New York City’s Civic Innovation Fellowship Classes of 2015-2017

The Civic Innovation Fellowship is a new program launched in 2014 by the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, fusing her interests in technological advancement, Community Board improvement, and youth development in New York City. Program partners include the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, BetaNYC, the City University of New York (CUNY), and Data and Society Research Institute, with support from the Fund for the City of New York. The program’s goal is to use human-centered design to explore new uses of technology and data to increase Manhattan Community Boards’ capability and efficiency in the 21st century. Community Boards exist within in a rapidly changing digital environment.

The 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 an environment where other stakeholders, such as real estate developers, are already digitally empowered. This project attempts to level the playing field, to enable better, more representational data-driven decision making.

Each year, the Civic Innovation Fellowship program employs a new class of CUNY Service Corps students. These students help research Community Boards’ current operations and identify where newly-available data and technology could be useful, if not transformative. With this research as a guide, the whole team then collaborates to implement basic data and tech-driven prototypes to address selected needs. These prototypes become the foundation to explore potential scaleable solutions.

Early in the first semester, BetaNYC instructors run a three-month bootcamp, which includes lessons on the history and theory of open data, and data analysis in Socrata, Excel, and Carto. Students also learn to use sophisticated communication tools, to present effectively and eloquently to the public, and to work as a multidisciplinary team. The bootcamp’s curriculum comprises an open data and civic tech course for New York City that could be tailored to other cities across the country as well.

To read the full report, download: New York City’s Civic Innovation Fellowship Classes of 2015-2017