Skip to content
Reports March 29th, 2024
Cities • Innovation • Technology

The Opportunity Project for Cities: Lessons from Akron, Detroit, Macon-Bibb, and Miami-Dade

TOPC sprint toolkit: A guide for community-driven innovation sprints in local governments

Read the TOPC sprint toolkit, which includes step-by-step instructions and templates for local governments to replicate the TOPC model on their own.

Get the toolkit

The Opportunity Project for Cities is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and receives pro-bono technical support from It is executed jointly by the Centre for Public Impact and The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University. This report was written by Tahmid Islam, Rebecca Ierardo, Lily Payton, and Matt Collins. It was released on April 23, 2024, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. It should be cited as: “The Opportunity Project for Cities: Lessons from Akron, Detroit, Macon-Bibb, and Miami-Dade County” (2024). Washington, D.C.”

Executive summary

Governments can better serve residents when engaging communities meaningfully. When communities have a direct relationship with local governments in building solutions, it leads to efficient, effective policy-making and product creation. In an increasingly online world, local governments recognize the importance of digital technologies in addressing the problems their communities face. Local governments can be more effective when they build technology solutions collaboratively with their communities, using open-source practices to enhance accessibility. This ensures the solution remains relevant in addressing community problems. Such efforts could bridge the transparency gap between governments and residents.

The Opportunity Project for Cities (TOPC) program uses effective partnership-building between communities, local governments, and tech experts to build open-source digital solutions to the challenges residents face. Using a human-centered design approach, we developed a 5-month innovation sprint similar to the federal initiative, The Opportunity Project. The sprint gathers local governments with community partners (often non-profits) and pro-bono technologists from to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that addresses a local challenge, building innovation and digital capacity.

In the short term, the sprint enables local governments to build digital technologies to help residents address their challenges and provide exposure to a new problem-solving approach. In the long run, the program encourages a culture shift towards more collaborative, responsive, and transparent governments that can effectively build solutions with communities.

As a result, our objectives for the TOPC program are threefold:

  1. Increase public servants’ capacity for community-centered digital innovation

  2. Build more effective government services through data literacy and use

  3. Improve government legitimacy through better community engagement

  • In that time, the program worked closely with 50 public servants and engaged over 438 residents. All governments participating in the sprint say that they have found it effective to work closely with community partners to build solutions.

  • A survey from our 2022 cohort showed that 100% of our local governments say they would recommend others to participate in the TOPC program. Additionally, 100% reported learning new skills due to the program.

In 2023, we completed our third iteration of the TOPC program, building on our previous cohorts' successes and challenges. In this iteration, we intentionally brought back local governments we previously worked with, believing that continuing our program in renewed ways with different departments is essential to sustain cultural change. This year, we invited back the city of Detroit and the counties of Macon-Bibb and Miami-Dade, working with new departments and challenges from the last time. The city of Akron, Ohio, is the latest local government to join the program. This year, Akron, Detroit, Macon-Bibb, and Miami-Dade worked on solving challenges related to improving rental conditions, data accessibility, increasing business permitting, and reducing extreme heat, respectively.

This report summarizes the experiences of the 2023 TOPC program, its third iteration, highlighting the essential findings and learnings that inform more comprehensive efforts in civic innovation, mainly digital technologies. Each city’s experience in this year’s program is detailed in a dedicated case study, highlighting the selected problem, the solution developed, and the critical learning they have taken with them in implementing TOPC methods.

In addition to the case studies, we highlight four key lessons from this year's sprint. Below are snapshots of each lesson (Read more about the key lessons section below):

  1. Adapt the process based on your team's needs and strengths.

  2. Identify key leverage points to tackle systemic challenges.

  3. Use the sprint to create long-lasting partnerships.

  4. Invite transparency and agency for residents

Case studies

Each local government participated in the 5-month-long TOPC sprint together on the same timeline. The sprint consisted of 3 phases:

  1. Understand the problem

  2. Develop and test prototype

  3. Showcase prototype

(Learn more about each phase and how to conduct a TOPC sprint via the TOPC Toolkit).

