Socrata Announces Inaugural Winner of Open Data-Powered Civic Engagement Award

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“One Month to Make an Open Data Difference” Program Reinforces the Technology Company’s Role as an Active Participant in the Government Sector’s Open Data Community

Socrata (http://www.socrata.com), a cloud software company focused on democratizing access to public sector data – both internally and externally – by and for the most innovative organizations around the world, today announced a new employee sabbatical program called “One Month to Make an Open Data Difference.” The winner of this unique initiative receives a month of paid leave, plus $5,000 to be used for open data-powered community service and civic engagement.

“One Month to Make an Open Data Difference” reinforces Socrata’s long-time role as a proactive, engaged and constructive participant in the open data community.

“When it comes to building and delivering software, Socrata is a new-style 21st century company that focuses on the public sector,” says Kevin Merritt, Founder and CEO of Socrata. “And we’re proud to be a community-driven vendor offering the government community an opportunity to learn and improve the quality of life for citizens through new open data experiences.”

Adds Jovana Teodorovic, Socrata’s Director of Talent: “Government is a highly inter-connected community market that’s very unique. It encompasses everyone, and it’s about cooperation rather than competition, so it’s a community of people who want to embrace open data technology innovation to gain insights in order to run things better. It’s a learning-based model.”

The winner of Socrata’s “One Month to Make an Open Data Difference” sabbatical is Marcus Louie, who submitted a proposal focused on the value of open data in the affordable housing area. This fits in well with the first industry in the recently launched Open Data Network – housing.

“For the last year, I’ve been volunteering at Bread for the City and Code for America while working full-time at Socrata,” says Louie, “and I wanted to find a way to use open data to help solve a really important problem like providing the community with enough affordable housing. My proposal is all about establishing and sustaining partnerships. Working together is the only way we’re going to make a difference.”

More specifically, Louie has been trying to streamline the process of applying for affordable housing in Washington DC. To apply for affordable housing in the city, applicants need to fill out a paper form for each building they want to apply for. There are currently over 100 buildings in DC, each with its own paper application form. None of the forms is the same and none is online. Each person applies for 4-6 buildings and spends approximately 15-20 minutes filling out each paper application. Even then, there’s no guarantee that applicants will be accepted.

To address this problem, Louie helped develop an online form that, when filled out, automatically maps the form input to PDF versions of each building's original application form.

With applications migrating from a paper-based workflow to an online form, there are new opportunities to learn about, and improve, the affordable housing application process.

There’s also an opportunity to become open data driven; and capturing data regarding these applications and their outcomes is essential. The data will help show whether the community is being served well in the affordable housing area; it will give public officials and non-profits information that helps them make better policies and processes; it will give city residents information that helps them obtain suitable housing; and it will shed light on patterns that could be discriminatory.

Once the new online form is used, data will be available on how many applications are made; the types of people who are applying; what buildings people are applying to; whether people are successful in getting housing; and how long it takes to obtain housing. Leveraging additional data from other sources will make the solution a richer data-driven tool for the use of applicants and policymakers alike. And, of course, the solution can be used in a host of other cities as well.

Concludes Merritt: “Marcus’ open data idea was big. It was a results-driven project, was well scoped and demonstrated creative execution. He helps build open and honest relationships between our community partner, Bread for the City, Code for America and the Washington DC community, which is great, because open data connects communities all over the world. We think this was a remarkable proposal from a remarkable individual.”

Beginning with the award to Marcus Louie, Socrata will run its “One Month to Make an Open Data Difference” employee sabbatical program annually and plans to increase the number of award recipients each year, starting in 2016.

About Socrata
Socrata is a cloud software company focused on democratizing access to public sector data – both internally and externally – by and for the most innovative organizations around the world, including the cities of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Eindhoven; the states of New York, Illinois and Texas; US Health and Human Services; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; the UN and the World Bank. Socrata’s solutions – including the recently launched Open Data Network™ which unleashes the full potential of government data to help drive connected communities around the world – assist government leaders in improving transparency, modernizing citizen access to information and bringing data into every decision, all with unprecedented speed and cost savings. Delivered as turnkey services, Socrata’s technologies unlock data trapped in enterprise silos, mobilize and transform it into useful information that everyone can easily access, visualize, share and reuse. To learn more about Socrata, visit http://www.socrata.com.

Contact
Bill Glenn
VP, Marketing
Socrata
bill.glenn(at)socrata(dot)com
(206) 465-3228

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