Accelerating the effective use of data by governments

Listen to the Data Points Podcast
Louisville Analog Hackathon

Data Points Podcast Episode 38 – Analog Hacking in Louisville

Organizing a hackathon is common concept for the civic tech movement. Bringing people together to solve a problem in a short period of time creates urgency, community, and a sense of shared purpose using data. However, hackathons can seem exclusive to certain members of a community unless planned with accessibility and data literacy in mind. In…


Data Points Podcast Episode 37 – Maps and More

Maps are everywhere throughout our lives. Whether using Google Maps, Yelp, riding the bus, or hiking at a national park, maps can turn data into easily consumable and useful information. However, making and using maps also comes with pitfalls that savvy data users should be aware of. In this episode Eric and Rebecca talk with…


Doing Stat without “Stat”

Image Credit: Sometimes, when we’re talking to cities that are just beginning a performance practice, our city champions will express that starting an “official” city Stat program doesn’t feel like the right move. When they look at our “Is Stat Right for You?” questionnaire, they see they still have a number of steps to…

Water podcast

Data Points Podcast Episode 36 – Water and Data in California

Nothing is more critical to people’s lives than water. Local governments across the US usually do such a good job of providing safe, clean water that it’s often overlooked. However, recent high profile incidents in Flint, MI (lead), and in California (drought) have brought water and local government back into the conversation. In this episode,…

Open government in Buenos Aires is not just metaphorical. In 2015, the city opened the doors to a new city hall characterized by open spaces, natural light, and an open door policy for residents.

Three Open Government Innovations from Buenos Aires Your City Should Know About

In open government and civic tech circles, it’s common to hear about the exciting work underway in San Francisco, Chicago, and Chattanooga. And exciting work it is. These innovative cities have been at the vanguard of a movement that has inspired countless other cities to advance, many through assistance from GovEx. But there is plenty…

Transportation data USDOT

Data Points Podcast Episode 35 – Improving with Transportation Data

Transportation is a key issue for many governments. From transit planning to roads and bridges and autonomous vehicles, transportation affects all residents of communities in one way or another. Using data has long been a critical piece of transportation improvement efforts and all kinds of governments can learn from these experiences. In this episode, Sharon and…


How are cities helping kids get to school?

Last Friday, the JHU Institute for Education Policy (IEP) released a commentary hypothesizing that “complicated, costly, and time-consuming school commutes” may have negative implications for student attendance and achievement. The issue of transportation is especially relevant in districts that have adopted school-choice policies, which can vary from allowing students to attend public schools outside of…

in Blog

Data Points Podcast Episode 34 – Compared to Jackson

Comparing budget data is no easy task for cities. Categories aren’t standardized, budget cycles often don’t align, and each city funds its priorities differently according to the governmental structure, age, and size among other factors. However, cities need to be able to compare budget and spending data in order to understand how their spending is…


Like Ambulances, Data Needs to be Treated as a Strategic Asset

Why we need more government Chief Data Officers Ambulances aren’t magical, self-maintaining machines. They must be stocked with bandages, defibrillators, and burn kits. Like any other car, they must have air in their tires, plenty of fuel, and working headlights. They are frequently inspected, and repaired or replaced when they break down. They are upgraded when…

How eliminating CDBG affects communities

The Trump Administration budget sent to Congress on March 16th, 2017 would eliminate the $3 billion federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which provides affordable housing and services to vulnerable individuals. In its place Trump proposes to “devolve community and economic development activities to the State and local level, and redirect Federal resources to other…

Data Science Right

Data Points Podcast Episode 33 – Data Science Done Right

Data science is a hot topic among many cities. But few are doing it right. Understanding the buzzwords, data quality needs, skill sets, and what kinds of  government problems lend themselves to data science techniques is challenging. All cities need guidance in how to structure problems, implement data science techniques, and use the results to improve outcomes for…

