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NCoC’s Civic Data Challenge: So Much More Than Just Numbers

by Jake Brewer
Originally posted in CSRwire Talkback

September 19, 2012
Data is a critical ingredient in any formula for business success. Today, the idea of “ Big Data ” - that anything and everything can be measured and made useful to better harness resources and optimize process - has become the topic of entire conferences and industry experts.

Likewise, ‘civic health’ data — data that shows how citizens are participating in their neighborhoods, communities and democracy— is an essential tool in better understanding our communities and helping them thrive. Civic health data helps guide private, nonprofit and public leaders to make the places Americans live and work in smarter, cleaner, safer and more vibrant.

And it’s starting to happen.

Through the national Civic Data Challenge , recently run by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), participants from across the country turned raw “civic health data” into useful tools that can allow us all to make a little more sense of our communities.

The challenge engaged an extraordinary team of judges , including Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craigslist Connects; Vivek Kundra, EVP for Salesforce.com and former CIO of the United States; Darrell Hammond, CEO and founder of KaBOOM!; and, Sonal Shah, former director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

The judges reviewed submissions from over 60 participants across the country. Judges evaluated the entries based on the quality of the analysis and design, the compelling nature of the findings in the data, and the utility of the product.

What's new about that?

While civic health data has been collected for years, it has not been as accessible to decision makers and the public as it could be. The Civic Data Challenge helped us make this trove of community insights accessible to the public by bringing people with diverse skill sets and perspectives together to explore the field of civic health. Participants explored and illuminated the connections between civic data and local economic development , personal finances, community wellbeing, public safety and the arts.

Sifting for Stories

Challenge participants sifted through civic health and community data, as well as data on health, safety, education, and the economy, to find trends, opportunities for collaborations and created visual representations and interactive products to showcase their findings. Entries included infographics, apps, videos and interactive websites covering a broad range of topics. Examples include:

- A website where users can view the impact of the Presidential candidates’ proposed economic policies on their pocketbooks
- A video on the importance of the arts to community well being
- A presentation that explores whether GDP, or civic health, is a better measure of community prosperity.

If you’re eager to learn more, you should be.

It’s cool stuff and the winners of the challenge will be announced at NCoC’s 67th Annual National Conference on Citizenship on September 14, 2012 in Philadelphia. The Challenge is presented in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is generously sponsored by the Salesforce.com Foundation and supported by partners such as Code for America, GOOD, the Case Foundation and Kaggle.

In addition to the announcement of the Civic Data Challenge winners, the Conference will also highlight a new corporate citizenship initiative, which explores how businesses make a difference in communities and the release of a new report exploring the connections between civic health and economic resilience. The Conference is made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Case Foundation, KPMG LLP, Clearwire, and CSRwire.

The event will also be streamed live on Friday, September 14th from 1:00pm - 5:30pm ET on the NCoC website . We will include questions from our Twitter followers as part of the conference so please join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook .

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Editor's Note: CSRwire's Editorial Director Aman Singh will be at the NCoC conference bringing you live updates and observations through the day. Stay tuned at #NCoC and @CSRwire!

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About the Author:

Jake Brewer is a blogger for the Huffington Post and a campaign advisor and architect for a variety of disruptive social enterprises and innovative nonprofits working to (actually) translate big ideas and good intentions into effective, responsible reality. As the Chief Strategy Officer at Fission, Jake works with projects ranging from a first-of-its-kind White House initiative on Veteran employment, to national open-data and broadband initiatives, to helping reframe the immigration debate as a co-founder of Define American.
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