Today we’re proud to officially announce that Civic Insight has been selected as a winner of the Knight Foundation’s 2013 News Challenge on Open Gov. We’re humbled that our work has been recognized alongside seven extremely impressive projects, out of the original pool of 821 applicants. The Knight Foundation’s investment in our company will help us grow our team so that we can continue to refine and expand our offering for our municipal customers, and allow us to test new use cases for Civic Insight in more communities.
Our journey began nearly 18 months ago when our team had the privilege of partnering with the City of New Orleans for our 2012 Code for America fellowship. During our residency, we met with dozens of community groups, nonprofits, local businesses and city staff to determine how we could best serve both the City’s and the community’s needs.
The result was BlightStatus, an easy-to-use, public website that connects directly to internal government data systems to make information about the status of vacant properties available to the public in real-time. In New Orleans, BlightStatus is being used daily by hundreds of residents, who are watching thousands of properties citywide. The tool has become the primary resource for information about blighted properties, not just for citizens and local organizations, but for City Council representatives and 311 operators within City Hall as well.
We decided to form a for-profit social enterprise around our product when cities across the U.S. approached us with an interest in putting our technology to work for them after our launch in October 2012. Like New Orleans, many of these cities were also struggling with vacancy issues, but we were surprised to find that many others had creative ideas about how our technology could provide the public with insight into a range of other place-based issues, even beyond blight and vacancy.
For example, in addition to the code enforcement data currently available in BlightStatus, which reveals insights about blighted or vacant properties in a neighborhood, several other municipalities were interested in making permitting and licensing data available, to provide insight into the economic development of city by making it easier to understand what businesses are opening and where construction is happening. We’re excited to explore these new use cases, and to reflect this broadening effort, we’ve renamed our technology “Civic Insight.”
In the months since our fellowship ended, we’ve joined Code for America’s inaugural Incubator cohort, and have been hard at work creating a flexible code base, developing new features, and talking to a diverse range of cities to more fully understand the spectrum of use cases that our product can support.
The Knight Foundation’s investment in Civic Insight underscores the importance of making complex government data easier to access and understand for citizens, by leveraging technologies from the consumer web and putting them to work for the public sector. “While technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, it is only beginning to affect the civic sphere,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation’s vice president for journalism and media innovation. “We see a tremendous opportunity in developing new technologies and approaches that can reinvent the way people relate to their governments, and ultimately strengthen our democracy.”
We’re honored and excited to become part of the Knight community, and look forward to sharing more in the coming year!
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Civic Insight is available now – if you are a government representative interested in putting Civic Insight to work for your community, sign up here or get in touch at hello [@] civicinsight.com.
Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.