DataKind DC Works with Local Government to Improve City Services

February 20, 2018

Can government partner with hackers to deliver better services?  The National Day of Civic Hacking answered with a resounding yes! In support of this day, last September, we teamed up with the Office of the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and Code for DC, to help tackle some of the city’s toughest challenges. Joining us were 150 volunteers from the D.C. tech community.

A great example of what can be achieved by applying data for good and through strong collaboration, the Health and Human Services hackathon was featured in the Huffington PostListen Up America: National Day of Civic Hacking.

We’re extremely proud of the work the volunteers achieved in less than 24 hours. The volunteers split up into five teams and collaborated closely with the DC’s Department of Human Services (DHS), DC Office on Aging (DCOA), Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and the Department of Health (DOH) to use open data to help these organizations address various health and human service related problems.

Find out more about what each team worked on and was able to achieve in the summaries below.



How can open data be used to make the jobs of Child and Family Service Agency (CFSA) caseworkers easier?

  • The Problem: As part of their work, CFSA Caseworkers must recommend beneficial CFSA programs for families in need. Though there is some overlap among the programs offered, each has a unique set of eligibility criteria making and filtering through each of the program’s criteria is a laborious and time-consuming process for caseworkers.
  • What Resulted: The volunteer team built a multi-service referral portal prototype for CFSA. Check out the prototype here. The portal asks a series of simple questions and then suggests any of the CFSA programs for which the client is eligible.
  • What’s Next: DataKind DC and Code for DC will be continuing development of the prototype for CFSA. In addition, we’re building out an eligibility blueprint app that can be easily replicated for other applications with similar challenges.

Washington, D.C. is the Third Rattiest City in the U.S.! Can we fix our rodent problem?

  • The Problem: Orkin Pest Control recently named Washington, D.C. the third "rattiest" city in America, and long-time residents can see that rodent populations have been on the rise.
  • What Resulted: As part of a larger effort to analyze 311 data, the team worked to develop models that can predict long-term trends in rodent complaints. They also worked to build out features that allow users to examine trends in service complaints over time and in their neighborhoods.
  • What’s Next: The team is continuing to work on the project to develop better metrics for predicting trends in rodent complaints, using census blocks and space and time variables.



Google Maps can’t solve this one:
 How can D.C.’s seniors locate and travel to needed services?

  • The Problem: Seniors need to regularly travel to a variety of locations for medical and  wellness center appointments as well as for day-to-day events and necessary shopping. In addition to the complexity of finding health-related services and scheduling, it is also challenging for seniors to get to the places they need to go. There are a number of options and organizations offering transportation for seniors to consider including: the Department of Health Care and Finance (DHCF), District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Department for Hired Vehicles (DHV), and the metro; however it is sometimes difficult for seniors to know which are both best and available to them.
  • What Resulted: The team first researched the different ride services available, and each of the provider’s service areas and eligibility requirements. The goal was to design a site or an app that would help individuals quickly and easily find out which services they are eligible for. Users would just need to enter where they needed to go along with a few pieces of information about themselves. A mock up  was built of what this site could look like, with logic that displayed the services available based on the information entered. The team also built a phone service that when called, asked a series of question that a user could answer with simple ‘1’ for yes and ‘2’ for no responses. The service would then identify a transportation service the caller is eligible for and provide their contact information.
  • What’s Next: The project served the DCOA by providing several examples of what they could create with data to support the needs of those they serve. At this time, there are no plans to further develop the models explored. However, there is a desire to build a referral system that is similar to the one developed in the CFSA caseworker project — the same project described above — and the work accomplished by the volunteer team can be repurposed to support this future effort.

How can we help DC’s homeless find available shelters?

  • The Problem: DC’s homeless shelters and daytime facilities vary in capacity and services, and there is no central location where this information exists. The DC DHS wanted to use open source data on homeless services and transportation route information to quickly and easily access facilities and services for their clients and also determine the best travel routes to available facilities.
  • What Resulted: Illustrating what could be done with the data, the team built 10 different prototypes of tools and analysis including several maps to locate homeless shelters and display transportation routes, and a tool that allows users to easily search for shelter facilities and programs based on specific services that may be needed, such as dental aid, child care, or domestic violence support.   
  • What’s Next: Following the  hackathon, the DC homeless office worked to improve their data and is continuing to fill additional gaps in the data that the team has since discovered. The team has also continued to meet and work with the DC DHS on extending the functionality of a “selector tool” that will help case workers identify where homeless individuals can be directed to go when multiple services are needed. The team also meets regularly with Code for DC to keep the project moving forward.

How can the Department of Health (DOH) reduce the number of restaurant closures and increase safety of patrons?

  • The Problem: Food safety inspections help ensure food is being handled properly from preparation through serving. The Department of Health (DOH) wanted to better understand and identify common factors, such as establishment type or location, of food outlets with poor inspections ratings. These factors could help guide future training efforts by the DOH for business owners and their staff and also help the DOH allocate staff resources more efficiently.
  • What Resulted: Two prototype dashboards were developed to demonstrate for DOH the various ways they could visualize their data. Both of the prototypes focused on providing DOH managers with risk assessments and inspection trends, which would help DOH managers allocate resources to the most troublesome establishments.
  • What’s Next: The team presented the functionalities of both dashboards to members of the DOH leadership. The agency was appreciative of all the hard work and is eager to explore and learn more about additional ways their data can help inform their practices.

Although there are often barriers to government adoption of new tools, we at DataKind DC believe that persistent volunteers partnered with tenacious leaders can really make positive social change happen!

Will we see you at our next get-together? https://www.meetup.com/DataKind-DC/
Join us on Slack at: https://dkdc.herokuapp.com/