A new model for innovation
The Opportunity Project for Cities puts open data to work. We bring together governments, community leaders, and tech volunteers to address local challenges through the power of open data and community engagement.
During the program, cities create a series of customized digital tools that speak to residents’ most pressing needs. The Opportunity Project for Cities builds a culture of government transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness that strengthens trust with residents and lays the foundation for lasting cocreated innovation.
Inspired by the U.S. Census Bureau’s The Opportunity Project (TOP), The Opportunity Project for Cities' methodology is:
Cross-sectoral: Cities face increasingly complex challenges with ever-diminishing resources, and they cannot solve them alone. Our program empowers city governments to partner with community leaders and tech partners to tackle problems and create more effective solutions while simultaneously building trust with residents.
Community-driven: City residents and the local organizations that serve them understand problems best. Our program creates opportunities for communities to take the lead in civic problem-solving and cocreating solutions.
Open-source: Open data has the potential to address residents' pressing challenges, but local governments often need support to turn data into solutions. Our program helps local governments learn to work with technologists to build sustainable products using open and accessible data.
How we work
The Opportunity Project for Cities is executed in a series of 20-week collaborative design sprints that increase community voice in government decision-making and produce valuable tools that address community problems.
During the design sprint, teams:
Understand a problem through community research, interviewing residents and other stakeholders to better define the problem they seek to address
Prototype, test, and build a product that uses open data to solve the problem
Launch the product and ensure that it is widely accessible and able to be sustained long-term
6 local governments from across the nation have completed The Opportunity Project for Cities program
30 team members have worked with The Opportunity Project for Cities program since its creation
182 residents have been engaged with during The Opportunity Project for Cities program
"Collaboration between community organizations, Google.org, and The Opportunity Project for Cities helped us create a platform that crowdsources and reports data on internet outages. By doing so, residents are now able to make more informed decisions about their internet service provider. Most importantly, this data will help the city continue to advocate for equitable internet service in the most underserved locations first."
“Hope Village, like most communities of color, has long suffered with digital access inequities. Despite the challenge, the resilience of our community is rooted in our commitment to collaborating with partners like The Opportunity Project for Cities to effectively advocate for residents. Hope Village is proud to be a part of this growing movement to ensure digital equity and lift the voice of the residents of underserved communities.”
“Long Beach was very happy with our participation in The Opportunity Project. We loved the model of bringing community members, city team members and tech volunteers together to understand the needs of our community first and then to co-design with community a solution that works! The site developed leveraged the City’s open data and will allow community members to learn about our urban tree canopy and to help the City to maintain it!”
“TOPC has been instrumental in helping our Nehyam Neighborhood Association in North Long Beach focus on the challenge of getting public street trees watered, the tree cutouts mulched and weeded, and public gardens in general maintained. Moreover, the work with TOPC has inspired us to assemble a team of experts and conservation groups to share best practices and find a way to water trees on public spaces in Long Beach.”
“With this project, the County team embraced a new way of building. We stood up a cross-functional team with multiple external partners to prove out a solution that would have lasting impact. That’s a big deal because it meets Mayor Cava’s challenge to us on several levels. She’s asked to collaborate, to be agile, solution-focused, and inclusive. To name a few. I think we walked out those values with this work.”
“At Google.org, we know that engaging directly with local governments and community organizations can accelerate technology’s ability to meet residents’ needs. That’s why we were excited to support The Opportunity Project for Cities for the second year in a row. Our pro bono, cross-functional team of Google technologists worked alongside community experts to improve digital equity in Detroit, climate resilience in Long Beach, neighborhood blight removal in Macon-Bibb, and economic development in Miami-Dade. With the solutions developed and the toolkit published today, government agencies across the country can continue to leverage public data, community knowledge, and proven technology practices to unlock innovation for their communities.”
“We were thrilled to support The Opportunity Project for Cities for a second year and bring together the best of Google tech expertise with local knowledge of community needs. From digital equity to sustainability, the diverse array of projects across the four communities demonstrates our commitment to technology that improves lives and creates opportunity for everyone.”
