The NYC Civic Innovation Lab & Fellows Program is empowering NYC’s Community Boards to develop digital and open data practices that are appropriate for the local constituencies they serve.
This program is a partnership between the Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, BetaNYC, CUNY Service Corps, and Fund for the City of New York. The program is supported by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Data & Society Research Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, and New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.
New York City’s fifty nine Community Boards are an important part of local oversight of municipal service delivery. However, because each one is run by two full time employees and volunteer representatives, they struggle to engage effectively with the demands of the digital landscape.
This program offers a curriculum that is designed to enhance the basic digital literacy skills of Community Board Members and CUNY undergraduate students. For a period of seven months, CUNY Service Corp Fellows, selected for competency in a variety of relevant skills, are trained to in the fundamentals of civic technology, data, and design. After this boot camp training, graduates are partnered into innovation teams who explore projects with Manhattan’s twelve Community Boards.
“I have long been committed to open access to government data. As a City Council member, I was proud to sponsor NYC’s Open Data Law, which unlocked a treasure trove of data about our streets, crime, restaurant inspections, and other information gathered by city agencies.But that law was only the first step, as “open” data doesn’t automatically mean “useful” data.
“That’s why I am welcoming student members of the CUNY Service Corps to my office. These members will help both our office and our Community Boards navigate City data so that New Yorkers can use the data in meaningful ways.
“In July 2014, Governor Cuomo announced the first round of NY CUNY 2020 awards, providing $55 million to fund innovative projects that connect academic excellence with entrepreneurship. One of those projects brings these students to my office – an expansion in CUNY’s capacity for data analytics and visualization.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer
“We are so proud to welcome these students. With their expertise, we’ll be able to not just retrieve and access vital City information, but also create ways to visualize it – through spreadsheets, graphs, neighborhood mapping, and other organizational means – and get it to our Community Board chairs, district managers, and committee chairs. This way, our Boards can make informed decisions about planning, development, and land-use, armed with data on everything from demographics, to number of school seats, to safety statistics, and so on.”
Aldrin Rafael Bonilla
Deputy Borough President
“When BetaNYC was invited to run the Civic Innovation Fellowship program, it was a true honor to participate in Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s vision of increasing the usefulness of open data. We enjoyed the past four years of working with the Borough President’s Office, Manhattan community boards, and the CUNY Service Corps. We look forward to four more years of partnership.
Our program has created NYC’s first open data training program. We co-created BoardStat, an open data dashboard for community boards built by community boards, and have outlined a number of strategies to help bring modern, agile tools to community boards.
Together we are bringing experience, passion, and innovation into one unique government program.”
Executive Director of BetaNYC
To explore partnership opertunities, email cif at beta dot nyc
- BoardStat for Manhattan Community Boards: bit.ly/boardstat
- New York City’s Civic Innovation Fellowship 2015 Policy Report
- New York City’s Civic Innovation Fellowship 2017 Workbook
- Civic Innovation Fellowship 2016 – 2017 Lectures
- NYC 311 playing cards, one of our teaching tools (GitHub under construction)
- MBPO Gale Brewer and the Civic Innovation Lab on Represent NYC – MNN video
- BetaNYC presentation at Borough Board Meeting – June 2017
- MBPO Gale Brewer at Personal Democracy Forum 2015
- Noel Hidalgo at the 2016 Code for America Summit
- Noel Hidalgo at Data & Society recapping his fellowship and the origins of the program
Program Support & Partners
- Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer
- Manhattan Community Boards
- Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics
- Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (NYC Forward)
- NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
- NYC 311
- Microsoft Civic
- Pratt Institute’s Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI)
- The Wise City
Noel Hidalgo, Lab Director
Emily Goldman, Fellowship Director
Vacant, Lab Manager
Aldrin Bonilla, Manhattan Borough Deputy Borough President
Jessica Mates, Manhattan Borough President’s Chief of Staff
Lucile Songhai, Manhattan Borough President’s Community Affairs Director
Lucian Reynolds, Manhattan Borough President’s Director of Technology Policy and Program Cordinator
FELLOWS PRESENT AND ALUMNI:
Class of 2017 – 2018
Kamilah Hayes-Lewis, Sophomore
College of Staten Island, Computer Science
Karina Ibragimova, Junior
Queens College, Computer Science
Sonia Marinovic, Senior
Macaulay Honors College, Economics
Nazija Akter, Sophomore
Macaulay Honors College, Computer Science & Urban Studies
Federico Toscano, Senior
Queens College, Computer Science
Mina Habib, Junior
College of Staten Island, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Lili Izquierdo, Senior
Queens College, Political Science & Economics
Shovan Bala, Junior
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, International Criminal Justice
Ramesh Beharry, Junior
Queens College, Economics
Class of 2016 – 2017
Abdul Malik Muftau
John Jay College, Criminal Justice
Queens College, Mathematics
Medgar Evers College, Computer Information Systems
John Jay College, Fraud Examination & Finance Forensics
The City College of New York, Computer Science
New York City College of Technology, Computer Systems
Queens College, Finance and Accounting
John Jay College, Computer Science and Information Systems
City Tech College, Telecommunications
John Jay College, Computer Science and information Systems
* YEAR 2 students brought back as mentors.
Class of 2015 – 2016
New York City College of Technology, Telecommunications
New York City College of Technology, Computer Science
New York City College of Technology, Computer Science
Queens College, Finance & Accounting
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Computer Science and Information Systems
Lehman College, Computer Science
New York City College of Technology
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Class of 2014 – 2015
Borough of Manhattan Community College, Business Administration
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice & Corrections
Leon Clarke Jr.
