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Sometimes the Best Innovations are the Most Obvious

Consider an online resource where you could search for the best after-school programs for your kids? It seems pretty obvious right? But so far the government hasn’t been able to build a comprehensive online database. That’s where NYU’s Wagner School comes in, they’ve developed a new website called CluedIn. CluedIn is a comprehensive, interactive web-based platform that matches parents and teachers to out-of-school resources around New York City while also capturing data on user preferences, reviews of services, and most searched topics.

Christine Hahn is an MPA student at NYU Wagner. She told Chris Dorobek that she and her team were honored to win the 2013 Fels Public Policy Challenge.

“The website is built to connect parents, teachers, high school students and organizations together. The idea came about after we noticed there was a lack of available resources in NYC. The services we planned include, after-school programs, evaluation forms and really anything to help a child’s learning,” said Hahn. “We realized there was a need for quiclky, easy to use way to access information on the resources that already exist.”

Why Hasn’t This Been Done Before?

“There have been a lot of attempts from different agencies. But one of the trappings of being such a huge city it is hard to keep up to date information in one place that can have a data capture component to it. It is much easier to create static lists but the problem there is that there are a lot of organizations that pop up and then in six months are either close or change. So it is difficult for any one agency to compile all the information,” said Hahn.

Helping the Smaller Programs

“Our sense is the government programs and the much bigger more successful non-profits have the time, money and capacity to advertise and establish a strong presence online, but there are a lot of smaller programs that are just as good but they don’t have the financial capacity to spread the word,” said Hahn.

Competition Process

“Competition made our program better. It forces you to think from every possible perspective not only stakeholders but local government officials too. We have to consider what questions they might ask. How do we present in a way they would understand it and relate to it,” said Hahn.

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Profile Photo Megan

To me one of the most obvious and best uses of government data would be an interactive tool allowing anyone to drill down on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results to the Division level. The data is there, but presented at a high level only for public access, and presented in piecemeal to the employees, with an interesting spin towards the organizations with higher rankings, and no mention of the “gulags” or orgs with historically low rankings. This would include the safety and mission assurance directorates, allowing a clearer view into Agency subcomponenets where health and safety regulations are overridden and violations are “covered up”.

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Profile Photo Terrence Hill

I like Megan’s idea! I just filled out my 2013 survey. I’m not holding my breathe that it will make a difference, but I feel it is my obligation. For the government to be innovative, they just need to stop fighting progress and start listening to employees. For instance, BYOD. Let’s just let employees use their own smart phones, tablets, and other devices. Stop wasting money on lanlines, blackberries, and clunky laptops. There are lots of common sense ideas like this that can not only save money but make work a more enjoyable experience. We just need to have the courage to implement them.

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Profile Photo Megan

Another tool I would love to see would be a front end to a database containing all of the OGP country commitments in the National Action Plans, allowing for different views of the data for comparison purposes across countries. This could expose areas where cost savings between countries could lower the bar for some of the more challenging commitments (e.g., ExpertNet or the legislative data/citizen lawmaking tools).

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