City of Albuquerque CIO, Peter Ambs, has already achieved what many thought to be the impossible task of leapfrogging years of neglected, aging technology to empower the city's understaffed, underfunded and often undertrained teams to become recognized today as leaders in government innovation.

Mayor Richard Berry's ambitious innovation agenda has also resulted in a growing list of partners like Kauffman Foundation and Living Cities who have helped grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem through several initiatives aimed at broadening economic opportunities and mobility.

Growth in Civic Tech Startups

The government's tech and data initiatives have also spurred an increase in startups who are focusing on civic tech and are utilizing the city's open data.

In fact, APPCityLife, where I serve as Founder and CEO, pivoted in 2012 to focus on the civic market because of our collaboration with the city of Albuquerque during their open data launch. We gained an early start in building out our platform to enable cities to easily create and share mobile apps, and the early work in our own city helped propel our company forward to be able to serve cities and agencies across the U.S. and to earn industry recognition, including being named to GovTech100 by GovTech Magazine .

Other startups are also utilizing the city's data to gain traction. CivNet uses Albuquerque's open data as a resource to help citizens learn about issues and get involved. And Cultivating Coders, whose team teaches coding to Native American youth and have already helped students integrate city data into projects, are expanding their curriculum to include APPCityLife's platform to empower students to create and share mobile apps using city data.

Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities Initiative

With today's announcement of Albuquerque becoming one of sixteen cities to join the prestigious Bloomberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities Initiative, the city can improve current data policies, processes and inter-departmental collaboration.

Says Simone Brody, Executive Director for the Initiative, "It's an exciting opportunity to leverage resources and experience to achieve their goals."

Albuquerque joins Birmingham, AL; Boulder, CO; Des Moines, IA; Fort Worth, TX; Hartford, CT; Knoxville, TN; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Nashville, TN; Olathe, KS; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; South Bend, IN; Syracuse, NY; and Virginia Beach, VA.

"Albuquerque has been cited by Code for America for leading the way in Open Data and is quite sophisticated in their practice already," says Molly Daniell, who is overseeing the What Works Cities work in Albuquerque. "We can add value in thinking about how to iterate on processes and making sure internal systems are working as seamlessly as possible."

Daniel says that Albuquerque's work will focus on open data and low-cost evaluation.

Robin Brulé, Executive on loan from Nusenda to Mayor Berry, has been instrumental in bringing the Initiative to Albuquerque. In her role as Chief Strategist of the Albuquerque Living Cities Integration Initiative, she has worked closely with Corey Cooper, Program and Policy Advisor, to ensure Albuquerque was chosen for the Initiative. "This gives Albuquerque the ability to work with world-class partners, access key technical support and guidance - all to help us create plans for enhancing our use of data and evidence without reinventing the wheel or wasting employees' time or taxpayers' dollars," she says.

Brulé adds that better data helps policymakers fund the most successful programs. "Utilizing data and technology across departments and programs allows us to maximize impact, reduce cost and redundancy, increase results and improve outcomes."

The city's acceptance into the program began with an application submitted by Robin Brulé, says Daniell. "After a deeper dive into the city's current state of practice and a site visit to determine if there was a good opportunity for engagement, we determined that we could provide the city quite customized solutions, helping them build capacity to continue this work once our engagement is done in six months."

What Works Cities' five partner organizations provide support to the initiative's cities, including Results for America, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Behavioral Insights Team.

"Albuquerque will begin work with the Behavioral Insights Team to explore how to use behavioral economics and psychology to engage residents and improve public services," says Brody. "They'll be able to learn from the work in New Orleans who are now using texting campaigns to prompt low-income individuals who are disengaged from the healthcare system to sign up for free medical checkups."

Along with initiative and partner collaboration, Albuquerque will join a dedicated Slack channel to engage with cities across the country further along in the process.

"People talk about how very little happens in government," says Brody. "Cities have told us how quickly they can make change when they have support. They surprise themselves by how much they can make happen."

Published on: Oct 24, 2016