39 fresh ideas to support community use of open data


Yesterday we hosted “Fresh ideas for supporting community use of open data,” an interactive workshop with open data professionals from across the country about how to help residents from all walks of life find, understand, and use publicly available data.

To everyone who joined us, thank you! We had intended this to be a resource for open data staff in cities, but we wound up getting an enormous amount out of it ourselves. We got new ideas and are excited to share here what we heard and learned.

A copy of the presentation is available above and an audio recording of the event is available below. (A technical glitch prevented us from correctly capturing the video of the event. We apologize for the inconvenience.)

If you weren’t able to join us yesterday — or if you did join and want a recap of the discussion — check out all the tips, resources, events, and projects that were shared throughout the course of the event:

  1. What civic technology looks like in North Carolina from the UNC School of Government
  2. Learn more about the degrees of power-sharing and impact from the International Association for Public Participation
  3. For anyone in or near Ohio, join the Sunlight Foundation and the Open Data Initiative at Ohio Data Demo Day on May 23
  4. Nextdoor is becoming a great place to build place-based relationships
  5. Check out New York City’s incredibly comprehensive Street Tree Map. And if you like that and want more, check out DC’s street tree map and the Open Tree Map application.
  6. Why your city needs a local data intermediary
  7. Learn about using raster and sf packages to map trees and permeable surfaces from Data Camp
  8. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s open data and policing project
  9. Some of Hack Oregon’s collaborative projects
  10. Washington DC’s streamlined information about its school boundary redraw
  11. The National Civic League believes that “communities with inclusive civic engagement—where everyone has a place at the table to define, direct and implement public services and amenities—experience greater equity, display greater civic pride and exhibit stronger civic responsibility.”
  12. The Center for Applied Earth Sciences offers “tools and resources to improve public health and safety, as well as environmental and social conditions” from the University of Memphis.
  13. People like the outreach manager at your local university, or programs on citizen interaction design and community impact, can be good places to start building partnerships with universities. You can also try engaging with Public Administration grad students — in Portland, UW students are facilitating resident surveys.
  14. How to approach your local library, from the Civic Switchboard project
  15. Gilbert, Arizona co-hosts an annual Civic Spark App League for middle and high school students to learn coding skills and build apps
  16. OpenNews “connects a network of developers, designers, journalists, and editors to collaborate on open technologies and processes within journalism.”
  17. City Bureau in Chicago is taking a data journalism approach to tracking civic meetings.
  18. “Ethnographic interviews by open data officers would be an excellent standard practice.”
  19. WPRDC’s user personas
  20. For help with building data literacy with your staff, check out Datapolitan
  21. “We get a lot of our info about users/consumers from our data analytics”
  22. Sunlight’s user personas for the City of Madison, WI, created in partnership with Reboot
  23. “An idea on mining for personas: public testimony at council hearings becoming part of public record. These could be a good resource for identifying use of data and need for data by advocates looking to solve local problems. 
  24. “We’ve reached out to neighborhood organizers to get their input on the kind of data they need in their neighborhoods.”
  25. WPRDC’s Analytics Dashboards that humanizes data utilization
  26. The National Neighborhoods Indicators Partnership has a wealth of resources on community outreach for data efforts
  27. Syracuse’s open snow plow data
  28. USC’s Neighborhood Data for Social Change work
  29. LA Counts is “the first comprehensive library of datasets + data stories about and for Los Angeles County. The project aims to gather together all data that pertains to the county, including federal, state, regional and local.”
  30. Equitable Open Data, from the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition
  31. NYC Opportunity’s work doing design outreach to improve services
  32. “It’s all about storytelling!” “Both user-driven storytelling and agency-driven storytelling.”
  33. Data Refuge’s data storybook
  34. To understand who is using open data, one city “created a login wall for our community indicators website – either creating accounts or signing in via LinkedIn, GitHub, Facebook, etc.”
  35. Louisville started collecting apps that use open data
  36. “We have a ‘brag book’ process: any mention of data use — for grants, for planning, for projects, for advocacy, etc.—goes to a staff member who collects for documentation and future reference.”
  37. “Portal owners could showcase use examples, and maybe help bridge the gap between open data teams’ enthusiasm and data owner/agencies hesitation of releasing data.”
  38. Syracuse’s portal has a form at the bottom where anyone can tell the city how they’ve used open data
  39. Read the public feedback on the City of Buffalo’s open data portal

For even more ideas about how you can help residents of your city find, understand, and use open data, listen to the recorded version of the full discussion in the sound file linked below:

We thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Thank you again to everyone who joined us. If you have questions about this event or ideas for events in the future, email us! We would love to hear suggestions, requests, and ideas for how we can do more to empower community use of open data.