Although the teaching and tools were the same, each local government experienced the sprint in unique ways. The case studies section will give you an in-depth insight into each local government’s experience throughout the TOPC sprint. Every case study will begin by explaining the challenge each local government hoped to address. The case studies will then explore how the local governments developed solutions through each phase. The “Process” section refers to the “Understand the problem” phase in the sprint, where local government teams further understand the problem by conducting user research. The product development section encompasses the sprint's “Develop and test prototype” and “Showcase prototype” phases. It also speaks to the solution and the key steps the city/counties will take to launch and sustain it. Finally, each case study will end with one key lesson each team learned that helped them through the sprint. 

Akron, Ohio

The City of Akron sought to address challenges related to finding safe, livable, and affordable housing. The team developed a mobile-friendly website that visualizes housing complaint data while providing easier access to housing resources.

This site aims to empower and support tenants, aiding them in making well-informed decisions and ultimately contributing to improved housing conditions over time.

The team

The Akron team consisted of staff from the City of Akron, United Way Summit & Medina, and a pro-bono technical team from The city team featured a cross-departmental group of public servants from the Housing Compliance Division, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Information Technology (IT) Division, and the Office of Integrated Development. United Way Summit & Medina acted as the community partner in the sprint, providing critical expertise on residents’ current experiences navigating the search for safe, affordable housing and leading the team in its community research process

The challenge

Like many cities, finding safe and affordable housing in Akron is challenging. Combined with an aging housing stock and inaccessible information on housing rights, policies, and support, residents struggle to navigate a complicated process to find and secure adequate housing. In 2020, Akron had the highest eviction rate in Ohio. The city currently utilizes a complaint-based inspection model and lacks rental licensing requirements, which would require annual inspections for rental properties.

As a result of these challenges, the city partnered with landlords, renters, community organizations, and elected officials to host an inaugural Eviction Prevention Summit in 2022. The Summit’s goal was to “come together to share experiences, learn from each other, and design innovative and collaborative solutions to forge a new pathway forward toward housing security and freedom.” The insights from the Summit provided important context, guiding the city to work with partners to improve housing conditions and accessibility.

As a result of this context, the team sought to find a way to simplify the process of finding safe, livable housing by providing critical information and community resources for tenants to feel supported in their decision-making.

The process

To better understand residents' experiences in their journey to secure safe and livable housing and the city’s current housing support system, the team conducted research in two parts. The team mainly facilitated listening sessions with residents to share their experiences and held stakeholder interviews with community organizations that provided direct services to tenants. In addition, the team evaluated the city’s existing data infrastructure on housing complaints, identifying key areas for improvement to support future product development.

As a result of the community research process, the Akron team identified two key insights related to the core challenge of housing rights:

  1. Lack of information, tools, and resources for residents:  Finding resources on tenant rights, filing a housing complaint, and navigating eviction were all challenging processes for residents. Much of this information was not centralized and was difficult to navigate.

  2. The power imbalance between tenants and landlords: Tenants and landlords are overwhelmed by a complex housing legal process. As a result, there is a lack of education and advocacy for both tenants and landlords.

Product development

Insights from resident conversations revealed the value of a tool that showcases key information on a property. To materialize this, the sprint team embarked on the initial phase of updating an aging database to support the product’s eventual development. Concurrently, they planned to design a website that allowed residents to search for a property, its possible violations, and its complaints while providing key resources, including how to file a housing complaint or access eviction support services.

The team designed a prototype of a mobile-friendly website with these features in mind and tested the tool with community members, receiving product validation as feedback. Residents shared the usefulness of visualizing violations by property or landlords and the benefits of a centralized location for resources.

The City of Akron aims to launch the Akron Rental Information website in early 2024. The sprint team hopes that the website, the city’s new 311 reporting site, and United Way Summit & Medina’s new housing search tool will help residents be more informed and supported in navigating their search for housing and resources.

Key lessons

Identifying smaller shifts to address complex problems can lay the foundation for bigger, systemic change. The Akron team faced a key question as they began the sprint: how do you begin to tackle a systemic problem quickly? The team initially envisioned a change to the city’s complaint-based enforcement system. Still, scoping challenges prompted thoughtful discussions on what the team could prioritize in the sprint and how a digital solution may support broader systemic change. The team had to first identify a leverage point that would support future systemic shifts. Prioritizing community voices and resident needs, they decided to make data more accessible, providing residents with immediate information on properties and resources. By making data more accessible to address immediate concerns, landlords could be held accountable. This would be a piece of the puzzle to address the much broader systems related to housing.

