate director for What Works Cities. “The Certification program is made to be able to do just that—publicly validate, recognize, and celebrate cities that are doing this at the highest level.”

Certification

The certification is point-based, modeled after other programs like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. Cities can earn a silver, gold or platinum status by adhering to Bloomberg’s list of 50 criteria.

“It highlights the cities that are really the model across the country,” says Brody. “Toward the end of this year we’re going to announced the first set of certified cities and they will be the best in the country in doing this work.”

geralt, Public Domain, via Pixabay

Any city with at least 30,000 residents is encouraged to apply online. First, cities will check off what criteria they think they already meet and then experts from the partnered organizations will follow up with documentation requests, interviews, visits, and more.

Any city with at least 30,000 residents is encouraged to apply online. First, cities will check off what criteria they think they already meet and then experts from the partnered organizations will follow up with documentation requests, interviews, visits, and more.

Stephen Goldsmith, the director of the Innovations in Government Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, outlined a few cities with successful initiatives, including Boston, which engaged with What Works Cities to apply its data to its city contracts.

City officials focused on their Department of Public Works Construction Management Division, with the help of the Harvard Kennedy School, to revamp the contracts for the nearly $8 million the city spends each year on asphalt resurfacing.

“While the prior contracts included technical standards related to the quality of asphalt resurfacing, there were few mechanisms in place to enforce or incentivize vendors to adhere to the standards,” Goldsmith wrote.

“Modifying the contracts for this program offered the city a chance to increase the overall quality of repaving efforts, to improve communication and transparency with vendors, and to enhance the articulation and measurement of outcomes crucial to the asphalt resurfacing process,” he added

Bloomberg Philanthropies

The “What Works Cities Certification” was introduced at Bloomberg’s second annual What Works Cities summit in New York City and is an effort on the organization to expand its initiative of offering technical assistance to cities for their data-driven policy and project efforts.

Harvard’s Elijah de la Campa spent time meeting with city engineers to better understand the program to aid in the process. The end result culminated in new contracts written with a clear set up expectation metrics and a performance-based payment structure, which debuted in the city’s 2017 hiring process.

Those at Bloomberg want these successful strategies to be accessible to cities across the country.

“We're trying to help all cities look at the standard and say, ‘Here’s where we are relative to the 50 things we should be doing,’” said Brody. “When a city applies, we won't just tell them how they’re doing. We will give them a roadmap for what they should be doing in three, six, or 12 months.”

Deadlines, criteria and more information can be found here.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Infrastructure

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