Athens-Clarke government recognized for use of data in decision making


The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCGov) has achieved What Works Cities Certification in recognition of its exceptional use of data to guide decision-making and improve residents’ lives.

What Works Cities Certification - the national standard of excellence in data-driven city governance - evaluates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making. What Works Cities Certification, a national Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative led by Results for America, has awarded certification to 55 U.S. cities for outstanding data practices since 2017.

"Athens-Clarke County is honored to join the more than 50 cities recognized with What Works Cities Certification for incorporating data into crucial local government work to deliver better results for residents," says Manager Blaine Williams. "ACCGov created a Geospatial Information Office in 2018 as part of our commitment to using data in our decision-making processes and we continue to refine and improve our data infrastructure to inform everything we do. I am extremely pleased that our recent efforts have helped achieve this nationally-recognized certification."

What Works Cities Certification assesses cities based on their data-driven decision-making practices, such as whether they are using data to set goals and track progress, allocate funding, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and achieve desired outcomes from contracts with outside vendors. The program also measures whether cities are publicly and transparently communicating about their use of data and evidence.

Over the past year, Athens-Clarke County has demonstrated measurable progress on these foundational data practices. Some notable examples of the city’s use of data include:

  • Several departments updated maps with transportation and demographic data during the potential TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) 2023 program project selection process for use by the TSPLOST 2023 Advisory Committee and the Mayor and Commission during their discussions.

  • The Geospatial Information Office continued to support and improve an open data portal to provide resources to other agencies and residents. The GIO manages the open data portal at www.accgov.com/opendata.

  • A data-informed process was used to objectively rank county-owned properties for their suitability as a potential government-sanctioned homeless encampment.

  • For downtown garbage and recycling collection, the Solid Waste Department piloted an "eco station" approach that involved prototyping eco stations and collection of feedback. The program is currently out to bid. The contractor selected to build the eco stations will incorporate the community’s feedback on the prototype into the final designs.

  • ACCGov developed a multi-department litter abatement steering committee to share information and data between involved departments. The Solid Waste Department also developed a more equitable, county-wide approach to ensure that garbage removal resources were being spread around the community and developed a debris tracker app in collaboration with the University of Georgia.

Since the Certification program launched in April 2017, U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 and higher have been eligible to participate. Cities are awarded Silver, Gold, or Platinum Certification depending on their level of data sophistication. Athens-Clarke County has achieved Silver Certification.

“Cities using data are more resilient and better able to respond to community needs and opportunities,” said Lauren Su, Director of What Works Cities Certification. ”Athens-Clarke County has done an outstanding job of using data to inform a number of priorities, from the selection and equitable prioritization of transportation development proposals to streamlining trash collection services and reducing litter. This is what excellence in data-driven government looks like.”

Athens-Clarke County joins an elite group of cities leading a growing movement of data-driven decision-making in jurisdictions around the country. A report released last fall by the Monitor Institute at Deloitte, in collaboration with What Works Cities, detailed the increase in cities using data to drive decision-making and the benefits of this approach for residents.

Since 2015, the percentage of cities tracking progress toward key goals has more than doubled (from 30% to 75%), the percentage of cities engaging with residents on a goal and communicating progress has more than tripled (from 19% to 70%), the percentage of cities with a platform and process to release data to the public has more than tripled (from 18% to 67%), and the percentage of cities modifying their programs based on data analytics has more than doubled (from 28% to 61%). These are several of the data practices assessed as part of What Works Cities Certification.

Certification was developed by a team of experts from Results for America in consultation with the What Works Cities Certification Standard Committee and with support from other What Works Cities partners - The Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, and The Behavioral Insights Team. Over 200 cities have completed a Certification assessment, benchmarking their practices against the national standard.

What Work Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, helps cities use data and evidence to tackle their most pressing challenges and improve residents’ lives. The initiative’s What Works Cities Certification program is the first-of-its-kind national standard of excellence in city governance that evaluates how well cities are managed and whether cities have the right people, processes, and policies in place to put data and evidence at the center of decision-making. For more information, visit www.whatworkscities.org.

For more information about the certification or ACCGov's data initiatives, contact the Geospatial Information Office at 706-613-3872 or visit www.accgov.com/gio.

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