“Everything we do is to be problem solvers in our community, whether that's a partnership with government, or partnership with other non-profits, or partnership at any other table where we're trying to address a larger issue. But to come up with the right solution for the community, all of those tables must include the voice of people living the problem.”

Joe Scalise United Way Summit & Medina

Detroit, Michigan

The City of Detroit aimed to address limited access to mobility data and the over-surveying of residents. The team developed a data-driven, interactive dashboard map and report tool that shares mobility data and trends to support the city in over-surveying communities. 

The dashboard aims to allow residents, mobility advocates, and city staff to easily access critical information, preventing further surveying residents on issues that have either already been addressed or they have engaged in.

The team

The Detroit sprint team consisted of staff from the City’s Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI), Eastside Community Network, a cross-section of city and non-profit advisors, and a pro-bono technical team from Eastside Community Network acted as the community partner, providing expertise on resident experience navigating mobility and over-surveying issues and leading the team in the community research process.

The challenge

As governments become more resident-focused, many rely on surveys to understand public sentiment and opinion. For example, the Detroit Regional Chamber created a Resident Voices Survey to understand critical factors that affect the population’s well-being. And while surveys can prove fruitful, this cultural shift in governments can lead to over-surveying of the public.

The Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI) observed a trend of residents being repeatedly surveyed on topics addressed in past engagements. Repeated engagements and over-surveying exhaust residents and reduce trust, especially when the outcomes are unclear. While some surveys and reports are accessible online, the city's outcomes, results, or actions are hard to find for residents and city staff. This prevents access to crucial information that would remind residents that they are being surveyed with a purpose. It also limits the city’s ability to access data to take action, such as applying for grants or identifying metrics to inform policy.

As a result of these challenges, the team emphasized making information more easily accessible and digestible so residents could see the outcomes of surveys and engagements to prevent the issue of over-surveying.

The process

As the team began their research, they faced a significant challenge: how do you engage residents in this process without replicating the very problem area they were trying to solve?  While they wanted to learn more about over-surveying, they hesitated to survey residents, given the existing problem. As a result, the team adjusted what community research could look like and interviewed intermediaries related to the problem through a mobility angle. These intermediaries were government employees and mobility advocates. The interviews identified how both parties might collect data on mobility-related issues. The interviews also identified what data feels necessary to create meaningful change. In addition to the interviews, the Detroit team created a data inventory compiling all mobility-related reports involving residents.

As a result of the community research process, the Detroit team identified the following key insights related to over-surveying:

  1. Lack of centralized information: For both city employees and mobility advocates, it was difficult for them to find data on mobility. There was no centralized place to access reports and information on mobility-related topics.

  2. Information is often dense and hard to read: Most information was stored in city reports as static PDF files that were often 50+ pages long. These reports were not clearly summarized, mainly information regarding resident engagement and other data that would avoid oversurveying.

Product development

With their insights from the research, the Detroit team aimed to create a centralized, publicly accessible, and easy-to-understand forum of information for residents. They created a prototype dashboard map that showed past research and data on mobility engagement initiatives. The interactive dashboard map seeks to address over-surveying by ensuring that residents, mobility advocates, and even city employees can understand how their surveying is happening across the city.

As raw information on mobility issues was stored in static PDF files that would take a very long time to read through, OMI needed to find a faster method of extracting data to streamline the process. To meet this need, the Google tech team developed an AI automation interface that extracts critical information from long-form PDFs to power the dashboard. The interface is a place where employees can attach PDF files. A generative AI system then extracts the relevant information fields necessary for the dashboard map. The decision to develop the dashboard was influenced by a similar product created by the nonprofit Data Driven Detroit. As part of the team's research, interviewees were asked what they did and did not like about the Data Driven Detroit dashboard, which influenced the design considerations of the dashboard map the sprint team wanted to make.

The product was piloted internally to an audience of community advocates, residents, and government officials on December 8, 2023. The team plans to continue receiving feedback from residents and staff while building out a robust dashboard that includes more summarized fields of information. With a planned public launch in late 2024, the team hopes that this dashboard map can be a shared space for all departments in the city to compile their reports.

