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The Opportunity Project for Cities (TOPcities)

Helping local governments, community organizations, and technologists work together to build data-driven solutions to local challenges.

A new model for innovation

TOPcities puts open data to work. We bring together community leaders, city government problem solvers, and volunteer technologists to build data-driven solutions to challenges residents face in the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drawing from the U.S. Census Bureau’s The Opportunity Project (TOP), TOPcities' methodology is:

Cross-sectoral: Cities face increasingly complex challenges with ever-diminishing resources, and they cannot solve them alone. TOPcities 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. TOPcities suggests new ways for communities to take the lead in civic problem-solving and works to move them from co-creating solutions to co-owning solutions. 

Open-source: Open data has the potential to address residents' pressing challenges, but local governments often need support to turn data into solutions. TOPcities helps local governments learn to work with technologists to build sustainable products using open and accessible data.

How we work

Now more than ever, we need new models for working together toward data-driven solutions to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. TOPcities is a 16-week design sprint that helps city teams to: 

Understand and define a problem through research and interviews with residents and stakeholders

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

Our current TOPcities cohort

City of San José, CA

Residents of the City of San Jose, CA could face economic hardship and homelessness when the COVID-19 eviction moratorium ends. The City, in partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, is working to understand the size and scope of this “eviction cliff” in order to better direct resources to residents in need.

Learn more

City of St. Paul, MN

During the pandemic, residents experiencing homelessness struggled to access resources like shelter, medical services, and counseling. The City of St. Paul, in partnership with Fairview Health Services and the Continuum of Care, is working to better understand how they can connect providers and residents experiencing homelessness.

Learn more

Interested in joining a future TOPcities cohort?

Is your city interested in harnessing the power of open data to more effectively solve community challenges? Contact us if your city is interested in joining our current or future TOPcities cohorts.

Get involved

Our work in action

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

Mayor Melvin Carter, City of Saint Paul

“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.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo, City of San José

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.

Read the Press Release

Partnering at the intersection of data and government

TOPcities is made possible through a partnership between the Centre for Public Impact and Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation. Technical expertise is provided through support from Funding is provided by the Knight Foundation