Preparing for National Day of Civic Hacking

It’s that time of year again, and we’re just two short weeks away from this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking. Since 2013, National Day of Civic Hacking has brought together developers, community advocates, and government representatives to collaborate on solutions for some the most pressing problems in our communities. At Socrata, we’re proud to have been a part of National Day since the beginning, and we’re excited to be participating yet again.

National Day of Civic Hacking

In this post, we’re going to give you some helpful tips about how to prepare for, attend, and make use of data a National Day of Civic Hacking event near you. Future posts in this series will provide additional resources as we get closer to the big day!

If you want to jump directly to the section relevant to you:

For governments & data publishers

Are you lucky enough to have one of the 40+ National Day events in your community? Make sure you’re ready! There are a few simple steps you can take to prepare:

  1. If you haven’t already, reach out to the organizers of your local event. It’s quite likely that your National Day event is organized by your local Code for America Brigade, so if you’re already working with them, you can reach out to your contact there. Otherwise, it can be as simple as signing up on their Meetup or Eventbrite page, and sending the organizers a message.
  2. Evaluate the datasets you have on your data portal to make sure you have data appropriate to the challenges that have been posed for National Day. For example:
    • To help with the Applying for Food Stamps challenge, it would be helpful to have datasets about how to locate food assistance offices, what kind of foods are eligible, and where those foods can be purchased.
    • For the Applying for Affordable Housing challenge, datasets about where housing is located and what agencies provide affordable housing would be useful, as well as machine-readable versions of application forms.
    • For the Promise Zone Data Visualization challenge, any dataset that reflects the administrations goals of increasing access to affordable housing, create jobs, or expand educational opportunities would be appropriate.
  3. Also reach out to the event organizers to see if there are any local challenges that may benefit from access to open data. You may also be able to suggest local challenges to tackle issues important to your community.
  4. Make sure the relevant datasets are easy to discover in your data catalog. It may also be convenient to document them in a Hackpad or GitHub Gist that you can share with attendees to help identify the datasets that will be useful to them.
  5. If at all possible, attend the actual event or recruit a representative from your government. They don’t need to be technical - they just need to come with an open mind and enthusiasm to help tackle challenges in their community. The reward will be not only an awesome time, but also a great opportunity to witness firsthand how open data can be reused in the community.

If you need help planning, or would like some help identifying datasets and ensuring they’re ready for your developers, reach out to your Socrata account manager to schedule a consultation, and I’d be glad to talk with you about how to prepare.

For event attendees

Attending a National Day event in your community, and still trying to figure out how you can make the biggest impact? Many of the challenges established for 2016 can be either solved with or augmented with open data. For example, if you’re working on the Applying for Food Stamps challenge, you could add functionality to your app to help recipients locate authorized retailers in Connecticut or food stamp centers in New York City.

If you’re looking for datasets, the best place to start is the Open Data Network, our global search engine for open data. From one search field, you can access tens of thousands of datasets from hundreds of governments, and even build comparisons between cities based on open data. For example, here’s a search for affordable housing datasets for the “Applying for Affordable Housing” challenge.

If you run into any snags during your event, either look for one of the Socrata representatives that may be at your event, or catch us in our IRC support chat room.

For event organizers

Are you organizing a National Day event in your area? In addition to coffee, wifi, and power strips, there’s another critical resource you’ll need to think about: open data.

In addition to providing open data for your event, there are many other ways Socrata can help:

  • For some events, we’ll be able to send Socrata representatives to hang out and help answer questions. If you’re one of those lucky cities, we’ll be reaching out to you soon with more information.
  • Many of the cities that are hosting National Day events are also cities where we have customers, so we can facilitate introductions to open data experts from within your local government.
  • If you have participants using open data from Socrata, we’ll also be online to provide virtual support via our IRC channel or your Slack domain.
  • New this year, we’d also like to offer special access to Socrata Perspectives, our awesome new tool for telling stories with open data. If you’re working on a data-driven challenge, you can use Perspectives to weave together narrative content, media, and data into a beautiful story. For example, check out this showcase story about the growing opioid epidemic in America’s cities.

If any these options sound helpful to you, reach out and let us know, either by filling out this form with your info, or dropping in our IRC chat room. We’d love to help make your event a success!