How to Participate in Open Data Day 2017

Image Source: For the seventh year in a row, people around the world are celebrating Open Data Day this spring. While each event can choose their own theme, focus and goals, the organizers of Open Data Day 2017 are focusing our collective efforts on four areas: open research data, tracking public money flows, open…

Space and Time analysis

Data Points Podcast Episode 32 – Understanding Cities across Space and Time

As cities work hard to help residents thrive, the neighborhoods they live in are often the front lines of some pretty tough challenges. Simultaneously keeping housing affordable, properties maintained, neighborhoods safe, and businesses open are all efforts that require a robust understanding of how investments and policies shape outcomes across both space and time. Fortunately,…


How to Run an Open Data Bootcamp in Your City

If your city looking to get seriously coordinated, in shape, and marching in lockstep when releasing data to the public, you should consider heading to bootcamp — open data bootcamp. I recently helped facilitate an open data bootcamp in Lincoln, Nebraska, and can tell you the event was immediately impactful and easy to put together…

Data privacy and sensitivity

Data Points Podcast Episode 31 – Protecting Data, Protecting Residents

Data privacy and security have been and continue be a huge conversation in the government data world. What data are sensitive? Do governments need to collect all the data they have? How do governments protect their data and residents once they do collect the data? We explore these questions and more on this week’s Data…


Data Points Podcast Episode 29 – The Open Government Partnership

Data use is exploding across governments not only in the US, but around the world as well. To dive deeper into the international waters, Data Points is hosting a series of discussions focusing on data use outside the US. We’ll be talking with practitioners and policy makers from around the world about how data use is…

Magnifying glass looking at cracks in the sidewalk

Avoiding Analysis as Usual

High-performing organizations are re-awakening to an innate truth: analysis is not an end unto itself. Analysis is a means to advance the performance of the enterprise. Treating analysis like an enterprise asset to improve performance is not easy. Many governments know they need analytics, but they park the capability in siloed programs and invest sparingly…

in Blog
Canada open data

Data Points Podcast Episode 27 – What’s Up in Canada

Data use is exploding across governments not only in the US, but around the world as well. To dive deeper into the international waters, Data Points is hosting a series of discussions focusing on data use outside the US. We’ll be talking with practitioners and policy makers from around the world about how data use is…


Cities that Shape Schools

Good schools are an important indicator of the strength of urban communities. Good schools keep families invested in urban living, encourage new businesses, and anchor neighborhoods. To this end, city leaders often support district schools by securing legislative funds, allocating city resources, and partnering with philanthropies. The shape of America’s urban school systems, however, is…

10 Dos and Don’ts for Creating Infographics

“Infographics” and its sister “data visualization” may be some of the buzziest buzzwords there are today, especially in government. However, simply calling something an infographic does not make it so. Here are our top 10 dos and don’ts for creating beautiful, effective infographics. 1. Don’t forget to cite your sources. Look, it’s really simple: if…


Data Points Podcast Episode 26 – GovEx 2016 Wrap Up

It’s the final GovEx Data Points podcast of 2016! A time for reflection and celebration of the year that was. So, like our Thanksgiving podcast, we’ve gathered members of the GovEx “family” around the table (and the microphone) to share their thoughts and ideas about the world of government and data in 2016 and what we can look forward to…


2016 In Review

2016 has been a busy year! GovEx launched our Data Points podcast, covering topics like race in urban America with JHU professor Dr. Nathan Connolly, how governments can nudge people, and using data to fight HIV in DC. This year, GovEx visited 63 cities, including four in Europe and South America. We took deep dives to…


Data Points Podcast Episode 24 – Tackling HIV with Data

In this episode, producer Amy Hutchinson explains how the District of Columbia used data to reduce HIV transmissions by 70% in 7 years. It’s a story rife with lessons on how important data is in tackling major public health problems that threaten the lives and well-being of our children, friends, family and neighbors. When District…


Predictive Analytics: Better than human intuition?

