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Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa brought city staff and citizens together to analyze data that helped them create policies and programs to address local challenges, such as income disparity and crime.


Tulsa wanted to be a data driven city. The city had hundreds of data sets that could help them grow per capita income, increase population, reduce violent crime, and address other challenges. But they did not have staff with the sufficient expertise to analyze the data for insights it might provide, or the capacity to harness the skills of those who did. They needed a way to source additional talent from outside city hall.


The mayor’s Performance Strategy and Innovation team established Urban Data Pioneers, a group of citizens and city hall staff to analyze data and inform decision-making. The city brought teams of city employees from various departments together with community members for 10 weeks and provided training, access to data sets, and physical and online meeting spaces to help them dig into data and gain a thorough understanding of a variety of challenges facing Tulsa. The teams then presented their findings and suggested next steps to department heads and other staff in city hall.


Urban Data Pioneers helped the city effectively use data to identify and solve problems ranging from traffic incidents to blight. Data analysis demonstrated a connection between blight and violent crime, so the city developed a tool that city employees and citizens can use to inventory blighted properties and take action. The city hopes to use this information to proactively deploy police. Another group has examined the connection between education and per capita income, which has led to initiatives aimed at increasing reading proficiency and helping students apply for financial aid.

The program has fostered collaboration between departments in city hall and created new opportunities for city staff to work smarter, using data and the new skills they gain in the process. Urban Data Pioneers now includes more than 120 data scientists, technical professionals, city staff, and representatives from nonprofit organizations. These teams have delved into the data to help the city address more than a dozen public problems. Urban Data Pioneers has broken down barriers between local government and residents, bringing citizens into government to help build a stronger city.

Our case study explores the creation of the Urban Data Pioneers program in Tulsa. Our blueprint provides a step-by-step guide to establishing the program in your city. 

“This program is beneficial to city departments, community services, and citizens. With a better understanding, cities can better utilize resources for citizens. This means more efficient community services.”

– Dianna Phillips, Tulsa city employee and Urban Data Pioneers participant


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