Key lessons

Allow for adaptability in the sprint process. The Detroit team experienced significant shifts in the process throughout the sprint. This uncertainty required team members to be adaptable during the sprint, adjusting and leveraging existing expertise for a smoother process. For the sake of time and the need to prioritize developing completely new AI technologies, the city expanded its sprint team. Both the GIS and Innovation and Technology departments are experts in developing map-based dashboards, so they were added to the sprint to build its interface. Thus, the team was able to focus their technical expertise on developing the more difficult AI interface that pairs with the dashboard. Adding new expert team members allowed the sprint team to work more efficiently in product development. Additionally, the shift allowed the team members to work toward their expertise.

Macon-Bibb County, Georgia

Macon-Bibb County set out to simplify the business permitting process, aiming to centralize and enhance transparency for employees and residents. Leveraging Camino, a user-friendly building permitting and licensing software deployed in select county departments, the team introduced UX/UI improvements through a new landing page. This page was designed to help users understand what forms they needed to submit and track their progress.

The software aims to establish a clear and predictable permitting process whereby citizens can easily access the information they need to obtain a business license and creates a transparent review process for county staff.

The team

The Macon-Bibb sprint team consisted of staff from the County’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the Information Technology (IT) Department, NewTown Macon, and a pro-bono technical team from NewTown Macon acted as the community partner in the sprint, providing expertise on residents' and businesses' experiences navigating business permitting and leading the team in the community research process.

The challenge

Business permitting is a common challenge for governments across the country. In Macon-Bibb, residents and city staff alike have noted an opaque and confusing permitting process, creating confusion for both staff and residents and an unfulfilled economic landscape for local entrepreneurs and business owners.

The business permitting process is overseen by multiple agencies, each with its own goals, priorities, and processes, which creates confusion for staff and residents. Residents experience a lack of access, transparency, and knowledge about the business permitting process, leading to frustrations among applicants who often struggle to resolve permit issues independently. As a result, a generic process becomes even more difficult and creates additional burdens for county employees. County employees also lack visibility into different departments' requirements and processes. They can become apathetic when applicants take their frustrations at the process out on them, resulting in poor customer service. Inhibiting small business owners from achieving their goal of opening could deter them and negatively impact the community’s economic future. Internally, individual agency staff must educate potential applicants on the permitting process and do not always provide consistent information.

With this context in mind, Macon-Bibb County set out to understand how they might make it easy for every applicant and county employee to understand and navigate the business permitting process.

The process

The team interviewed county staff and business owners to better understand the staff’s and residents’ experiences with the business permitting process. They interviewed five departments involved in business permitting and six local business owners who often go through the permitting process. The research sought to understand the steps involved in permitting, what business owners need to go through the process quickly, what can or can’t be offered to residents to improve their permitting experience, and how the county can improve the process.

As a result of the community research process, the Macon-Bibb team identified the following key insights related to the core challenges around business permitting:

  1. Residents and county staff lack a transparent, centralized source of information for navigating the business permitting process. There is no way for applicants to see all the information regarding timing and expectations for the business permitting process, often resulting in the submission of incomplete permit applications. Residents make many attempts to follow up and move their applications through the permitting process, causing delays and costing them financially. Simultaneously, county employees don’t have visibility into the different steps of the application process.

Product development

With the insights, the Macon-Bibb team set out to provide an easily accessible overview of the complex permitting process, akin to a roadmap guiding applicants through each step and requirement. They envisioned a tool that increases transparency and streamlines the entire process internally and externally. The roadmap would create internal workflows that seamlessly connect and update different county departments while offering real-time status updates to applicants. The team hoped this would ensure that everyone, internally and externally, is on the same page, helping to reduce uncertainty and burden on residents.

During the product development process, Macon-Bibb utilized Camino, a user-friendly building permitting and licensing software already deployed in some departments within the county. The team found that the software possessed the capabilities needed to build their internal workflows further. The IT department partnered with Camino representatives to build additional capabilities into their existing workflows and provide automatic status updates to departments and applicants. IT also designed a user-friendly landing page on the county’s website that provides a clear and concise map of the permitting process, a direct link to the application portal, and the ability to check their application status in real time.

Macon-Bibb launched the landing page on their county website and plans to further develop the tool and Camino workflows into a fully-fledged digital hub for all business permitting needs. They are also prioritizing gathering feedback and buy-in from both county department staff and residents as they continue to iterate on the tool. They built a feedback survey into the permitting landing page to collect ongoing user feedback. They also plan to train departmental staff on how to use the tool within their existing process. The goal is that through these efforts Macon-Bibb can track and reduce the number of applicants who fail to complete their applications. In turn, creates more transparency in the process from both the residents using the systems and those who administer them, regardless of department.