In 2014, ProPublica found that the formula used in Broward County to assign risk scores to residents indicating their likelihood to commit a violent crime within two years was “particularly likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals, wrongly labeling them this way at almost twice the rate as white defenders,” and that “white…


Data Points Podcast Episode 23 – Holiday Resources And Fun

Stuffed with turkey? Avoiding conversations about politics with your family? Trying to build your data skills even though it’s a holiday weekend? Well then you are in luck as the GovEx team has options for you. Listen as Sophia Dengo, Sheila Dugan, and Matt Pazoles from the GovEx team join Sharon and Eric to discuss their…

Louisville 311 Service Requests Streamgraph

Your 311, Streamgraphed

Six years ago, Wired published an in-depth article about using 311 data as a tool for engaging with and measuring the needs of New York City’s constituents. The captivating image, shown here, presented 7 days of data represented as a single 24-hour view and left me thinking deeply about 311 calls. Sewer maintenance problems were…

10 Steps to Start An Analytics Training Program in Your City Government

“We collect and have a lot of data, but we don’t have enough analytical capacity to make it usable and actionable or to support decision-making.”  This is the mantra of city government employees across the US. While city staff are willing, able, and available to grow their analytical capacities, they often lack the necessary resources…


Data Points Podcast Episode 21 – Race and Urban America

At GovEx, we work with cities around the country whose leaders are committed to revitalizing aging neighborhoods, and reversing declining property values. These issues are critical to many cities and strategies to address them must incorporate a strong knowledge of the history of urban spaces, including race and racial dynamics. Recently, GovEx Senior Advisor Katherine…

How Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Vehicles Are Destroying Our Roads, and Why Cities and States will have the Solution

Much ink has been spilled about the deterioration of America’s infrastructure in recent years: the American Society of Engineers grades our road system as a D, presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debated infrastructure programs on the campaign trail, and The Economist asks “Is U.S. Infrastructure Destined to Crumble?” Even maintaining our current level…


Addressing Blight in Flint

When you think of Flint, Michigan, your first thought is likely of befouled water, not of blight, but the City is making great strides in curbing blight in its community. Serving as the linchpin and bringing together residents, community groups, nonprofits, and philanthropies, Flint has taken steps to combat blight through a few repeatable steps…

International Open Data Conference 2016 in Madrid

Recapping the International Open Data Conference

Sunshine. Tapas. Open Data. These three things (not necessarily in that order) sum up the International Open Data Conference (IODC) that three members of the GovEx team recently attended. Open Data Director Andrew Nicklin, and Senior Implementation Advisors Rebecca Williams and Eric Reese got a chance to spend the week of October 3rd in Madrid…

IODC episode

Data Points Podcast Episode 19 – IODC Recap

The most recent International Open Data Conference (IODC) took place in Madrid, Spain, during the first week of October.  GovEx Open Data Director Andrew Nicklin and Senior Implementation Advisors Rebecca Williams and Eric Reese attended the conference and sat down to share their thoughts on the state of open data around the world in this episode. Through the…

Star Cluster NGC 411

Comparing Cities with Data Mining Tools

If you are in a mid-sized city and you want to compare your spending or performance to one or more other mid-sized cities, you have 286 cities to choose from. Knowing which cities are appropriate for comparison can be difficult and mysterious. At GovEx, we wanted to simplify the process of finding comparable cities by using…

Three Ways Data Quality Challenges Arise

Data influences our lives in a myriad of ways every day. We use it to choose restaurants, get us to destinations faster, combat gun violence, optimize our food and water supplies, and predict the likelihood of reincarceration. Electronic information is increasingly a north star for personal decisions, companies, and policymakers whose decisions have long-lasting effects…

in Blog

Data Quality (September 2016 Office Hours)

High quality data allows for better delivery of services, more trustworthy insight, and clearer actionable intelligence. Short-term data collection (weeks/months) efforts often use tools like Microsoft Excel trades extreme flexibility for minimal quality checking. Long-term data systems (years/decades) can suffer from poor documentation, relying extensively on institutional knowledge and inevitably changing requirements. As part of…

