On Wednesday, the Knight Community Information Challenge, which offers community foundations matching funds for news and information projects, opens for applications. While the challenge seeks a range of ideas, this year it has a special focus on Open Government projects. It will run through July 1, 2013. In that vein, below Sally Duros writes an update on the Chicago Community Trust's efforts in that arena. The following is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center's blog. Photo credit: Flickr user: Vincent Dejardins. To understand Open Government in Chicago, start by visiting Schoolcuts.org and pick a school. Any school. More than 38,000 children will be affected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed school closings in Chicago. Angry parents are marching in the streets and debate is heated about whether the process was fair and open. The Chicago school system makes public nearly all of its data, but the data lacks context that would make it useful for making arguments about specific school closings. Making sense of it is too big a job for most passionate parents. Enter a group of volunteers, including a grassroots parents group, web developers, data scientists and coders passionate about open government and education. They created the Schoolcuts.org site to provide information to the public in a visual form that would be useful for understanding the problems — or not — with each school closing and how it might affect the children and the neighborhoods. “The very day that CPS announced the school closing list, that evening a group of software coders put up the site Schoolcuts.org,” says Terry Mazany, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, who had also served as interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools in 2010. “They had aggregated all the datasets about school performance. And geomapped the schools that are on the list for closing …. That’s the sort of service you would hope that government might provide but these groups did it out of a sense of community service,” he says. “They had this site up and running — and it is masterful." Development of the Schoolcuts.org tool to solve a problem for the public, means conversations and research begun four years earlier by the Chicago Community Trust have come full circle.
The following is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center's blog. The following is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center's blog. It is written by Sally Duros, a social journalist, editor and digital strategist. Photo credit: Flickr user Irene2005. The City of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have a history of non-transparent governance and budgeting. But that is changing rapidly through a public media transformation — supported by a community foundation — that could be a model for other places reeling from environmental and economic storms. Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, post the BP oil spill and in the midst of a stressed economy, the Greater New Orleans Foundation took action to fortify a budding media system that serves its 13-parish region. The foundation's goal was to avert a potential information desert. The effort included winning a $100,000 Knight Community Information Challenge grant to help expand the city’s NPR affiliate, WWNO, so it could provide local news. A few short months later, in May 2012, the local newspaper, New Orleans Times-Picayune announced it would print only three days a week, making New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. The potential information desert loomed more closely. Fortunately, other sources of news are emerging and partnering. Here are key lessons so far: 1. Identify gaps