Grand Rapids recognized as nation’s top data-driven city

Published on June 06, 2019

GRData portal photograph

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –– The City of Grand Rapids is the nation’s top data-driven city, according to Governing magazine. Grand Rapids topped San Diego; Louisville, Ky.; Riverside, Calif.; Corona, Calif.; and Chicago in the data-driven category of the Equipt to Innovate report.

Governing defines a data-driven city as one that effectively uses data to drive performance, innovation and engagement. Top performers use data to track progress toward desired goals and outcomes and utilize analytics to proactively support better outcomes. Most importantly, these cities offer easily accessible and transparent data to the public.

“Grand Rapids is a leader when it comes to open data,” Governing wrote in recognizing the City as the top performer. “Only information that is prevented by law from being shared is kept off the City’s open data portal, known as GRData. The City also recently began creating data hubs within GRData to meet the needs of external stakeholders who do not have the infrastructure, funding or capacity to store or share data on their own open data sites.”

The open data site and governance was developed and launched in 2018 after Grand Rapids become the first Michigan city in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ national What Works Cities initiative. Grand Rapids offers a host of categories on GRData for exploring and downloading open data. The City encourages residents to engage, discover and build apps to solve important local issues. Visitors can analyze and combine open data sets using maps and develop web and mobile applications.

“Open equity-based data means our community can stay connected with and up to date on the day-to-day operations of the City,” said Becky Jo Glover, Grand Rapids’ chief customer service and innovation officer. “We continue to build our data sets for our residents and partners. Open data ensures transparency and accountability – values we have identified in our strategic plan. The work we are doing on a daily basis can be reported through data sets we are placing on our GRDATA site. We have made progress, yet there is a great deal of work to be done.”

Glover said the City collaborates with neighborhood associations and educational and Citizen Lab partners to leverage the potential of data for a high quality of life and ensure operational decisions are data-driven.  

Equipt to Innovate is a joint initiative launched by Living Cities and Governing magazine. It is an integrated, collaborative framework anchored in seven key characteristics of high-performance government: dynamically planned, broadly partnered, resident-involved, race-informed, smartly resourced, employee-engaged and data-driven.

The initiative sets a purposefully high bar across all seven elements, and the third annual survey shows many cities are rising up to meet it. Sixty-six cities participated in the 2019 survey, bringing the three-year total to 144 cities. 

“Mayors and city managers know that innovation is the key to high performance, but they also know they cannot simply demand that staff innovate,” said Mark Funkhouser, publisher of Governing. “The key is for cities to create conditions that spur innovation, and that’s what our Equipt to Innovate survey measures. The results of this –  the third annual Equipt to Innovate survey – show that cities are continuing to actively build their capacity to create vibrant communities of engaged residents.”

Grand Rapids is among seven top-ranking cities in specific core elements listed in Governing’s third annual national Equipt to Innovate report. The report recognizes that Grand Rapids and other cities are investing in and building the many things that make communities good places for people to live.

The other 2019 top-ranked cities are:

  • Dallas – Dynamically planned
  • Louisville, Ky. – Broadly partnered
  • Baltimore – Resident-involved 
  • San Diego – Race-informed
  • San Antonio – Smartly resourced
  • El Paso, Texas – Employee-engaged 

Grand Rapids was formally recognized today at the 2019 Summit on Government Performance and Innovation, an annual gathering of innovators, public sector change agents, disrupters and civic entrepreneurs from around the country interested in making government work better for local communities.

For a comprehensive overview of the survey findings and a discussion of how cities fared across the categories, download the report “Profiles in High-Performance Government: Cities on the Move” HERE.

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