Austin and Norfolk selected to be the next pilot projects of Tactical Data Engagement


When we set out earlier this year to find the next pilot project for Tactical Data Engagement, we hoped to find one city that had the foundations of open data in place, and that was beginning to think about connecting open data to residents’ needs.

What we didn’t expect were applications from 26 cities, each one more competitive than the next. Cities proposed projects to use open data to address issues like the opioid crisis, gentrification, and homelessness — all incredibly valuable efforts that could easily warrant our team’s full attention. Ultimately we resolved to focus on two.

Sunlight Open Cities is excited to congratulate Austin, Texas and Norfolk, Virginia as the next pilot projects of Tactical Data Engagement. Austin and Norfolk are both passionate about open data and ready to convene community partners to learn how to support open data use outside of city hall. We’re looking forward to working with both of them to put open data to use addressing community needs.

Austin is already one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to open data. The city’s open data portal makes available more than 700 datasets, and there is a robust community of data intermediaries already at work in the city. The city’s existing process for open data sprint projects, iTeam, participation in the Open Government Partnership, and experience with human-centered approaches were especially appealing foundations for a Tactical Data Engagement project. Austin wants to put these assets to work for impact and we’re excited to hit the ground running. Our collaboration will build on the city’s existing work focused on homelessness.

“Open data is a critical part of the City of Austin’s strategic plan. But it is not enough to simply provide access to open data,” said Stephen Elkins, Austin’s Chief Information Officer. “By empowering community leaders to leverage data to make their community better, the Sunlight Foundation’s support will be a catalyst, launching collaboration and innovation across the region.”

Norfolk is closer to the beginning of its open data work. The city launched its very first open data portal this week, and the launch is a uniquely opportune moment for the city to begin convening stakeholders and identifying important local issues where residents could use open data to help.

“Norfolk is excited to participate in the next Tactical Data Engagement pilot,” said Douglas L. Smith, Norfolk City Manager. “As we roll out our open data platform, Sunlight’s support will ensure we deliver data that’s important to our residents. I believe in a connected, collaborative and creative community and increasing citizen engagement through data sharing ensures we’re working together to improve our community.”

We’re looking forward to using what we learned during our Tactical Data Engagement pilots on equitable and complete neighborhoods in Madison, Wisconsin, and Development Services and procurement practices in Glendale, Arizona, to support Austin and Norfolk in building their own approaches to community engagement around open data.

If you live in Austin or Norfolk and are interested in collaborating with us and your city on either of these projects, please get in touch with us. Tactical Data Engagement is a participatory effort, and we want to hear your thoughts about what’s going on in the city and how open data could be leveraged best.

Finally, if your city applied but did not receive assistance this time around, know this: you are already thinking about how to connect open data to community needs, and that is an outstanding accomplishment. You are already going above and beyond to serve your residents well. We expect to have many opportunities to support your work in the future and look forward to exploring those opportunities further.

Congratulations again to Austin and Norfolk! We’re looking forward to collaborating together.