Data Points Podcast Episode 18 – The Police Data Initiative

Transparency in policing has come to national attention in recent years due the exposure of numerous civilian deaths at the hands of police officers across the country. To help improve understanding of police and community interactions, the Police Data Initiative was formally launched by the White House in May 2015. Although the Police Data Initiative is a federal initiative, it…

Data Points Podcast Episode 17 – Data Quality

In this episode, we talk with Stephanie Singer, a technologist with diverse career accomplishments as a data strategist, entrepreneur, professor, and elected government official. After she earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics and tenure at a top-ten liberal arts college and worked as a Data Strategist in a small business, she defeated a 36-year incumbent in a citywide…

Episode 16

Data Points Podcast Episode 16 – What is Data Science?

A phrase often used in our field without much clarity is “data science.” This week we try to demystify some buzzwords and explain data science through a discussion with two GovEx staffers who recently attended the Data Science for Social Good conference held in Chicago. GovEx Senior Implementation Advisor Matt Pazoles and Analyst Nick Hadjigeorge attended the conference a few…


Data Points Podcast Episode 15 – Seattle’s Plan for Openness

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the US and has long been known for being data-savvy due its association with companies like Amazon and Microsoft. However, it’s not just the private sector that’s promoting innovation and data use. The City of Seattle also works hard on incorporating data, being open about its practices,…

Kansas City Missouri streetcar route map, 1912.

Sensational Cities

How is Kansas City’s streetcar helping the City make dangerous buildings safer? With its new smart city corridor, Kansas City, Missouri is using real time data and analyses to address priorities that are top of mind for residents and city staff. The KC Smart City initiative is a microcosm of the decision-making possibilities now in reach for cities across the world. …


Data Points Podcast Episode 13 – Shining Light on Data

The concepts of sunshine laws and open government have grown in prominence around the US in recent years. However, governments often have difficulty keeping up with changes and determining what works in terms of transparency and accountability. One of the oldest nonprofits focused on helping communities make sense of these shifts is the Sunlight Foundation. If you’re…

3 ways to find & hire new talent in government

Finding, hiring, and retaining talent with skills using data and technology is a massive challenge in government. The question is constant: how do you find the people you need to use your data effectively, or to leverage new technology in government? We at GovEx recently released Cultivating Talent, a resource geared at helping answer that…


Data Points Podcast Episode 12 – Eating Your Open Data Vegetables

A lot of US cities are just getting started with open data, but Philadelphia has been in the data game for awhile. Philly’s open data program has released over 200 datasets, including those focusing on city contracts and the city budget. In this episode, Sharon and Eric chat with Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski of the City…

Data points episode 11

Data Points Podcast Episode 11 – Making Analytics Work

A lot of people these days are using the buzz word “analytics,” but few people actually know what it is or how it works in government. Getting started with analytics can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In this episode, Sharon and Eric chat with What Works Cities fellow and former New York…

Training in Denver

3 Ways to Train Your City to Use Data

If data is the new bacon, training is the grill that makes that it edible. Raw data, like raw bacon isn’t great, but it has potential if you know how to use it. To make raw data useful, people need skills and tools to understand data, analyze it, and act upon it effectively. There are…


Is Civic Tech Dead?

I met Melissa Kraft, Chief Data Officer in Denton, Texas, at West Oak Coffee Bar on a Tuesday last April for the Little D Open Coffee Club meetup. We were soon joined by Assistant City Manager Bryan Langley, and Alison Ream and Jessica Rogers, key staff in the City Manager’s Office. Before long, our table…


Data Points Podcast Episode 9 – Open Source Kindness

“Open source kindness.” That’s how OpenReferral talks about how it helps people connect to food pantries, medical clinics, mental healthcare, youth services, computer refurbishment programs, et cetera. OpenReferral, a “non-organization” community of practice, is the latest advancement in a century-old field helping people access human services. GovEx’s Director of Open Data, Andrew Nicklin, sits down with…

Opening 311 Data (July 2016 Office Hours)

