Harvard Ash Center Launches Nationwide Network of Urban Chief Data Officers

April 11, 2016

Cambridge, MA -- The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a leading research center at the Harvard Kennedy School today announced that it has been awarded a grant by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to establish and support a national peer network of urban Chief Data Officers (CDOs).

The Civic Analytics Network will collaborate on shared projects that advance the use of data visualization and predictive analytics in solving important urban problems related to economic opportunity, poverty reduction, and addressing the root causes of social problems. The Arnold Foundation grant will help transform the way local governments deliver services and set urban policy by improving their access to and use of new technologies and their focus on cross agency and collaborative solutions. 

“CDOs are at the forefront of the technological revolution reshaping local governments across the country,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at the Ash Center. “The Civic Analytics Network will allow us to build an important peer network of digital innovators to share creative solutions and strengthen our understanding of how cities and counties can better harness and apply data to address the 21st century challenges of urban governance.”

"We're excited that Harvard's Ash Center will bring us together to share ideas", said Tom Schenk Jr., Chicago's Chief Data Officer. "Cities will be able to build upon each other, team-up on creating solutions, and act stronger as a network."

 “Local governments across the country are working to better utilize data and evidence to solve important problems”, said Josh McGee, Vice President of Public Accountability at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. “The Civic Analytics Network will support leaders who are committed to making measurable progress in addressing problems including homelessness, teen pregnancy and neighborhood blight.”

Key activities of the Civic Analytics Network will include:

·         Analytics use case development.  The Ash Center, in partnership with the Center for Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago, will develop use cases to address multi-disciplinary social service challenges where solutions must be cross-cutting and involve multiple agencies.

·         Shared platform for data visualization.  The Ash Center will create and promote a shared site for cross city/county collaboration on the use of data visualization to better understand patterns of need for municipal services and gaps in addressing public need. This place-based GIS tool will allow public officials to visualize problems and the various interventions in a GIS-tagged format to improve decision making.

·         Convenings.  The Civic Analytics Network will convene twice annually in person and monthly by telephone to facilitate discussion of ongoing challenges and accomplishments.  In between formal sessions, the Ash Center will serve as a central advisory, information and referral source among the cities and counties to catalyze success across the network.

·         Dissemination. Through white papers, case studies, and conferences, the Ash Center will disseminate scholarly and practical research on the use of data visualization and predictive analytics in cities and counties throughout the country. In addition, partner cities and counties will be supported by Data Fellows, who will provide constant documentation and reporting of attempts, processes and successes.

Initial participating communities in the Civic Analytics Network include:

  • Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
  • City of Boston, Massachusetts
  • City of Chicago, Illinois
  • King County, Washington
  • City of Los Angeles, California
  • City of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • City of New York, New York
  • City of Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • City of San Diego, California
  • City and County of San Francisco, California
  • City of Seattle, Washington


About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance, the Innovations in Government Program, and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu

 Contact Information:

Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Harvard Kennedy School