DIY: Financial Transparency

“Data can be beautiful, and it should be.”

That’s what Julie Steenson, Deputy Performance Officer for the City of Kansas City, described as the inspiration behind the city’s engagement with data and citizens in Wednesday’s online training, “How Kansas City Engaged Citizens with Open Data.” In order to make data accessible to a wide variety of citizens, “it was the natural next move,” said Steenson.

But what really is a citywide business plan without city residents? This was the question Kansas City asked themselves before outlining the city’s priorities – a bottom-up approach that focuses on individual programs first, followed by council goals and department strategic business plans. Read on and view the on-demand training here to learn how Kansa City made data available to residents, with a narrative twist.

How To Generate Citizen Buy-in With Financial Transparency

Kansas City recognized missed opportunities to engage with different types of citizens around data. Does this sound similar to what you’re trying to overcome in your city?

Scott Huizenga, Budget Officer for Kansas City, encouraged city council members to get citizen input on the front-end of processes, instead of waiting until they’ve already adopted the plan. It’s important to remember that a citywide business plan requires not only data, but citizen buy-in to operate, he said.

Eric Roche, Chief Data Officer for Kansas City, noted the point that visualization of the data really matters. He warned that how you present your data could really make or break your efforts. Roche suggested that you take your data a step further, “off the computer screen, getting it out in a way that engages the public.”

Kansas City partnered with the city’s communications and cultural offices to engage local working artists, supplying them a $500 stipend to do real art based on data. This private investment in the community is how Kansas City continues to open up information and tell stories with data. “If someone is not digesting your data, then your data is pretty useless,” said Steenson when explaining what the art is doing for transparency for their citizens.

Here are artwork examples from the community of Kansas City:

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Communicating data is integral. Think you’re up to creating visualized data for your city? While open data could be a “Do it Yourself” project, mimicking success stories like Kansas City, there are also tools you can use to get the result you’re looking for quickly. Check out Socrata’s Financial Transparency Suite to learn how you can create customer visualization tools for an interactive, financial engagement with your citizens and be sure to view the on-demand training here.


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