Kansas City expands civic engagement with data stories, virtual ‘lunch-and-learns’

Ryan Johnston at Statescoop: “…The city is currently running a series of virtual “lunch-and-learns,” as well as publishing data-driven “stories” using Socrata software to improve civic engagement, said Kate Bender, a senior management analyst in the city’s data division.

The work is especially important in reaching residents that aren’t equipped with digital literacy or data analysis skills, Bender said. The free lunch-and-learns — managed under the new Office of Citizen Engagement — teaches residents how to use digital tools like the city’s open data portal and 311 mobile app.

New data stories, meanwhile, published on the city’s open data portal, allow residents to see the context behind raw data around COVID-19, 311 requests or city hiring practices that they might not otherwise be able to parse themselves. They’re both part of an effort to reach residents that aren’t already plugged in to the city’s digital channels, Bender said.

“Knowing that we have more digital options and we have good engagement, how can we open up residents’ exposure to other things, and specifically tools, that we make available, that we put on our website or that we tweet about?” Bender said. “Unless you’re already pretty engaged, you might not know or think to download the city’s 311 app, or you might have heard of open data, but not really know how it pertains to you. So that was our concept.”

Bender’s office, DataKC, has “always been pretty closely aligned in working with 311 and advising on citizen engagement,” Bender said. But when COVID-19 hit and people could no longer gather in-person for citizen engagement events, like the city’s “Community Engagement University,” a free, 8-week, in-person program that taught residents about how various city agencies work, Bender and her team decided to take the education component virtual….(More)”.