"We are in a housing crisis which demands innovative, data-driven solutions. This collaboration [with The Opportunity Project for Cities] will expand our ability to leverage public data in our ongoing work to connect people experiencing homelessness to support, services, and shelter."
"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 Google.org for their generosity and commitment to civic innovation."
"I knew there was going to be culture change involved in The Opportunity Project for Cities sprint, but I didn’t anticipate such big system changes needing to happen for the longevity of the tool to operate in the way residents and providers want it to operate, like securing their own bed for the night and real-time communication with providers - that’s not only culture change but also systems change."
"Originally, our program was focused on how to quantify the eviction cliff. What was helpful with The Opportunity Project for Cities was that it went beyond just a number to consider what solution can be put in place to actually alleviate the problem - what would improve the situation for all these people who are potentially going to be evicted?"
"We have to start understanding that as a city government, there are areas that we do well and there are areas that Catholic Charities does well. By working together in a project like The Opportunity Project for Cities, it shows the community not only can we work together well, we are building up that rapport, building up that trust together."
"[The Opportunity Project for Cities] process broadened the conversation with the community. I talk to outreach a lot right now, and I was talking to those experiencing homelessness a lot back when we first started in February, but it was really beneficial for our team to hear from service providers and those that are experiencing homelessness."
"Data and technology are tools that must be used to strengthen civic engagement and build more engaged communities. The Opportunity Project for Cities is an exciting model to design city services with residents at the center, and provides a model for local governments use that design process to driven innovation within their organizations and improve civic engagement and decision-making!"
"The Opportunity Project for Cities sprint process really hit the importance of doing the direct interview with the 'users,' from both the IT and Services perspectives. Working collaboratively with the people who will utilize that service to define what they need and how this will support them was a very impacting experience, and we’re building a better product and delivering a better service as a result."
"We hear from nonprofits & civic entities that they could solve their biggest challenges more effectively by pairing knowledge of local communities with additional resources, specifically technology expertise. Google volunteers collaborated as the technology team alongside St. Paul & San José to build data-led housing solutions that would achieve just that. The solutions & toolkit that emerged from [The Opportunity Project for Cities] sprint have the unique power to unlock opportunities nationwide."
Get the toolkit and report
The TOPcities sprint toolkit is a step-by-step resource for community-driven innovation sprints in cities. The toolkit contains everything local governments need to transform public data into digital tools that address pressing local challenges.
To see the toolkit in action, be sure to read our cohort report. Which includes case studies, insights for local governments, and best practices.
Press release: The Beeck Center and the Centre for Public Impact release joint report to advance civic technology and open-data innovation in local government
How Civic Tech Got a Pandemic Upgrade
Detroit, Long Beach, Macon-Bibb, and Miami-Dade showcase solutions designed with community and local data
'Next thing I know, the house is on fire': Macon family in hotel after blaze as county unveils project to fight blight
6+ things to know in #MiamiTech: Realfinity & BCP Global fundings, new Miami Tech Charter now accepting students; Bitcoin 2023 returning in May – and much more
Pleasant Hill project to bring solutions to neighborhood
Next City: St. Paul unveils app to help unsheltered residents get help
Next City: Facing end of eviction ban, San José to launch rental assistance finder
Supporting residents experiencing homelessness in Saint Paul: Interviews with Rachel Walch and Travis Bistodeau on their TOPcities sprint
Preventing residents from falling off the 'eviction cliff' in San José: Interviews with Guadalupe Gonzalez and Fred Tran on their TOPcities sprint
San José, California and Saint Paul, Minnesota set new standard in building data-led housing solutions during COVID-19
How “Good” Does Data Need to be in Order to be Used in Civic Tech?
The Opportunity Project for Cities: Lessons from Saint Paul and San José
The Opportunity Project for Cities: Demo day 2021
A New Kind of Collaboration: Breaking Through Traditional Roles to Create Co-Ownership Among Community, City, and Tech Partners
Putting People First: TOPcities Works to Co-Create Solutions to COVID-19 Challenges by Centering Residents and Local Data
TOPcities puts residents and data at the center of building COVID-19 solutions in San José and St. Paul
Pleasant Hill project to bring solutions to neighborhood
Partnering at the intersection of data and government