downtownLouisvilleLouisville has been selected to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “What Works Cities” program, a $42 million initiative designed to help 100 mid-sized U.S. cities improve their use of data and stats to enhance quality of life.

Louisville is one of the first eight cities selected for this program, and will receive both on-the-ground support and learning opportunities to make local government more effective.

Here’s how What Works Cities works: The program collaborates with cities to review how they’re using data and identifies areas for improvement and growth. What Works Cities then designs a program to help these cities address various areas of concern including: economic development, public health, job creation, and blight.

The other cities chosen were: Chattanooga, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; Kansas City, Mo.; Mesa, Ariz.; New Orleans, La.; Seattle, Wash.; and Tulsa, Okla. More than 100 cities applied to be part of this first cohort.

“Making better use of data is one of the best opportunities cities have to solve problems and deliver better results for their citizens. The first group of cities in the What Works Cities program represents the range of local leaders across the country who are committed to using data and evidence to improve people’s everyday lives,” Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement.

In Louisville there will be a heavy emphasis on improving city-sponsored technology. The goal is to improve the city’s open data systems to make them more accurate and easier for both residents and city employees to use.

In Louisville, this will work a couple of different ways. One is through improvements to the city’s LouieStat program. LouieStat helps the public keep tabs on how the various departments of Metro Government have measured up to goals set by the city. It is overseen by the Office of Performance Improvement (OPI), which was established — along with LouieStat — in January 2012. The goal is let the public see how the various departments of Louisville Metro Government are performing and how they can improve.

But although LouieStat offers a wealth of knowledge, the city will work with Bloomberg Philanthropies to make the performance data used in the system more user-friendly, accessible, visually attractive, and available in near real time. The hope is this will help Louisville residents better track how the city’s departments are doing, and if they are meeting their strategic goals.

The need for more regular updates is a real one. The newest updated department in the LouieStat system is the Office of Management & Budget, updated in late July. But four of the six most recently updated departments saw their most recent updates happen in late May, already over two months ago.

(For those who would like to learn more, last year IL wrote a round-up of a the best and worst performing city departments as rated by LouieStat.)

Louisville also will begin work with a group called the Behavioral Insights Team. An official release describes this team as a global organization that works to increase the effectiveness of the city’s day-to-day operations and aid departmental decision-making.

“Our Office for Performance Improvement leads our efforts in using data to make decisions and to drive our ambitious agenda,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in the press release. “We focus on what works for citizens and use data to improve what doesn’t work. That’s why our participation with What Works Cities is a perfect partnership. I’m honored that Louisville has been chosen for this important work.”

Additional cities will be admitted to the program on a rolling basis through 2017. The hope is this will add momentum to the national movement among cities to use data and evidence to improve government services and help cities meet their strategic goals.

David Serchuk
David Serchuk is a staff writer at Insider Louisville. He is a former editor at Forbes.com, and an ex-reporter at Forbes magazine. He's written for NPR, CNBC.com, New York, Pittsburgh, Louisville and other publications named for places. He enjoys writing about business, music and other things as well.