Customer service data such as calls to a city’s 311 center provides leaders with insights into the pulse of a city and the needs of its residents and businesses. Many jurisdictions make this data available to the public, albeit inconsistently, enabling researchers, journalists, non-profit organizations, and others to understand where needs are and how well…


Data Points Podcast Episode 8 – Nudges for Government

What is a “nudge?” How can human behavior, and errors, affect the everyday work of government? How can data help government start to correct those errors? We discuss these questions and more with Elspeth Kirkman of the Behavioral Insights Team (or BIT) in this week’s episode of Data Points. Elspeth is the Head of BIT North America,…

Performance Based Budgeting (June 2016 Office Hours)

Many cities see “performance-based budgeting (PBB)” as a fundamental and powerful practice in their governing transformation. But how do you turn an existing budgeting process into one that is performance-based (or at least performance-informed)? Who is doing it well? What can cities realistically expect from performance-budgeting efforts? What are the key things to get right…


Data Points Podcast Episode 7 – Applied Math and City Data in Baltimore

“The problems and the data are alike in city work and astronomy,” according to this episode’s guest, Tamas Budavari, Assistant Professor of Applied Math and Statistics at Johns Hopkins University. Tamas is working to apply the same solutions he built to answer how the universe was formed to understand how housing becomes vacant and blighted…

Settling the “Gotcha PerformanceStat” Debate

Gotcha is a word that often unsettles many managers in performance management programs. For the most part, managers get frightened about anything performance if there is a gotcha connotation. People who are less favorable of “strict” and collective accountability practices often dismiss the value of Stat programs. They would easily agree with Norman Vincent Peale’s…

How to Budget Responsibly: Evaluating Budget Proposal Metrics

Budgeting is hard. It requires difficult choices and frequently leaves government leaders open to criticism. What if there was a way to make the budgeting process more engaging, transparent, and straightforward, allowing cities to get ahead of this criticism and defend difficult choices? It’s called performance-based budgeting: allocating funds based on programmatic results that contribute…


Data Points Podcast Episode 6 – Visualize Data Like a Pro

Data visualization is a hot topic. Everyone wants visualizations that are simple, fun, and easy to understand. But where should you start when visualizing your data? This week we talk to Jon Schwabish, a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute and data visualization guru, to discuss his thoughts on how to get in the data…

Don’t Build A Dashboard Until You Read These Three Tips

If you’re thinking about building a public, online performance dashboard to update your constituents, you’re not alone. Dashboards are a popular way to get a bird’s eye view of city operations. It’s easy to see their appeal and to understand why almost every city manager and mayor I have met during the course of our What…

Oh, the places we’ve been!

The GovEx team travels all over the country visiting What Works Cities, but it’s not all work all the time! In our downtime, we explore the cities we’re visiting. A delicious meal or a walk through downtown can be a great way to get to know a new place. This is also a team that…


Untangling 311 Request Data

One of the datasets most commonly shared by governments is non-emergency service request data. However, despite there being some clear common threads between jurisdictions, this information is largely a tangled mess. With some simple analysis and a partnership with the Open311 community, we hope we can change that.

in Blog

Community Engagement: Of the people, by the people, with the people

After school care, suicide prevention, pothole repair, national defense. Government does a lot of good for people. But as governments look to engage their communities, the fact that they are designed to do for people gets in the way. Community engagement is not about doing *for* people, it’s about doing *with*. Community engagement is a pillar of the open data movement. Almost…

Being ‘Sensitive’ about Data Sensitivity

Open data is great because it’s open. But not all data is meant to be open. A lot of it is “sensitive.” What could be “open data” is often classified as “sensitive data” to protect the personal information and identity of individuals. Sensitive data may be restricted from publication, or it may be cleared for…

Episode 1 (1)

Data Points Podcast Episode 1 – Flint’s Water

GovEx Director of Performance and Analytics Carter Hewgley joins us to discuss the important issue of lead poisoning across the country. His experience at FEMA and at the District of Columbia government gives him a great perspective on what can be done at both the national and local level to combat this issue. Check out…

