Data-Smart City Solutions

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By Data-Smart City Solutions

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) has been awarded a two year grant by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to establish and support a national peer network of urban Chief Data Officers (CDOs).  The network will collaborate on shared projects that advance the use of data visualization and predictive analytics in solving important urban problems related to economic opportunity, poverty reduction, and addressing the root causes of social problems of equity and opportunity.  This grant will assist in transforming the way local governments deliver services and set urban policy by improving their access to and use of new technologies and their focus on cross agency and collaborative solutions. Our sharing of lessons both within the network and to a wider policy audience will accelerate the rate of adoption of these data-driven approaches. 

Initial participating communities in the Civic Analytics Network include:

  • Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Kansas City, Kansas
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • New York, New York
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • San Diego, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • San Jose, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Washington, D.C.

Key activities of this project include:

  • Analytics use case development.  A use case is the application of analytics to solve a specific, defined policy problem.  Grant-supported use cases will address multi-disciplinary social service challenges where solutions must be cross-cutting and involve multiple agencies. To increase the speed of development of the use cases, we will leverage the computing capacity and data science expertise of the Center for Data Science and Public Policy (DSaPP) at the University of Chicago.
  • Shared platform for data visualization and analytics.  We will create and promote a shared site for cross-city collaboration on the use of data visualization to better understand patterns of need for city services and gaps in addressing public need.  Our place-based GIS tool will allow public officials to visualize problems and the various interventions in a GIS-tagged format to improve decision making. The use cases will leverage this platform.
  • Convenings.  We will convene the group twice annually in person and monthly by telephone to facilitate discussion of ongoing challenges and accomplishments.  In between formal sessions, the Ash Center will serve as a central advisory, information, and referral source among the cities to catalyze success across the network. 
  • Dissemination of results.  We will share results widely, via webinars, written case studies of the completed use cases, articles and blog posts on progress in the cities, and white papers. At the end of the two year grant period an open conference will share results to the wider field.  In addition, cities will be supported by data fellows, who will provide constant documentation and reporting of attempts, processes, and successes.
  • Connecting to other initiatives.  Our work will put the CDOs and their work in direct connection with other data-driven government efforts including but not limited to the Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities initiative, the Living Cities City Accelerator program, and the Ash Center’s Project on Municipal Innovation and Data-Smart City Solutions.

Our project is led by Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program and the Data-Smart City Solutions initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  Prior to his role at the Ash Center, Professor Goldsmith was Deputy Mayor for Operations in New York City and Mayor of Indianapolis. He is one of the country’s leading experts on innovation and data-driven local government.

Email can@ash.harvard.edu to learn more or to contact the members of the network.

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