Empowering the next generation of civic leaders

D&S fellow Noel Hidalgo is pioneering a program that combines didactic open data advocacy with local government use. His research explores how New York City’s local communities can use civic data to improve local community outcomes.

New York City’s fifty nine Community Boards are an important part of local oversight of municipal service delivery. However, because each one is run by two full time employees and volunteer representatives, they struggle to engage effectively with the demands of the digital landscape. This project offers a curriculum that is designed to enhance basic digital literacy skills of Community Board Members and develop a new generation’s civic technology skills. For a period of six months, CUNY Service Corp Fellows, selected for competency in a variety of relevant skills, will partner with participating Manhattan Community Boards. One objective is to empower these boards to develop open data best practices, appropriate for the constituencies they serve.

Our ultimate goal is to increase public participation with New York City’s Community Boards. We seek to educate a new generation of civic leaders by creating educational programs for undergraduate students and Community Board members. Our program delivers an introductory boot camp to undergraduate students who are then placed into internships with Community Boards. Through this bootcamp we develop their technological and professionals skills and jumpstart youth participation in New York City government. For Community Board members, our program provides mentorship to improve three public participation metrics: engagement, events, and membership.

This research seeks to enrich public engagement with an understanding of civic data. Eventually, we want this educational program to include all fifty nine Community Boards and all fifty one City Council Offices. Outside of New York City, we want this program to serve as an example of how data, technology, and youth leadership can be used to improve civic engagement for the 21st century.

This program is developed in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. As New York City Council Member, Gale A. Brewer authored and was the primary sponsor of New York City’s open data law, Local Law 11 of 2012.

This program is supported by the Fund for the City of New York and the NYC Media Lab.

(CC BY 2.0-licensed photo, above, by John St John.)