Bloomberg Philanthropies taps Grand Rapids for national data initiative


“La Grande Vitesse” by Alexander Calder stands in Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids, in front of Grand Rapids City Hall, top, and the Kent County Administration building, bottom. Photo via

Grand Rapids has been chosen to participate in a national philanthropic effort to enhance the use of data and evidence in the public sector.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said today Grand Rapids was selected as one of five new cities to participate in New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies’ national What Works Cities initiative, which now has 100 participating cities.

“We are proud to be a What Works city,” Bliss said. “Our partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies will strengthen our commitment to ensuring fair and equitable distribution of city services, resources and assets across the community. The goal of this work is to promote community engagement and increase quality of life through additional assessment and review with our external stakeholders.”

Grand Rapids is the first city in Michigan to be selected for the initiative.

Four other cities were selected today: Columbia, South Carolina; Honolulu; Irving, Texas; and Long Beach, California.

“When cities know how to put data at the core of their decision-making, they’re equipped with the tools to best solve local challenges and serve their communities,” said Simone Brody, executive director, What Works Cities. “We’re excited to welcome these five cities.”

How it will work

Grand Rapids will receive technical assistance to make municipal data more accessible and engage residents around government priorities and services.

The city will focus on developing an equity-based dataset inventory, open data portal and standards to work with community stakeholders to leverage available datasets.

It will also work to develop the capacity to conduct low-cost evaluations of programs, so managers have better information to make changes and improve results for online digital services.

The expert partners assembled by Bloomberg Philanthropies to deliver support to the cities include the Behavioral Insights Team, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation.

Nationwide plans

Cities across the U.S. participating in the What Works Cities initiative are identifying more effective ways to evaluate programs and improve performance, optimize resources to serve their communities and address a range of social challenges — from public safety to affordable housing.

All participants join the initiative’s learning network of local leaders and global experts sharing best practices for outcomes and focused governance.

For more information and a list of participating cities, visit

Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies is a foundation established in 2006 by Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and founder of the global data and media company Bloomberg LP.

The organization distributes grants, supports programs and advocates for issues in the environmental, public health, government innovation, arts and education sectors.

What Works Cities

Bloomberg Philanthropies launched What Works Cities in 2015 to help cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million utilize data- and evidence-based practices to effectively deliver local services and improve residents’ lives.

What Works Cities’ 100 city partners collectively represent more than 31-million residents across 39 states and have annual budgets exceeding $104 billion.

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