Key lessons

When engaging the community, ensure transparency and agency of residents are built into the process. Macon-Bibb knew their sprint would involve directly working with communities on the ground. The sprint process meant the team needed to work with residents in new ways. The county was required to be transparent about the process and understand that the community had a significant role in informing the final product's design. The team’s research with residents who were business owners was critical to understanding the problem and how they approached their solution. Seeing the commonalities between residents and staff’s experiences helped them unlock the root causes of frustration and difficulty around the process. This informed the design of a solution that both worked for residents and was built from their ideas. Ultimately a product was developed that was informed by the communities that faced the challenge in the first place.

Miami-Dade County, Florida

Miami-Dade County focused on addressing commuter challenges on extreme heat days by providing a platform to uplift the voices of its residents. Through innovative collaboration, the County created “Cool Commute,” a website designed to collect commuter feedback on their public transportation experiences during extreme heat.

This tool aims to lessen extreme heat consequences for commuters, improve countywide bus stop infrastructure and ensure residents are not only heard but centered in countywide decision-making.

The team

The Miami-Dade sprint team comprised of staff from the County’s Information Technology Department (ITD), the County’s Chief Heat Officer, Transit Alliance, and a pro-bono technical team from Transit Alliance served as the community partner in the sprint and provided expertise on residents' experiences through community research related to heat and transportation.

The challenge

With the worldwide escalating impact of climate change, cities and counties are experiencing unprecedented extreme weather conditions. Due to this marked change, local governments are becoming more agile and creative in responding to and preparing for these events.

As temperatures continue to rise in Miami-Dade County, residents are increasingly experiencing the negative consequences of its extreme heat. The team focused on understanding the negative outcomes of extreme heat, such as hospitalizations, fatigue, productivity declines, and lack of dignity for county commuters.

With this complexity in mind, the team set out to understand how the County can fill an existing void to provide commuters with access to information and resources on extreme heat days.

The process

Leveraging the community research expertise of Transit Alliance and Google, the Miami-Dade County team conducted over 200 interviews and surveys in multiple languages with residents both online and in person. This research focused on critical insights into how residents decide to commute on days of extreme weather.

As a result of the community research process, the Miami-Dade County team identified the following key insights related to the core challenge of extreme heat:

  1. Commuters lack the necessary resources. Commuters don’t have access to resources that help them alleviate extreme heat-related issues. Residents lack knowledge of shade and water in the local area, which would prevent health issues related to extreme heat.

  2. There is a need to gather data as much as there is to provide information. The County needs data from commuters as much as the residents need information on resources. The product must include a means of collecting commuter information on transportation usage during extreme heat.

Product development

After concluding the interviews and surveys, the team synthesized their data to develop a website allowing commuters feedback on necessary infrastructure improvements throughout their commutes. The community emphasized the need for improvements, specifically at bus stops. There was also a desire for residents to play a role in asking for those improvements online. They envisioned a multi-language tool easily accessible with a user-friendly interface and easy-to-remember product name. When a commuter uses this tool, they will share two things: their specific bus stop number and their infrastructure request, such as a water fountain or shade tree. This not only helps the County know what is needed at each bus stop but also minimizes resident-confirmed privacy concerns as there is no geo-location.

An early version of the tool was tested with residents at the same bus stops from their earlier research, receiving a positive reception that steered its ongoing development. Testing underscored the importance of allowing residents to provide input on their commutes, especially during extreme heat. The County has found a way to increase the amount of data they have on their public transportation infrastructure to address this need.

The final product is slated for a pilot launch in early 2024, with an official launch date later in the year. The team aims to collect user feedback by creating future feedback loops to support the “Cool Commute” website launch. The team also aims to explore additional features, such as a map overlaying current shade trees and commute infrastructure. Eventually, this data will lead to infrastructure improvements, such as additional and much-needed water fountains and shade trees.

Key lessons

Creating intentional partnerships that allow for longer-term, innovative relationships.