Medgar Evers College, Business
Borough of Manhattan Community College, Human Services
John Jay College, Political Science & Philosophy
Kingsborough Community College, Psychology
John Jay College, International Criminal Justice & Political Science
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminology
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice & Political Science
Community Boards are New York City’s local, volunteer representative bodies. Established by the 1963 City Charter, they oversee land use issues, budget recommendations, and local service delivery. Though this project, BetaNYC and Data & Society, in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer (MBPO) and CUNY Service Corps (CUNY-SC), seek to empower Community Boards in the rapidly changing digital environment. MBPO recognizes the unique potential for data and technology to improve the way that municipal government interacts with its constituents. Human centered design principles and updated tools will extend the relevance of Community Boards in a political environment where a variety of stakeholders, such as real estate developers, are already digitally empowered. This project attempts to level the playing field to enable better decision making.
In 2014, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) brought in CUNY Service Corp Fellows to expose Community Boards to open data practices. This first, successful iteration of the program lasted six months. While students learned about Community Boards, Community Boards learned they wanted to know more. When the MBPO reviewed the program, it recognized the need for assistance in curriculum development as well as for a partner in managing the program.
In the fall of 2014, Noel Hidalgo came to a similar conclusion: New York City’s relationship to open data would be improved by a concerted effort to expand the knowledge and availability of open data practices to as wide a variety of community based organizations as possible. Towards this end, Hidalgo has been collaborating with Pratt University to develop a six-hour long workshop to demystify the process of map making and the flow of data from NYC’s open data portal.
This project combines the competencies and resources of MBPO, BetaNYC, and Fund for the City of New York, in an effort to demonstrate the potential for digitally driven communities at the hyperlocal level.
Build and execute a community development curriculum that integrates civic design, technology, data, and leadership. The curriculum provides a foundation for community members to use their technical skills to support community boards and develop personal leadership, engage in the civic technology ecosystem, and hone digital skills.
Someone who is comfortable with a computer, digitally literate with Google docs or Microsoft Office, has access to high speed internet, and a desire to address problems with technology, data, or design.
- We are testing multifaceted assumptions that cut across government operations, public civic engagement, and open data education.
- It is possible to build a technology, design, and data curriculum that improves community engagement.
- There are shared digital inclusion practices that can be replicated across community boards.
- Municipal data education can be broken down into bite sized chunks.
- We can successfully deliver a simplified civic technology education to a broad age group.
- CUNY-SC are primarily lower economic status students who are the City’s future civil service employees and we believe they will carry these skills forward through their careers (longitudinal study needed to assess this).
- Using a lean model, college level technologists, with the assistance of full-time professionals, can improve Manhattan Community Boards’ information flows.
- Once trained, Community Board Members and Managers can support each other’s data needs.
Selected Highlighted Topics:
- Building individual capacity.
- Creating safe spaces for all.
- Understanding existing governmental structures and processes.
- Human Centered Design.
- Digital communication skills and traditional media engagement.
- Broadening digital participation.
- Designing with multiple perspectives and with underserved communities.
- Understanding Data and making Government data work for communities.
- Making maps.
CURRICULUM AND ACTIVITIES:
We have broken down content into something easily understandable for anyone new to digital civic literacy, open source, civic hacking, and mobile development.
Being a good neighbor:
- NYC Government Structure
- How to participate and join your Community Board & NYPD Precinct Community Councils
- How to testify at a City Council Hearing or Agency Hearing
- How to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request
Welcome to Civic Technology:
- What is Civic Technology
- Getting started in Civic Hacking
- Roots, values, and the future.
- What is open data and open government?
- A civic hackers guide to Google
- An introduction to open source licensing, copyleft, creative commons, and copyright.
Civic & Service Design:
- What is Civic and Service Design?
- Human Centered Design
- Intro to Civic & Service Design
- Building “With, not for…” and the fight for Social / Digital Justice
Open Source Foundations
- Beginners Guide to Open Source
- Three key elements that define every open source project
- Getting started with GitHub
- Things newcomers to open source rarely ask but often wonder
- Key Books to Read and Open Source Organizations
- Building apps for a complex world
- Getting started in android development
- How the internet works, mesh networking, and onion Routing
- Harnessing / maximizing cloud based software
Digital Security and Networked Privacy
- Encrypt all the bits, an introduction to mobile security
- How to Key Sign and perform identity management
- How to communicate via safe and secure channels
Team and Project Management
- How to use Slack, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) & other group chatting tools.
- The story of self and motivating a movement
- Top five open source project management tools
- Five ways to boost community engagement
- Getting Commitment, conflict resolution, & de-escalation
- Building Relationships
- How to host a hackathon
- First Aid and basic CPR skills
- Big data, small data, and the open data movement
- Open Data Management (OKFN)
- Using Data and “Data Wrangling”
- Data Biases and data for good
- NYC.gov Open Data Portal
- NYC.gov Web Apps
Mapping and Cartography
- The wonderful world of maps
- Online Mapping Tools (i.e. Intro to Google Maps, Google Earth, and CartoDB)
- Beginners’ guide to OpenStreetMap.
- Introduction to Geographic Data Formats
- Introduction to QGIS
- NYC.gov Maps and Mapping Tools