Content Discussion History

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 help cities understand their data from public safety to budgets. GovEx and cities partnered to engage residents in solving critical problems related to population growth and infrastructure planning. And, we trained numerous local government employees from Gdansk, Poland to Mesa, Arizona in skills as diverse as data visualization, appreciative inquiry, and putting analytics into practice.

While we got a lot of work done, we had fun along the way! Five GovExers bought houses and four adopted dogs (pictures below). We met Penn and Teller and hiked in Alaska, Austin and Arizona. We ate fried bologna sandwiches in Jackson, Mississippi and bistecca alla fiorentina in Florence. We toured the zoo in Little Rock and the aquarium in Chattanooga. And, best of all, we developed relationships with passionate and smart city leaders and staff all around the world!


Here’s a look at the team member’s favorite GovEx memories from 2016:

Katherine: Partnering with Johns Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative to create the Symposium, to deepen the connection between the technical assistance in open data and performance analytics that we offer to our network of cities, and the University’s subject matter experts.

Andrew: Finding out that the recommendations we gave Louisville to create a chief data officer were not only accepted but that they hired the brigade captain from the Civic Data Alliance (the city’s local civic tech organization) to serve in that role. That really cemented the city’s connection to its own local community.

Nick:  Scaling Camelback Mountain in Arizona with Matt Raifman right after our Glendale site visit.


Sophia: Being at Buenos Aires City Hall was exciting, because it’s an extremely well-designed building. Originally it was built for a major bank, who then donated it to the City. It’s almost entirely open-plan and color-coded, and the people who work there are relatively young and casual. And smart!

Sheila: My favorite memory was watching Sophia buy her wedding dress before our site visit in Birmingham, AL.


Eric: Starting the podcast and being able to have conversations with thought leaders, highlight strong data practices in cities, and connect data to outcomes for our thousands of listeners worldwide. It’s been a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

Lena: My trip to Laredo, TX, is my favorite GovEx memory of 2016. It represented a lot of firsts for me: my first time in Texas, my first time leading a site visit as a senior implementation advisor, my first time getting a 6 hour tour from city staff detailing their favorite parts of their city, and my first time having a taco de machacado a la Mexicana for breakfast. The Laredo team was extraordinarily welcoming and I can’t wait to dive into our work together.

Carter: Launching and teaching the Performance Tools & Techniques certificate course to so many government partners. I was also really excited about the work we did on the Compared to Jackson project.

Matt R: I am proud to have collaborated with Mayor Murray’s team in Seattle to stand up a series of data-driven meetings, kicking off in February with one focused on affordable housing. I was touched by the compassion of Southwest airlines staff, who I’ve spotted on the tarmac multiple times halting their work to pay their respects to an honor flight. And, I’m inspired by over 100 public servants who came together for the first What Works Cities Summit and who tirelessly press on every day to improve the lives of residents in their cities and towns.

Sharon: When Matt P. and I were in Florence and asked the city leaders why there was a temporary stadium erected in a piazza, they got us tickets to see the game of Calcio Storico which was played there. We were lucky enough to be in the city during one of the two weeks of the year there is a Calcio Storico tournament. The game itself was quite a shock because it literally means “historic soccer,” but is in fact more like MMA meets rugby.


Michael:  Supporting training efforts in helping Gdansk, Poland use data to allocate infrastructure resources in the most effective and efficient way possible. The training focused on using data to respond to the city’s rapid demographic changes resulting from internal migration. It improved the city’s understanding on which districts it should invest in infrastructure (preschools, playgrounds) for its younger residents, as well as its aging population (accessibility, open-air fitness).

Matt P.: My favorite 2016 GovEx memory was being taken out to the tiny “town” of Montebene in the hills outside Florence by our city champions for an awesome dinner. Not only did we get to spend some time getting to know our hosts better, but it was one of those “off the beaten path” experiences that make trips really special. Likewise, the tours that I got in Portland and Gresham helped me see those cities through more local eyes. Lena, Rebecca, and I even got a sneak peak of a new park about to be developed in Gresham on top of a volcano!

Rebecca: At one of our Office Hours, the conference line was overwhelmed by the number of city staffers interest in open data metrics. I also enjoyed Sheila’s Mobile, AL blight presentation. Both showed how interested cities are in learning from each other!


If you have a great GovEx memory from 2016, we’d love to hear about it. Happy 2017, everyone!


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