Looking back at NYC Open Data Week 2021

In March 2021, BetaNYC hosted the 5th annual NYC Open Data Week festival with the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) and Data Through Design.

Volunteers at New York Alive!

Traditionally, BetaNYC hosts an annual conference (School of Data) during Open Data Week. This year we did things a little differently and worked more directly with MODA to create a robust festival program with content curated by subject matter experts from across nine different domains: Art and Media; Civic Engagement, Community Building & Democracy; Civic Innovation and Service Design; Covid19, Health, and Environment; Data Ethics and Policy; Digital Divide and Internet Health; Home School of Data, Housing and Urban Planning; Mobility.

From March 6th to 14th, thousands of global participants came together at 136 events that were organized by NYC’s civic tech community members. Each event had something to do with NYC Open Data and ranged from demos and tutorials, like Civic Roam – a new research tool for searching civic data and documents , to informed dialogues like Women in Analytics: Making Data-Driven Decisions. While the majority of events were virtual, several took place outside (despite the cold) including New York Alive!, a public data visualization performance and The Great, Socially Distant, Bike Parking Scavenger Hunt, a crowd-sourced community project to map the public realm.

One of the perks of holding a mostly virtual festival was that it was much easier to document events. And, thanks to video support from the Internet Society New York Chapter and Joly Macfie, we now have ~80 events recordings to share with you. You can explore them all at open-data.nyc/watch (some videos are still being processed). Enjoy and share them around!

A screenshot of 14 people posing for a picture while talking in a Zoom event during Open Data Week.
Each morning we held small virtual breakfast events to kick off the day, connect with one another and discuss upcoming events.

Read on for event stats, highlights and to learn more about our process...

Open Data Week 2021 Stats

Open Data Week took place for 10 days in early March 2021.

# of Events 136
# of Recorded Events89
# of Event Organizers183
# of Curators11
ODW 2021 Program Stats

Participation was documented and reported by event organizers at 66% of all events.

# of Participants at 90 events 3,688
Average # of participants per event41
Open Data Week 2021 Participation Stats from 66% of events

Registration or ticket holder stats were documented and reported by event organizers at 68% of all events.

# of Ticket holders at 92 events8,041
Average # of Ticket holders per event87
Open Data Week 2021 Ticket Holder Stats from 68% of events

A varying number of ticket holders responded to optional demographic, location and identity questions. Here is what we learned about this year’s ticket holders:

% of ticket holders in NYC71%
# of cities or towns outside of NYC where ticket holders were located286
# of countries outside of the U.S. where ticket holders were located27
% of ticket holders who identify as She/Her/Hers57%
% of ticket holders who identify as He/Him/His37%
% of ticket holders who responded that identified as They/Them4%
% of ticket holders who responded that identified as Other1%
% of ticket holders who identify as Non-White/Caucasian (Asian, Black / African, Caribbean, East Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Middle Easter/North African, Multiracia, Native American / Alaskan Native, South Asian, and/or Other)55%
Age group of ticket holders that was most represented25-34 years old (40% of ticket holders)
Open Data Week 2021 Ticket Holder Stats from varying % of events

What was different this year? 

At the end of Open Data Week 2020, the world changed. Days after closing out a successful Open Data Week and School of Data on March 7th, 2020, we left our offices and set up camp at home. In a virtual debrief, we tallied record attendance numbers in disbelief and wondered: what would next year look like? How would we keep up the momentum? We flagged a date in August to discuss.

BetaNYC, MODA and Data Through Design held planning meetings throughout the Fall of 2020 to make decisions upfront and plot out how we would host NYC’s first virtual Open Data Week. Working remotely certainly has its challenges and our Open Data Week team used a number of tools and processes to keep ourselves aligned and the project on track. Here are some of the ways in which we made 2021 successful:

  • Decided to merge Open Data Week and NYC School of Data into one festival, translating NYC School of Data’s tradition of having conference tracks into a framework for Open Data Week domains.
  • Recruited friends and allies as curators to help define the program and recruit session organizers.
  • Met bi-monthly (Aug-Dec) and weekly (Jan-Mar) to keep everyone on track.
  • Kept things flexible, asking sessions organizers to host their events how they felt most comfortable.
  • Harnessed tools for project management and collaboration: Google Meet to meet, Trello to track tasks, Google Docs to document each meeting, Screendoor to track applications, Airtable to manage everything, Slack to communicate. 
  • Updated the goal of Open Data Week to aim to foster community and connection amid a disconnected time and to host a diverse and digitally inclusive festival. 

All in all, this year’s virtual format actually lent itself to our mission of reaching New Yorkers. We were able to invite more people than usual to participate as organizers, curators, participants and volunteers. More people engaged from locations outside of NYC as well. And in a way, by having someone at nearly every event, our Open Data Week team was more engaged with many more of YOU. That said, nothing can truly replace the hallway conversations, conference room buzz, and nutter butter cookies we love so much about in-person events. Looking forward, we hope to harness the opportunity presented by virtual events AND also to seeing some of you in the flesh. Fingers crossed.

Program Highlights

Certified teachers and teachers-in-training from BetaNYC, MODA and Queens Public Library’s NYC Open Data Ambassadors program introduced 363 participants to NYC Open Data in ten Introducing NYC Open Data classes. One of these was our first ever in Spanish. We are especially proud of our Civic Innovation Fellows, who trained to become Open Data Ambassadors in a condensed Spring 2021 Fellowship program (via CUNY Service Corps).

Data Through Design: Ground Truth Virtual Opening: Each year, the Data Through Design exhibition features works that creatively analyze, interpret and interrogate data made available in NYC’s Open Data Portal, a valuable civic resource aimed at increasing information access and transparency. The exhibition opening is a highlight of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and BetaNYC’s Open Data Week. The theme for this year’s exhibition is Ground Truth: the insight we receive from being ”on the ground,” collecting or confirming data through direct observation, as opposed to abstract estimates, samples, or reports derived from remote locations. These works investigate datasets’ relationship to a physical place and personal experience.

Participants mapped bicycle racks in lower Manhattan (using field papers) during The Great, Socially Distant, Bike Parking Scavenger Hunt. With their great work, people using applications like www.cyclosm.org can be confident that data is up to date and reliable.

Data designer Jason Forrest and artist Jen Ray hosted NEW YORK ALIVE!, an outdoor, performative data visualization of New Yorkers’ urges, needs, and desires.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s Open Data Week possible: event organizers, curators, volunteers, partners and supporters.

Partners: NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, & Data Through Design.

BetaNYC Supporters: Alfred P. Sloane Foundation, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Kallos, Council Member Koo, Council Member Rivera, Council Member Reynoso, and Council Member Powers.

Learn more and Stay in Touch

Don’t forget to read NYC Analytics’ summary of Open Data Week 2021.

And subscribe to NYC Open Data Week for updates about this year’s festival March 6-13, 2022!