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CPI in the news Article March 4th, 2021
Cities • Innovation • Technology

TOPcities puts residents and data at the center of building COVID-19 solutions in San José and St. Paul

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.@CPI_foundation @BeeckCenter @knightfdn, w/ support from @Googleorg, announce the launch of #TOPcities in @CityofSanJose & @cityofsaintpaul

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Through #TOPcities, @CPI_foundation @BeeckCenter @knightfdn aim to empower residents w/ access to data & expertise, equipping them as partners & co-creators in local recovery efforts

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#TOPcities will "bring together community leaders, city govs, tech partners & volunteers from @Googleorg to address problems caused or exacerbated by #COVID19"

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Elysa Neumann, Centre for Public Impact

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TOPcities Puts Residents and Data at the Center of Building COVID-19 Solutions in San José and St. Paul

The Centre for Public Impact, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with support from, announce the launch of TOPcities

Washington D.C. - Today, the Centre for Public Impact, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with support from, launched TOPcities in San José, CA and St. Paul, MN. Drawing from the lauded U.S. Census Bureau’s The Opportunity Project (TOP), TOPcities puts open data to work during a 16-week design sprint bringing together community leaders, city government, technology partners, and volunteers from Google to address pressing problems that have been caused or exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Since its launch in 2016, TOP has catalyzed hundreds of consumer-facing digital products that use open data to address the nation’s toughest challenges including disaster response, youth and veteran homelessness, the opioid crisis, and expanding the innovation economy. TOP has produced more than 100 public-facing tools that draw on more than 300 unique datasets across 25 different agencies to support its goal of improving federal agencies’ ability to mobilize digital technology and data as effective tools in helping communities tackle challenging issues. 

TOPcities leverages The Opportunity Project’s shovel-ready toolkit to turbocharge innovation. In the wake of COVID-19, cities are eager to begin the rebuilding process by addressing the myriad challenges arising from the pandemic. TOPcities recognizes that residents are the best-positioned actors to identify and address their communities’ challenges; however, they are often left out of the process. TOPcities empowers residents with access to data and the partner expertise to use it, equipping them as partners and co-creators in local recovery efforts. 


“City residents know their communities best,” said Josh Sorin, Program Director of City Innovation at the Centre for Public Impact. “They know what is a problem in their community because they experience it day in and day out. What we often forget is that by experiencing these struggles, residents are also often the best people to solve them. Through TOPcities, city governments will come together with community members and tech partners to solve problems and improve life for residents.”

“The pandemic has brought to bare a lot of the challenges and inequities our communities are facing. The urgency to address those challenges require government, community and funders to act differently. The time is now to make better use of the wealth of data and technology solutions available to address critical issues such as housing, transportation, health care and education,” said Lilian Coral, Knight Foundation’s director of national strategy and tech innovation. “The Opportunity Project has a proven track record of success in using data to empower residents and lift cities. Launching TOPcities in communities where Knight operates - San José and St. Paul - will enable them to innovate and design solutions to build back better.”

“Cities have troves of data that can address challenges including access to housing—which is strained in this pandemic as unemployment soars and people struggle to pay rent,” said Cori Zarek, Executive Director of the Beeck Center. “Community-based organizations working with public and private partners can turn this data into useful tools to help people find the affordable and secure housing they need.”

“COVID-19 has created a number of unforeseen challenges that highlight the need for increased cross-sector collaboration,” said Jen Carter, Global Head of Technology & Volunteering at “By enabling Google volunteers to work alongside local governments and community organizations, together we can build equitable solutions to help address residents’ most pressing needs during this difficult time.”

“We can better help thousands of our most vulnerable families confronting an ‘eviction cliff’ with data-driven solutions that enable us to focus and maximize our resources to put our community on the path to an equitable recovery. I am grateful to the Centre for Public Impact, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, the Knight Foundation, and for their generosity and commitment to civic innovation,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo of the City of San José.

“We are in a housing crisis which demands innovative, data-driven solutions,” said Mayor Melvin Carter of the City of Saint Paul. “This collaboration will expand our ability to leverage public data in our ongoing work to connect people experiencing homelessness to support, services, and shelter.”


About the Centre for Public Impact

The Centre for Public Impact is a not-for-profit founded by Boston Consulting Group. Believing that governments can and want to do better for people, we work side-by-side with governments—and all those who help them—to reimagine government, and turn ideas into action, to bring about better outcomes for everyone. We champion public servants and other changemakers who are leading this charge and develop the tools and resources they need so we can build the future of government together.

About the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University

The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation leverages the tools of design, data, and technology to make systems work better for all. Our fellows lead initiatives to surface best practices, document what works, and coordinate partners to share lessons at scale.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

About, Google's philanthropy, supports nonprofits that address humanitarian issues and apply scalable, data-driven innovation to solving the world's biggest challenges. We accelerate their progress by connecting them with a unique blend of support that includes funding, products, and technical expertise from Google volunteers. We engage with these believers-turned-doers who make a significant impact on the communities they represent, and whose work has the potential to produce meaningful change. We want a world that works for everyone—and we believe technology and innovation can move the needle.

About St. Paul

Amid the many challenges of the enduring public health and economic crisis, the City of Saint Paul has continued to respond to the needs of residents, workers, and businesses. From providing more than $4 million to families and small businesses most vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID through the Saint Paul Bridge Fund, to launching the People's Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot Program to provide $500 per month in guaranteed income to 150 families for 18 months, the City has continued to provide support and services in response to the many challenges of these uncertain times. 

Like communities across the nation, the City is experiencing a housing crisis that has been exacerbated by COVID. This led to a 10-fold increase in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in 2020. The City and its partners have continued to actively collaborate to connect those experiencing unsheltered homelessness to support, services, resources, and shelter resulting in a significant decrease in the number of people living outdoors to under 100 today. 

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Written by:

Elysa Neumann Director, Communications & Storytelling, North America
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