One of the highlights of this effort was the opportunity it brought Transit Alliance Miami together with Miami-Dade County’s ITD team. The ITD team had previously never worked with the Transit Alliance, though the group often worked closely with other County departments. However, as the 22-week sprint progressed, ITD acknowledged Transit Alliance’s understanding of Miami-Dade County’s transit community and took the first step to build a positive and long-term relationship with the team. The partnership expanded beyond the Opportunity Project for Cities (TOPC) program. Miami-Dade County team member Jorge Valens served on a transportation panel at a recent Transit Alliance event. This collaboration allowed both entities to communicate further and identify additional ways to leverage technology and design to engage residents around their day-to-day transportation issues. The TOPC program is a cornerstone of Miami-Dade County ITD’s inclusive innovation approach that leverages partnerships to build innovative solutions for pressing community concerns.

Key lessons

The collective experiences of local governments within the TOPC program offer invaluable insights. This section focuses on key lessons and distils essential takeaways from these experiences to guide and enhance the success of future sprints. It serves as a practical resource, offering tips and best practices drawn from comprehensive case studies to improve your TOPC sprint outcomes.

These insights were formulated through rigorous post-program impact evaluation, incorporating feedback from final surveys distributed to TOPC sprint team members and detailed interviews with those most deeply engaged in the sprints. The culmination of this qualitative analysis provides a robust foundation for the key lessons shared, ensuring they are both actionable and effective in fostering successful TOPC Sprints

To effectively deliver a successful sprint, your team needs to build in room for adaptability.

The sprint is a step-by-step process that outlines a detailed plan for effectively developing a digital tool that solves a community challenge. Although the sprint process can feel very structured, it is important to build room for adaptability based on your team's needs and strengths. Building in buffers to allow room for change in the process and tailoring the work to meet your needs is crucial to a successful sprint. In the case of Detroit, the team built a tool using already existing technologies that both city employees and residents are used to. This resulted in a shortened product development period, allowing room to focus on a more difficult-to-implement AI interface.

Think of the sprint as addressing one piece of the puzzle regarding addressing wider systemic challenges. That one piece of the puzzle should be a stepping stone to solving wider systemic challenges, enabling you to continue to work with communities.

The sprint is not designed to be a process that aims to solve systemic challenges in the relatively short time frame you have. Often, the challenges you would like to address with communities can feel much larger than what can be achieved in the sprint. However, the sprint can act as a guide to address one puzzle piece and help to prioritize what your team can solve in the 22 weeks you have. In the case of Akron, they prioritized making data and resources more available to residents rather than trying to overhaul the housing complaints system completely over the sprint.

One of the most important parts of the sprint is building partnerships. Seek to build partnerships not just with the sprint in mind but with the intention of building long-lasting relationships that collaborate in the long term.

Central to the TOPC program is building new partnerships, particularly with community organizations. The sprint poses a great opportunity for your team to build new relationships that, in the long run, should continue to work to solve challenges in much broader ways. Partnerships should not just be created with the sprint in mind but also further beyond, allowing you to scale for impact. In the case of Miami-Dade, through building a relationship with the Transit Alliance, the county’s Innovation and Technology team became participants in their transportation panel. This allowed Miami-Dade to further collaborate on climate change and transport issues.

Come to the sprint with an openness to engage with residents in a way that provides genuine transparency and agency. The sprint will ask you to see residents and others on the ground as co-designers when building solutions.

Often, our approach to resident engagement is very top-down in local government. Local governments tend to come to residents with solutions in mind and offer very little to them regarding decision-making. The TOPC sprint tries to rethink how we normally engage with residents and their communities. The sprint intends to allow residents and others on the ground to play a crucial role in building digital solutions. Local governments need to come to the process with an open mind and engage in this renewed method of community engagement in order to conduct the sprint successfully. In the case of Macon-Bibb, their openness to engaging with communities in a renewed way was a transformative experience that allowed them to build a solution that genuinely had the residents in mind. Something they hope to embody as a practice throughout their county offices.

These key lessons are a few of the many that each sprint team learned throughout their experience. They offer you a chance to think about how to further equip and prepare yourself for a successful sprint. The key lessons not only enhance your sprint experience but also offer a way to ensure sustainability in all technologies you might want to develop with human-centered design in mind.


The TOPC program continues to provide evidence that community engagement and open data using a human-centered design approach can lead to building digital tools that effectively address residents' challenges. As we witnessed, the program’s evolution in its third iteration in 2023 continues to prove successful with the local governments we have worked with. This report is a valuable resource, offering insights into their experiences and helping inform our work going forward. The report also provides an opportunity for detailed insight into the practical workings of the TOPC program, aiming to serve as a guide alongside the TOPC toolkit, enabling other governments to engage with their communities in similar circumstances.

