The 2013 Civic Data Challenge: Winners turn data into action

Communities / Article

The Civic Data Challenge is a Knight Foundation-sponsored competition held by the National Conference on Citizenship. The contest brings together community leaders and data, design and tech experts to create apps, websites and data visualizations that can be used to increase civic participation. Below, Ilir Zherka, executive director of the National Conference on Citizenship, writes about the winners of the challenge.

The 2013 Civic Data Challenge’s successes demonstrate a strong appetite to strengthen civic health using creativity and data. But, just why is this so important?

Communities with strong civic health go beyond interacting with the government: They work together to solve problems, they exchange knowledge and ideas, and they engage with local institutions. While communities can survive with less than optimal civic health, sooner or later they will begin to feel the effects in decreased government accountability and increased citizen disaffection.

At the National Conference on Citizenship, we collect civic health data to better measure, understand and shape how our communities and our democracy are functioning. We launched the 2013 Civic Data Challenge to turn this raw data of civic health into tools that communities can use to increase their civic participation. Tech, data, design and nonprofit professionals collaborated with communities to create products that respond to real needs.

The Challenge rolled out in three phases. Participants analyzed a community’s civic issue during the Ideation Phase, built out their program during the Creation Phase, and collaborated with local partners to test and refine that product during the Implementation Phase. Our five winners have proven the utility of their products and shown great long-term potential.

The five winning teams are: 

  • Civic Data Denver partnered with Earth Force to create an interactive visual that empowers youth to take civic action to address social and physical health issues in their community. Civic Data Denver’s website will be used by students and educators where Earth Force programming takes place.
  • The DC Community Resource Directory Project helps residents find health and social services referral information. It establishes “community resource data” as a commons — cooperatively produced and managed by local stakeholders, and open to an ecosystem of applications and users. They are working with a core set of community anchor institutions, including Bread for the City, Martha’s Table and Lutheran Social Services, to continue to develop their product and recruit partners.
  • The Manifesto Project Team asks the question: How does Arizona retain its young leaders? Through a series of events, they collect civic health data from young Arizonans and leverage their findings to place these youth in positions of leadership to influence change.
  • The Outline Team. Their Balanced State Budget Simulator tool allows citizens to assess public policy with the same understanding of the impacts as an economist. We hope that with an increased awareness of the policymaking process, we’ll see an increase in voting rates. The team is currently working with the commonwealth of Massachusetts to test this tool.
  • The Texas Connector Team seeks to correct the pervasive absence of accurate data regarding nonprofit service providers and social and demographic community data. Their website application increases access to community data, enabling stakeholders to more accurately assess community needs and respond.

Information about all five winners can be found at www.civicdatachallenge.org

Thanks to our Civic Data Challenge winners, communities across the nation have cutting-edge tools that can help them take action to strengthen their civic life. While the competition has ended, the challenge of making data on civic health accessible and actionable is far from over. These teams will continue working with their local partners to improve and share their products. I look forward to their progress.

Interested in getting involved? Join the Google Group or email us.