2012_New Orleans End of Year Report


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2012_New Orleans End of Year Report

  1. 1. Year-End ReportfromTeam New OrleansCode for America, 2012
  2. 2. OUR APPROACH IN NEW ORLEANSUnlike some 2012 partner cities, The City of New Orleans had a very specific focusfor its partnership with Code for America on the issue of urban blight and chronicallyvacant property. Community organizations and local residents were already activelyworking to monitor and contribute to the revitalization of their own neighborhoods,but communication between these active community members and the localgovernment was not as effective as it could be.During our 5-week residency in New Orleans in February, we met with hundreds ofindividuals to gain a multi-faceted understanding of this complex issue, includingactive residents and neighborhood leaders, city staff and elected representatives, localnon-profit organizations, and the local tech community.From these diverse needs-finding discussions, we identified two main objectives forthe year. First, we needed to find a way to bridge the information gap, and improve theconversation between citizens and City Hall about blight. Second, we wanted to tryto connect groups who were all working independently to make New Orleans a betterplace, so that they could begin collaborating and sharing resources, knowledge, andbest practices.And in our pursuit of these two main objectives, we made a concerted effort to takeany opportunity we saw to make our City partners — and by extension, City Hallitself — look good.Code for America, Team New OrleansTeam Members: Alex Pandel, Amir Reavis-Bey, Eddie Tejeda, Serena Wales
  3. 3. Blighted and abandoned properties are more than justeyesores - they attract crime and decrease neighboringproperty values, and citizens are motivated to play anactive role in improving their neighborhoods. However, tobe most effective, citizens need to know what the city isalread doing to reduce blight in their neighborhoods sothey can coordinate and target their efforts.As we discovered during our February residency in NewOrleans, if a citizen wants to know what’s happeningwith an abandoned property in their area, they currentlyhave two choices: either spend hours on the phone withmultiple City departments, or wade through numerousdense and confusing websites to try to track down theinformation they need. Both options are frustrating,time-consuming, and often create more confusion andwork for all parties involved.In an effort to close this information gap, we spent mostof our fellowship year working closely with the Cityof New Orleans to create BlightStatus - a simple andpublicly-accessible website that provides quick and easyanswers to residents’ questions about the City’s effortsto reduce blight in their neighborhoods.With BlightStatus, anyone can:• search for any property to view its case historyin a clear and simple format;• create a Watchlist to track the progress ofmultiple properties;• receive email alerts whenever a property on yourWatchlist moves forward in the blight process;• analyze blight citywide or down to the blocklevel using interactive maps and charts; and• learn more about the blight process itself withour FAQs and glossarySince its launch last month, over 360 users have createdWatchlists, the application has gained widespread buy-infrom all levels within New Orleans City Hall and the localcommunity, and 15 cities across the US have expressedinterest in redeploying BlightStatus in their cities thus far.Three of our original four team members are creating abusiness around BlightStatus to continue developmentand begin implementing the application in additionalcities.BlightStatusblightstatus.nola.govAccurate and up-to-date information about blighted properties in New OrleansPROJECTS: focus on BlightStatusBlightSTATUSUpdate:1614 Monroe Streceived ajudgment ofGUILTY on9/18/12Learn more >
  4. 4. PROJECTS: BlightStatus screenshotsScreenshots of the BlightStatus homepage (top), and a sample property detail page (bottom)
  5. 5. PROJECTS: BlightStatus screenshots (continued)Screenshots of the map-browsing interface (top), and the Help Center (bottom)
  6. 6. To support the City of New Orleans’ emerging open data policy, we wanted to helpmake it as easy as possible for the City’s data stewards to publish the data theymanage to the City’s open data portal, data.nola.gov. Any data published todata.nola.gov needs to meet a certain standard of quality and accuracy to be eligiblefor public release, which usually means the steward of each dataset has to spend timemanually cleaning up the data, which creates a major obstacle to new datasets beingadded to the data portal. Doc2Soc automates this process using macros, making itsignificantly faster and less labor-intensive. After the initial, one-time configuration ofthe macro for a given dataset, the application will automatically clean the data andpush it to Socrata, the platform that supports data.nola.gov, with just the click of abutton.IMPACT: Doc2Soc makes it much easier for information to make it ontodata.nola.gov as well as stay up to date once it is there, which is a huge stepfor the City’s open data initiative.Doc2Socgithub.com/amirbey/DocToSocAutomated publishing of datasets to New Orleans’ open data portalPROJECTS (continued)In preparation for the 2012 hurricane season in NewOrleans beginning June 1, the City of New Orleans waslaunching a new preparedness campaign, and neededa compelling, iconic logo to anchor the campaign.Unhappy with the designs presented by their hireddesign contractor, CfA produced several alternativedesigns, and worked with the Office of HomelandSecurity and Emergency Preparedness to finalize thechosen design. During Hurricane Isaac in August 2012,the NOLA Ready logo served as the hero image on theCity’s homepage, and as the Mayor’s Twitter avatar,where hundreds of thousands of residents receivedemergency information during the storm.IMPACT: CfA’s work saved the City thousandsof dollars in contractor fees and resulted in agraphic campaign that will help keep residents ofNew Orleans prepared for hurricanes and otheremergencies for years to come.NOLA Ready Branding Campaignready.nola.govLogo design for new emergency preparedness campaign, NOLA Ready