WWC Summit Recap (May 2016 Office Hours)

On April 19th & 20th, city government leaders from across the United States met in New York City for the first What Works Cities Summit. In this office hours, we recap some of the highlights of the summit with colleagues from Anchorage, Buffalo, Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma. We discuss who made impressions, what’s has been happening post-summit,…

Raifman GovEx Travel Infographic

Traversing the Globe for Cities

I love air travel. I love the commotion of an airport and its city-like infrastructure and society, pondering the life story of my fellow passengers, and the planes themselves as marvels of human innovation. And at least some of my spare time is spent thinking about the aviation sector, whether its looking for opportunities to…

Episode 0

Welcome to the Data Points Podcast

Welcome to GovEx Data Points, a podcast focusing on all things data and government! This is our first ever episode, so thanks for listening. In this episode, we’ll walk through some background information on GovEx and provide an introduction to what we plan to cover in future episodes. The podcast is brought to you by the team…

A look at what we're reading this week.

Reading List for May 1

As you no doubt know from previous GovEx blog posts, we are both avid readers and Slack users. Every week, we pass around numerous topical articles related to how governments use data to make smarter decisions and improve outcomes for their constituents. But why keep these interesting tidbits locked inside our own Slack channels? Are…

Eight Ways We Slack at GovEx

I wasn’t a Slacker until I joined GovEx, though plenty of people in my network were raving about it. I love text chat and used various instant messaging and online presence tools over the years. I was excited to join an organization which prefers communication tools beyond e-mail. Here’s how we make it work.

in Blog

The GovEx Book Club

If you’ve worked with us, it won’t surprise you that our office is full of people who spend the day reading articles and books about data and governing. But we love to read about other subjects, too! We wanted to provide a taste of what we have been reading lately. Read on to see what…

Target Setting Categories

How many runs are enough? Getting better at setting targets

Baseball is a game of numbers. As spring training wraps up and the season approaches, each team is trying to set targets for their performance this year and set expectations for success. Governments are also often asked to set performance targets. Questions such as, “How many cases will the department resolve?,” “How much money will the government…

Code Across Portal Engagement: A Retrospective

During the 2016 Code Across, dozens of groups around the world used open data to create solutions to challenges in their local communities, and the event is generating an increasing amount of data portal activity. In this post, I will dig deeper into the numbers and explore the past four years of data portal activity…

GovEx Joins the White House Opportunity Project

Last week, the White House launched the Opportunity Project, an initiative aimed at leveraging federal and city data to improve urban economic mobility. GovEx joins more than a dozen nonprofit and private sector organizations to support this initiative. We’re making ourselves available to cities that we’re currently working with to help them add data to the platform and to…

Contract and Population

Open Data – How Much Does It Cost?

Everyone favors knowing the cost and benefits of their actions. Knowing the cost of open data is no different. Almost each day, we all confront situations requiring us to select from many alternatives. Some of the choices can be simple; for example, choosing from a restaurant menu, deciding the color of clothing to wear, which…

How to Hire an Employee in 30 Days

When Denise McKay, Director of the Department of Personnel Management, took her new position with the City of Jackson, it took 84 days to get an individual hired. Like many professionals responsible for recruiting and hiring government employees, Director McKay was interested in reducing the number of days it takes to hire a new City…

Getting the Most Out of Your Energy Data

It takes political will, clear goals, and stamina to maintain robust databases and ensure that energy data is used in a meaningful way. When you get your monthly utility bill, it’s easy to see how much energy you used in a month or year, or to see how your consumption rates against your neighbors. But for cities, getting…

Benchmarking (March 2016 Office Hours)

One of the top questions cities ask GovEx is “how do we leverage benchmarking to improve our performance?” Benchmarking is tricky because it requires finding another city to compare yourself to, and most cities don’t have an identical twin – they have cousins. During this office hours, we highlighted multiple practitioners who have first-hand experience…

