Cities have strategies for nonprofit outcome measurements

December 12, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Results for America, an initiative of America Achieves that works to improve outcomes for young people, their families and communities by emphasizing data and evidence, and The Bridgespan Group released a paper highlighting the nation’s best cities at using data and evidence to get better results for their citizens. “Geek Cities: How Smarter Use of Data and Evidence Can Improve Lives” reports on a new focus in local governments.

These cities are leading the way by investing in building evidence, using data, and monitoring performance. They are comparing the level of evidence behind different programs, and setting priorities and allocating funding based on that evidence. They are breaking down silos, and experimenting and inventing their way out of problems.

The survey found, for example:

  • Baltimore upended its budgeting process to implement one that is outcome-driven and focused on hard data. As one example, it is shifting resources towards evidence-based interventions to eliminate infant mortality.
  • Denver embraced a data-driven approach to tracking and continuously improving its schools, and is investing in an in-house “academy” to teach city employees how to innovate, measure performance, and continuously track their data and improve results.
  • Miami revamped its education system by honing in on school performance data and regularly tracking that data on each child.
  • New York City chose to invest in data — trying out new methods of serving critical populations, but carefully tracking the success rates of each method. New York then made the tough decisions to shift dollars away from programs that were failing and toward programs with evidence of success.
  • Providence brought together community leaders for an evidence-driven, community-wide approach to helping children. Providence is also democratizing the data, making it accessible to the public.
  • San Antonio used evidence to set city priorities and determine how best to invest limited public dollars in a way that would make the most difference for children and open up life-long opportunities.