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Grant Launches Center for Effective Data and Evidence Use by Local Government

April 20, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Dennis O’Shea
Office: 443-997-9912 / Cell: 410-499-7460
dro@jhu.edu

Three-term New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has committed funds to launch a Johns Hopkins University effort helping cities use data to run more effective operations and fix urban problems.

The grant is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ new What Works Cities initiative, a $42 million plan to help mayors and local leaders use data and evidence to engage the public, improve services and evaluate progress.

The funds committed to Johns Hopkins establish a Center for Government Excellence at the university. As part of What Works Cities, the center will help 100 U.S. cities identify opportunities to enhance their use of data and evidence. Experts at the center will provide coaching and tools to build capacity in city halls for decision-making rooted in evidence, open accountability and citizen engagement.

“The center will transform how city governments operate,” Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said. “It will promote a culture of government transparency, accountability and engagement with citizens, and will help cities learn to make quick measureable improvements in citizens’ lives.”

Michael R. Bloomberg

“While cities are working to meet new challenges with limited resources, they have access to more data than ever – and they are increasingly using it to improve people’s lives,” said Bloomberg, a Johns Hopkins alumnus and former chair of its board of trustees. “We’ll help them build on their progress, and help even more cities take steps to put data to work. What works? That’s a question that every city leader should ask – and we want to help them find answers.”

The Center for Government Excellence is also a component of the university’s 21st Century Cities Initiative, an interdisciplinary strategy to address urban challenges in the United States and around the globe.

The center will be led by executive director Beth Blauer, previously director of open performance at Socrata Inc., a privately held software company that helps public sector organizations adopt data-driven decision-making. A well-known proponent of open government, transparency and data use, she has also served as director of StateStat, the data-driven state government performance management system introduced in Maryland by then-governor Martin O’Malley.

“Cities across the country are looking for ways to upgrade their use of data and evidence to deliver results for citizens,” Blauer said. “I’m thrilled to lead our institutions’ efforts, which will pair public-sector expertise from leaders across the country with the university’s vast research to deliver unique and customized technical assistance to practitioners on the ground.”

“The center will have enormous capacity to help shift the culture of individual cities and the sector towards more effective government,” she said.

The center is starting with assessments of needs and capabilities in mid-sized U.S. cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million. Blauer’s deputy director is Sharon Paley, cofounder of Hack Baltimore and former chief operating officer for the Greater Baltimore Technology Council.

The university has appointed sociologist Kathryn Edin to be the first director of the overall 21st Century Cities Initiative, leading a university-wide complement of faculty, students and staff to address urban challenges. Edin is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, one of 10 – and eventually, 50 – world experts at Johns Hopkins committed to working across disciplinary lines to generate solutions to important problems facing humanity.

“Our focus is on resilient cities both here and around the world. We want to study 21st-century possibilities and challenges and to adopt 21st-century solutions,” Edin said. “Cities are often in crisis mode, and it can be hard for city officials to see new possibilities. We want to be the people who offer that vision and information to civic leaders.”

Another Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, sociologist Stephen Morgan, will also be a part of the 21st Century Cities Initiative, as will faculty members from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Peabody Conservatory, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the Carey Business School, and the School of Education.

This Bloomberg Philanthropies funding for the new center, as well as a recently announced gift from Bloomberg to create a Henry A. Kissinger Institute for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins, are both part of Rising to the Challenge: The Campaign for Johns Hopkins. The campaign is an effort to raise $4.5 billion, primarily to support students, research and discovery, and interdisciplinary solutions to some of humanity’s most important problems. Supporting both the university and Johns Hopkins Medicine, the campaign began its quiet phase in January 2010, was publicly launched in May 2013 and is targeted for completion in 2017. More than $2.95 billion has been committed so far.

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