Investigating Seattle Police Department’s SeaStat

Download GovEx’s SeaStat Case Study as a PDF Table of Contents Introduction A Brief History of Stat SeaStat’s Evolution and Successes SeaStat in Practice What’s Next for SeaStat? How to Bring This Type of Stat Program to Your City/Department? Introduction “CompStat will take the police department to the next level in observing, mapping and tracking…


Four Ways to Improve Your Stat Program

Wouldn’t it be great if your stat program could get you quick wins while also building community engagement? That’s just what the Seattle Police Department was able to do, even after a string of false starts, with its performance management program SeaStat. Through reasonable and effective improvements, SeaStat has created what SPD’s previous iterations weren’t…


Help GovEx Gather #WhatWorks on Open Data Day 2016

Open Data Day 2016 is just around the corner on March 5th. GovEx is getting into the international hack day spirit by offering a few challenges of our own. This Open Data Day, GovEx is calling on YOU to help determine #WhatWorks throughout the international open data community. You don’t need to be a coder…

Open Data: Measuring What Matters

Introduction Open data and performance analytics are often separate practices, but are inextricable when it comes to the operations of modern governance. Open data provides the raw material for analysis and open data programs can have many goals, including increasing government transparency, sharing information to aid in decision making, engaging a broader coalition of stakeholders,…

GovEx Launches New Course

Over the last nine months, the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) has visited nearly 50 cities across the United States. These “discovery sessions” help Bloomberg Philanthropies and the What Works Cities initiative collect a national baseline that measures the acuity of cities for using data and evidence to inform policy decisions. Over the next 18…


Baltimore’s Art Deserts

I love city life for many reasons. The farmers market on Sundays (and Saturdays if I wake up in time), lunch at the Baltimore Museum of Art or Lexington Market, local food trucks, local beer…I could go on. Opportunities for good food and culture abound in Baltimore, and easy access to both are arguably some…

Durham City and County decided to open data together as a part of their commitment to community.

Open Data Across Government Lines: Advice from Durham, NC

Open data has many benefits for governments and communities: providing new channels to engage residents and community groups, increasing government transparency, and improving internal efficiency through data sharing to name a few (shameless plug – check out the GovEx Open Data page to see more). But often important data is scattered across different agencies, jurisdictions,…

Measuring Open Data (February 2016 Hours)

Cities all over the US are actively using data and evidence in decision making, investing in what works, and improving the lives of their residents. Open data programs are a fundamental and powerful practice in this important transformation of governing. But how do you measure the impact of your open data efforts? Just as measurement…

Open Data on a Dime

Starting an open data initiative from scratch can seem like a daunting effort. GovEx has built some excellent resources, but I wanted to share my experience working on establishing a portal in the State of Maryland. Giving a first-hand account of some of the challenges we faced can help others in the same situation succeed….

The Silent Elevator

I was late to a meeting when the elevator stopped to pick up two more people, one significantly older than the other, but both employees in my organization. Based on their conversation, I could tell the older gentleman spent many years delivering our programs in the field. The younger was brand new, not even finished…

Upgrading the open data infrastructure

Upgrading the open data infrastructure

It’s been nice to see some recent online discussion around the power of blockchain technologies and how they might play a role in the open data movement. Replicating bitcoin may not be the right path, but some of the benefits of blockchain, peer-to-peer technologies, smart contracts, and mp3s could be applied to enrich open data technologies, improving measurement, authenticity, distribution, metadata, and more.

Hacking the Hackathon

Your city publishes high-quality open data, and you use that data to make smart policy decisions. Done? Not so fast. Your open data also has great potential to empower residents and foster civic engagement. Not sure how this would work in your city? You’re in luck! Many cities have experimented with engaging residents through open…


Beyond Budgeting

You can’t make budgeting sexy (although some of my colleagues may disagree) but you can make it more effective. Chattanooga, TN, has developed an innovative process that weaves stakeholders into this essential governmental function. In The Scenic City, Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO) is steeped in the tenets of: promoting a culture of performance and results,…

Culture Change (January 2016 Office Hours)

The number one question cities ask GovEx is “how do we change our culture?” Culture change is tricky because culture itself includes so many facets and factors, and most cities don’t have just one culture – they have many micro-cultures which must all be navigated and influenced differently. During this office hours, we will highlight two sets of practitioners from the cities of Denver and Chicago who are knee-deep in changing the cultures and habits of their cities. At the end of the session, you will be able to: Understand culture change in the context of data, analytics, and performance; Cite specific examples of change management efforts in two large and diverse cities; get tips on practical ways to influence culture in your city.

