Mayors Leadership Institute on Smart Cities

Success Story

A new data culture exemplified by sharing data about out-of-school outcomes.

Mayor Elorza, Providence RI
Youth Program Excellence Initiative

Mayor Jorge Elorza has focused city resources on out-of- school time and, at the same time, transitioned control of the school district to the state. As he points out, 80% of a student’s life is out of school, whether in afterschool programs, at home, with friends, jobs, or in summer programs. But does each program actually contribute to learning? What programs do students and families actually want? And when? And where? And from whom?

Mayor Elorza envisioned a data culture and, separately, higher quality youth programming. The Institute helped him bring his ideas and aspirations together into a new program dubbed Youth Program Excellence. At the Institute he worked on data strategies to design, fund, implement, and evaluate the new model. By collecting, sharing, and analyzing data at each step, Providence will use the program to collectively invest in its youth. The cornerstone for the data culture is students and parents and families themselves. The data belong to them, and that means families determine their own privacy levels and who has access to their data. Once families get comfortable with it, Mayor Elorza expects they will become the strongest champions for ever-higher-quality programs. The sheer number of youth organizations makes this initiative difficult. Few are “smart city ready” or accustomed to data and measurement— let alone a pay- for-performance contract. But they do share an appreciation of the need to invest in children, and the City is building on that shared appreciation to develop smart city mindsets and skills.

Nine months after the Institute, the first component was up and running: Inside-Out Summer. The City combined all summer youth programming in one channel, from libraries to maker spaces to family services at community organizations — 220 options in all! Diverse partners were key to the rapid launch. The Providence After School Alliance already had robust data on students and their families, so they were responsible for recruiting. Fab Newport provided a digital badge program, while Bean Stack offered literacy technology. Across the programs, the City has been tracking engagement, use of services, even meals provided; and longer-term the learning outcomes of participants will be compared to peers through high school. Inside-Out Summer is a hybrid program, in-person and virtual, and helps the City test safe protocols for school participation during the pandemic.