The Opportunity Project

Open Data: Strengthening Neighborhoods and Building Ladders of Opportunity for All

By DJ Patil, Chief Data Scientist, & Luke Tate, Special President for Economic Mobility

White House guests Katherine Prevost of New Orleans’ Bunny Friend Neighborhood Association, Bridget Lehane of Massachusetts’ Father Bill’s & Mainspring, and Akili Lee of Chicago’s Digital Youth Network.

One of the pleasures of being here at the White House is getting to meet people we consider heroes. Today is extra special because we were able to say thank you to three of them as we work together to announce an incredible new data project.

First is Katherine Prevost of the Bunny Friend Neighborhood Association in New Orleans who, since Hurricane Katrina, has been advocating for improvements to her neighborhood — things like more frequent bus service, removal of debris on vacant lots, and fewer corner stores selling alcohol and unhealthy foods. She’s been told that Bunny Friend is a “small fish” in a city of “big fish” neighborhoods, and she’s acutely aware of the unequal access to opportunity in her community. Katherine came to the White House today because she wants tools to help make a stronger case for services and resources in her neighborhood.

Bridget Lehane, a housing search specialist in Massachusetts, helps families living in transitional shelters find safe, affordable homes. Although they need to be nearby basic resources — like public transportation, quality child care, playgrounds, grocery stores and good jobs — it’s hard for them to find housing in areas that are unfamiliar but might offer a much lower cost for access to opportunity. Bridget came here today because she wants tools that make it easier for clients to widen their search to include neighborhoods with the resources they need, so they and their children can thrive.

Akili Lee brings digital skills to young people in Chicago’s most distressed neighborhoods. He and his colleagues have spent years arduously collecting data on out-of-school learning opportunities for youth so they can connect families to those programs. Last summer, they used this same data to map which neighborhoods had access to technology programs. It turns out that tech programs were more likely to be downtown and expensive, so they now use a mobile van to deliver digital literacy to the neighborhoods that need it the most. Akili came here today because he wants to spend less energy collecting data, and instead focus on extracting new value out of open data so he can accelerate and expand their impact.

All three of these leaders are looking to unlock the full potential of federal and local open data so they can focus their talents and time on strengthening opportunity in their communities.

To better serve community leaders like Katherine, Bridget, and Akili, we’re thrilled to launch “The Opportunity Project,” a new open data effort to expand access to opportunity for all Americans.

The Opportunity Project will put data and tools in the hands of civic leaders, community organizations, and families to help them navigate information about critical resources such as access to jobs, housing, transportation, schools, and other neighborhood amenities. In fact, today a dozen digital tools are being launched that showcase the power of open data for building opportunity, from companies including Redfin, Zillow, GreatSchools, PolicyLink and Measure of America.

The Opportunity Project also includes a unique package of federal and local datasets in an easy-to-use format and new ways for the federal government to collaborate with local leaders, technologists, and community members to drive innovation that will tackle inequities and strengthen communities. This collaboration is characteristic of a new approach this Administration has laid forth for how the federal government work with communities to address their top needs and priorities. Put simply: people striving to make their neighborhood a great place to live, work and raise a family know their community’s strengths and needs, and we must work hand in hand with them to make a difference.

This project is about unleashing the power of data to help all America’s families and communities access the resources they need to thrive.

We’re eager to see the next wave of open data and digital tools tailored to the opportunity needs of specific users — including people with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, citizens re-entering society from prison, LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, military veterans, unemployed and under-employed Americans searching for jobs, and planners in rural communities.

That’s where we need your help, to help bring opportunity to all Americans. Data is a team sport and we need you on the team.

Want to get involved?

Visit where you’ll find:

  • examples of private sector digital tools built on the Opportunity Project data;
  • the Opportunity Project collection of open data and community of practice, so software developers and community partners can build new tools and connect with others; and
  • a call to action to develop new tools, offer additional sources of data, and deepen community engagement through the use of the data.

We want to hear from you about what new steps you’re taking to address the opportunity challenge! Have an idea that you’re thinking about? We’re also listening on twitter and use the hashtag #opendata.

About the Opportunity Project

The Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Presidential Innovation Fellows are providing open data to local governments and technologists to enable the development of digital tools that help people access and advocate for resources in their communities. This effort focuses on facilitating the development of a suite of digital tools that put neighborhood-level information on access to opportunity at the fingertips of families, community organizers, non-profits, local leaders, and the media.

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