  7. 7. Presentation at February Net2NO MeetupAt the beginning of our residency, local tech meetupNet2NO featured Code for America at their monthlymeetup. The fellows gave a short presentation about ourpartnership with the City of New Orleans, and set the stagefor the City to announce several new relevant positionsopening up inside City Hall. Several attendees from theevent expressed interest in the software developer andweb content positions, and indicated that hearing aboutthe CfA engagement definitely changed their opinionabout what working for City Hall could mean.IMPACT: Changed the way the local tech communityviews City Hall, and sparked newfound interest amongthis group in several relevant roles within City Hall.Code: NOLA HackathonWe hosted a two-day hackathon called Code: NOLA duringour residency in February. 52 people attended our kickoffhappy hour on Friday, where we released a new datasetto the City’s open data portal. Eight city staffers attended,including CIO Allen Square. At the Saturday hackathon,25 attendees split up into six teams, which yielded fourdistinct deliverables after only eight hours of work.Several projects initiated during the event include:• OpenTreeMap New Orleans’ Department of Parks and Parkwayshas been working to restore the 100,000 trees thatwere killed during Hurricane Katrina, but an outdatedmap of the city’s existing trees has made the effortvery difficult. One team worked to implementOpenTreeMap to allow citizens to help update theCity’s map.• My504HealthNet (read more in “Stories,” below) Another team worked to create a mobile websitefor a local public health non-profit.• Doc2Soc (read more in “Projects,” above) Another team worked to make it easier for City datastewards to clean up and post their datasets onto theCity’s open data portal.• NOLA Ready logo (read more in “Projects,” above) Another team brainstormed a series of logo designsfor the City’s new emergency preparedness campaign,NOLA Ready.IMPACT: Created a space for groups who don’tordinarily interact with each other (city staff,technologists, and local non-profits) to work togetheron civic projects to make their city a better place.EVENTS
  8. 8. Post-Launch Community GatheringThroughout the year, the team attended and hosted dozensof meetings with individual community members for needs-finding research, user testing, and general feedback. Oncethe site was live, we wanted to bring together all of theseindividuals into a group setting, both to gather feedbackabout the site, but also to provide an opportunity to shareideas and best practices in the fight against blight.Many individuals who had never actually met before begancollaborating and sharing strategies, and exchanged contactinformation to keep working together in the future. Wegathered lots of valuable feedback about how to makethe application even more useful to their work, and planto incoporate that feedback into future iterations of theapplication.IMPACT: Gained insight into the needs of local residents,as well as connected people working towards a commongoal to share best practices and strategies.Unexpected Connections at Code: NOLAAt our hackathon in February, one team worked to createa mobile website for a local public health non-profit,504HealthNet. The organization’s executive director,Lindsay Ordower, made a plea to the tech community at ourkickoff to help her make information about free and low-cost health clinics more readily available to citizens fromtheir mobile phones, and a determined team of 5 quicklyassembled around her.Lindsay explained that while many NOLA citizens withouthealth insurance do not have reliable access to the internetvia a computer, a large percentage do have web-enabledmobile phones, which would allow for much quicker andmore widespread distribution of this valuable informationthan her current paper booklets can provide. The teamgot straight to work and made great headway, presentinga working MVP at the end of the day, which allows usersto search for health clinics in their area by location andinsurance accepted.IMPACT: Before this event, the local tech communitydidn’t think to volunteer their skills to local nonprofits,and local nonprofits weren’t aware that the techcommunity in New Orleans was interested in helpingout. This event shed light on a new way that these twogroups could work together to make New Orleans abetter place.EVENTS (continued)STORIES
  9. 9. Changing the Conversation at BlightSTATOn our launch day in New Orleans, we debuted BlightStatus at the City’s monthlypublic meeting about this issue, called BlightSTAT, where City administrators fromevery relevant department report on that month’s progress, and citizens ask questionsand help hold the City accountable.A community member from a particularly low-capacity neighborhood, Zion City, hadbeen attending the BlightSTAT meetings for months, but never raised a question orengaged in the dialogue. While we were doing a demo of how BlightStatus works, shesuddenly interrupted us and began asking specific questions about the property on thescreen - why was there so much time between the inspection and the hearing? Whywasn’t it judged guilty of blight?Before this meeting, she had never engaged in a productive dialogue with Cityrepresentatives or administrators. But once she had specific information about herneighborhood at her fingertips, she began a specific and productive conversation withher government.IMPACT: Not only does BlightStatus equip active citizens with the informationthey need to be most effective in the fight against blight, but it activates citizenswho had never previously felt empowered to take an active role in shaping theircommunities.Thanks to our successful launch and widespread buy-in throughout New Orleans, theCity of New Orleans is planning to extend our contract into 2013 to allow us to futhertighten integration with the City’s internal data systems, as well as build out additionalfeatures to make BlightStatus even more robust, such as integration with 311, the abilityfor users to upload photos and comments, and a more optimized mobile interface.Additionally, many additional cities across the US have expressed interest in bringingBlightStatus to their communities, so three of our original four team membersare planning to move forward as a civic startup. With initial support from the CfAIncubator, we will continue development on BlightStatus, begin contracting withadditional cities to redeploy BlightStatus, and even explore the potential to expandthe application beyond the topic of blight.STORIES (continued)MOVING FORWARD