We encourage you to emulate the accomplishments of Detroit, MI, Akron, OH, Macon-Bibb, GA, and Miami-Dade, FL, in the TOPC 2023 sprint. We recommend reading our TOPC Toolkit to learn how to implement the program in your city or county.

As our keynote speaker, Oliver Wise, Chief Data Officer and the US Department of Commerce, during our TOPC 2023 Demo Day describes, “collectively [The TOPC Program], the tech teams, the community organizations, the user advocates, the various civic organizations who are involved in this effort come together to make something really powerful and meaningful.”

We trust that this report conveyed the power and significance that the TOPC program delivers to local governments and their communities throughout this report. Look out for more news on the upcoming 2024 program soon!


This work was made possible with the support of dozens of people who are all passionate about the power of open-data technology, civic innovation, and cross-sector collaboration. The Centre for Public Impact and Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University is grateful for all the energy, insight, and care our TOPC participants brought to this work. TOPC would not have been possible without the participation and support of the following individuals:

Our sprint teams:

Akron, OH

  • City GovernmentJodie Forester, Matthew Wilsbacher, Brian Unger, Tammy Tucker, Emily Collins, Alyssa Gregg, Dylan Garritano

  • Community partner: United Way Summit & Medina - Joe Scalise, Tanya Kahl, Leesa Bruback

  • Karthik Vazhkudai, Abhishek Arora, Rebecca Tinkelman, Sakura Umebayashi, Michael Griscom, Avritt Rohwer, Fabrício Damasceno, Tim Nab, Aiko Zhao, Karan Patel

Detroit, MI

  • City GovernmentTony Geara, Konner Petz, Vincent Keenan, Jonathan Hondorp (also representing Wayne State University), Sarah Hall, Rupita Tahsin, Martin A. Denicolo, Ted Schultz, Rasha Almulaiki

  • Community partner: East Side Community Network - Arena Johnson, Erin Stanley 

  • With special thanks to Noah Urban and the rest of the team at Data Driven Detroit, who acted as advisors throughout the sprint

  • Anuradha BajPai, Anton Maliev, Brian Davidson, Rebecca Tinkelman, Sunaina Sridhar, Twinkle Mehta, Yan Zhu, Zheng Zhang

Macon-Bibb County, GA

  • County Government: Keith Moffett, Jeff Ruggieri, Kai Fan, Mohammad Islam, Brittany Bell, Barbara Marlin, Paul Shannon, Megan Flowers

  • Community partner: Newtown MaconErin Keller

  • Corin Hernandez McClary, Vincent Yang, Mike K., Brian Davidson, Aiko Zhao, Wenyuo Luo

Miami-Dade County, FL

  • City Government: Ana Chammas, Cheriene Floyd, Jane Gilbert, Galen Treuer, Jorge Valens, Andrew Wong, Kimbriah Alfrenar, Michael Betancourt, Carlos Rodriguez, Juan Florez, Javier Ruiz, Jaime Schyko, R. Adam Mullins

  • Community partner: Transit Alliance - Nicholas Duran, Cathy Dos Santos, Mark Merwitzer, Shaan Patel

  • Sakura Umebayashi, Claudia Jones, Caro Pinzón, Jeremy Neiman, Olivia Puerta, Pragya Gupta, Twinkle Mehta, Esteban Obando

Our program partners:

Knight Foundation

  • Bernardo Rivera Muñozcano, Kelly Jin, Jon Belgard

  • Erin Hattersley, Caro Pinzón

The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University

  • Harold Moore, Elham Ali, Jessica Yabsley, Ashleigh Fryer, Ellen Naughton

Centre of Public Impact

  • Rebecca Ierardo, Giselle Cordero, Susan Nguyen, Tahmid Islam, Matt Collins, Lily Payton, Brian McGough, Grayson Wiles, Pierre Berastain, Elysa Neumann, Carmella Grace De Guzman, Rosie McIntosh, Victoria Gomes

The Opportunity Project for Cities sprint toolkit: A guide for community-driven innovation sprints in local governments

Access the TOPC toolkit, a resource for people working in local governments to chart a path to transform public data into digital tools that address pressing local challenges while building participants’ skills for tech, design, and data use.

Get the toolkit