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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

Get the TOPcities toolkit

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. The inaugural TOPcities cohort includes lessons from Saint Paul and San José on their efforts to address housing-related challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TOPcities in action

TOPcities sprint toolkit: a guide for community-driven innovation sprints in cities

08/19/2021: A step-by-step resource for people working in local governments to transform public data into digital tools that address pressing local challenges. Governments work with community partners and technologists to leverage local open data and build products that meet residents’ needs, while fostering skills in tech, design, and data use.

Get the Toolkit

The Opportunity Project for Cities: Lessons from Saint Paul and San José

08/19/2021: A report detailing San José and Saint Paul’s 18-week TOPcities sprint, during which they leveraged public data, government and community perspectives, and tech talent to build products that address pressing housing-related challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the report

RELEASE: San José, California and Saint Paul, Minnesota set new standard in building data-led housing solutions during COVID-19

08/19/2021: TOPcities partners and contributors speak to the release of the TOPcities sprint toolkit and report; comments from the Knight Foundation,, the City of Saint Paul, the City of San José Rent Stabilization Program, M Health Fairview, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read the press release


“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

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

Work with us

If you are interested in learning more or partnering with the Centre for Public Impact and/or the Beeck Center, please contact us at

Contact us