Strategic Storytelling with Open Data

Without context, data is just data to most people. Numbers on a screen and lines on a chart. Sure, there are people who look at a metadata description and see an opportunity for analysis: the data analysts and data scientists out there, the researchers, the civic hacktivists, the open data and performance management experts. But…

Changing Culture

Changing Culture

This practical guide helps government leaders and managers understand organizational culture and how to build cultures more adept with data.

in Guide
Baltimore Towings - Hexagons

Rethink Heatmaps

Pew’s recent study made it clear that people want more context with their data. To meet this opportunity, governments and vendors have created tools that allow for custom visualizations within data portals, while resident civic hackers aim to share stories and ease friction through detailed analyses or apps. One commonly used, and misused, visualization tool…

How Open Data is closing Poverty

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, January…


Responding to Open Data Concerns

This practical guide helps government leaders and managers understand organizational culture and how to build cultures more adept with data.

in Guide

Open Data Concerns

This video highlights two of the most common concerns governments express about Open Data and provides advice and real examples on how to respond to those concerns.

in Video

Civic Data Standards

A Civic Data Standard is an open, collaboratively developed set of data schematics or semantics which facilitates interoperability between multiple providers and consumers for the public good.

13 cities chosen for $42M Bloomberg better-data initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Thursday its latest round of “What Works Cities” selections. The $42 million program ultimately will provide 100 U.S. cities with expert help to make data publicly accessible, incorporate it better into decision-making and evaluate programs.

in Press

Performance Alignment

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this infographic to help governments align outcomes, measures, activities and resources within a performance analytics system.



The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this short guide to help governments understand the practices of internal and external benchmarking.

in Guide

“What is Data Science” (December 2015 Office Hours)

“What Works Cities have been told they need to make progress in “data science” practices and build “data science” teams. But most people don’t know what that term means and how it applies to the real challenges they face in their cities. During this office hours, we will explain what “data science” means and explain its relevance by introducing you to Mike Flowers, one of the nation’s leading practitioners of bringing data science into municipal government. At the end of the session, you will be able to explain “data science” to your peers; cite specific examples of its application to urban challenges and opportunities; get tips on low-cost ways to launch data science practices in your city.”

Becoming a What Works City

Michele Jolin, CEO and co-Founder of Results for America moderates a discussion with city leaders who are at the forefront of the national movement to use evidence and data to get better results for their city residents.

in Video

Kicking off a City Hall Analytics Shop

Interested in municipal analytics? Want to start an analytics shop in your city? We’ll help you get started, earn organizational buy-in, select projects, and much more. Hear stories and lessons learned from veterans in Los Angeles, New York City, and New Orleans.

in Video
Getting Started

Performance Management – Getting Started

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this getting started guide to assist cities in implementing performance management programs in their own communities.

in Guide

Open Data Portal Requirements

This document contains a set of sample requirements to help governments evaluate, develop (or procure), deploy, and launch an open data web site (portal).

in Guide
Getting Meta with Metadata

Open Data – Metadata Guide

Finding and working with many different sets of data requires descriptive information. This metadata guide explains the basics.

in Guide
Getting Started with Open Data

Open Data – Getting Started Guide

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence has created this getting started guide to assist cities in implementing open data programs in their own communities.

in Guide

Bloomberg to give $42 million to help cities do more with data

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, announced that it is spending $42 million to create the What Works Cities Initiative, which is aimed at helping 100 mid-size cities make better use of data and evidence in their policymaking.

in Press