Take the Challenge

Right now the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is hosting a Civic Data Challenge. This challenge hopes to “turn the raw data of ‘civic health’ into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive.”

Judges, that’s me, will evaluate entries based on the quality of the analysis and design, the compelling nature of the finding, and the utility of the product.

You can still take the challenge, deadline is July 29.

The staff of NCoC asked me a few questions about data, and about my hopes for this challenge. Here’s what I had to say:

What got you involved in the world of civic engagement and social innovation? Was there a defining moment?
I worked at the City of Santa Clarita for more than five years on the Application Development team. We created software and applications that helped citizens interact with the city. At the time I didn’t realize that it was civic engagement, but just ways to both help the employees at the city and citizens interact better with the city. In 2008, a large fire took place just outside the city limits and many homes were evacuated. On our web site we had posted information throughout the week about the fire. Hearing the stories of how helpful that was to residents was a defining moment for me, I knew wanted to continue to work in the civic space.

How has data helped you and your work?
Data has helped me and my work tremendously. Taking data and using it for something good let’s the creative juices flow. I never thought that public transit data would be interesting until I built an app on top of the information. I never thought that voting data was interesting until I created an app that showed precinct breakdowns by votes. Without data the applications that we create wouldn’t be as interesting.

Do you have a favorite infographic, app and/or website?
One of my favorite visualizations is MTA.me. The website shows the different MTA subway lines in New York. Each time the subway crosses over another line in the visualization is plays a sound like a guitar string. This is an example of something really creative with public transit data.

I also really like these new maps released by Stamen. The water color maps are really beautiful to look at.

What would you like to see come out of the Civic Data Challenge?
I would really like to see applications built on civic data that we have not seen before. There are many civic apps out there from different challenges that are great. It would be nice to see applications that can really make people say, “wow, that’s cool.”

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