Customer Summit Amphitheater Sessions: October 26

October 26, 2015 6:02 pm PST | Data as a Service

Are your Hackathons all they could be? From Austin, TX to a high schooler who had something to teach the grown-ups, the breakout sessions in the Amphitheater breakout room covered multiple ways to get communities more involved with their data! Check out some of the creative (and downright artistic!) ideas below.

A Canvas for Civic Good — How Austin Positions Hackathons for Success

  • Matt Esquibel, IT Division Manager, Austin
  • Charles Purma, IT Project Manager, Austin

The City of Austin provided some practical advice on increasing the value of hackathons. Taking a page from the entrepreneur handbook, Matt Esquibel and Charles Purma partnered with Open Austin to hack together their own version of a business model canvas for hackathons. Prior to the National Day of Civic Hacking, Austin held a pre-hacking event focused solely on defining problems, users, partners and resources for civic tech projects. The outcome was a 20-30% decrease in hackathon attrition and a higher number of hackathon projects that eventually move to production.

Space Apps Next Gen: Open Data and The Universe

  • George Sivulka, high school senior at Regis High School in New York

George Sivulka is a data-loving student that hosted the first governmental hackathon for high school students. George was so impressed with NASA’s 2012 International Space Apps Challenge, that he organized Space Apps Next Gen ( to get students interested in coding.. The event drew 63% 1st time coders and 51% women, and spun off projects such as Learn2Launch, Sky Find, and Sun Decided. Not only is open data key to improving government services, but also fundamental to scientific discovery!

Access Map: Using Open Data to Create Reliable Sidewalk Trip Planning for People with Limited Mobility

  • Nick Bolton, Lead Developer for AccessMap, University of Washington
  • Yun Hao, Data Science for Social Good Fellow, University of Washington

The Access Map team was inspired to improve mobility in cities after hearing of a person in a wheelchair unable to find a detour around construction and eventually sinking into soft asphalt. Teaming up with data scientists from the eScience Institute, the team devised a way to programatically clean up systematic errors in the City of Seattle’s sidewalk data, and mash this up with information on slope, curb ramps, cross walks, and construction sites. Access Map Seattle ( will be in production soon, offering a live feed of information to help all citizens nagivate the city safely and efficiently.

The Art of Data – How Kansas City, MO, Used Art to Bring a New Audience to City Hall

  • Julie Steenson, Deputy Performance Officer, City of Kansas City

In cooperation with the city’s Communications Department, a campaign was developed to engage Kansas City’s robust artistic community and enhance the city’s economic development efforts. Ten artists were chosen and given the opportunity to tell their own story based on civic data as inspiration. City Hall was transformed into a community art gallery. In one artist’s own words  “There is something honorable and beautiful about the city making data transparent.” Another said, “What is beautiful and uncomfortable about the things we love and hate about our city?” Each artist had carte blanche to choose their city data set, the art medium of their preference, and were given $500 for materials.  Simple criteria was defined for the projects:  the data had to come from City Stat, and the artwork had to incorporate vast city-wide goals.  In the end, ten works of amazing art emerged, the community was engaged in the data stories, and a bridge was built to the artist community.

Bristol’s Open Data Journey

  • Stephen Hilton, Director of Futures Group, Bristol, UK

Bristol, UK reduced government spending by 25% in 3 years, but they did not simply want to run a smaller version or their current operation; they wanted to fundamentally transform into a “city as a platform.” The initiatives underpinning this transformation included peer-to-peer information, predictive analytics, app development, and community networks. Bristol uses open data to achieve these outcomes, leveraging a 4-E strategy of Enable, Engage, Encourage, and Embed. Some of the city’s most exemplary initiatives include Bristol is Open, the world’s first open programmable City Region, and Data Dome, a real time 360-degree, 3D visualization of city energy use and air quality. Jurisdictions across the world should take note of Bristol’s successes in using open data as a tool toward operational efficiency.

Raising the Bar: One Dataset at a Time

  • Scott Vander Hart, State of Iowa, Senior Performance Analyst
  • Stephen Goldsmith, Professor, Harvard University
  • Daro Mott, Director of Quality and Performance, Louisville Metro Government
  • Matthew Malament; Director of Office of Innovation, Delivery, and Performance; City of Atlanta

In this panel discussion, we heard from performance measurement leaders from the City of Atlanta, City/County of Louisville, and the State of Iowa.  When asked how the state of Iowa achieves continuous improvement in their stat program, Scott Vander Hart says that he encourages staff to evolve beyond Phase 1 of creating metrics out of the most readily available data to measuring the problems that have the most impact on the community and government operations. Daro Mott from Louisville was asked how he used Six Sigma training to increase quality in the City’s stat program. He believes it is a matter of defining exactly what quality means for each goal, citing an public health example: the number of inspections is not as meaningful as the level of detail uncovered in each inspection. An audience member wanted to know who, ultimately, made the decision of which metrics the municipalities measure? Matt Malament from Atlanta summarized aptly: “Unless you have an extremely heavy mandate, you can’t just come in like a bull in a china shop saying these are your metrics and give me your data.” All panelists agreed that building trust and partnerships with departments is key to a successful, sustainable performance measurement program.

Stay tuned for more coverage of Customer Summit sessions or follow #SCS2015. 

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