04 10 / 2013

We’ve missed you in KC this month, but we’ve been showing up on screens all over town! Earlier this week we had a remote meeting with Global Prairie that joined us from coast to coast - NYC, KC, and SF,  and today we gave a guest lecture for an outstanding group of students at the Kanas City Art Institute who are working on designing interactive online learning communities.

09 9 / 2013

As part of our work in Kansas City this year, we continue to advise on policy and culture change within city hall. Through the national Code for America network, we learn about the latest innovations coming from cities across the country and can help share these examples with our city partners and the community. We’ve collected a short list of some of the best resources for digital innovation and open government:

Example Open Government Plans & Policy

Some municipalities are writing pieces of broad policy around how they will more open, transparent, and accessible. These can be a great first start towards more digital innovation and open data. Additionally, some municipalities find that an open policy like this gives a broad overhead to their initiatives and allows for specifics to be directed in smaller pieces of legislation.

Example Digital Roadmaps

A digital roadmap is a great way to create digital accountability across the government. Some municipalities have started creating plans for where they would like to go digitally, including on the web, social media, and also in digital infrastructure in the built environment, including municipal Wi-Fi and smart devices. The plans provide goals, standards, requirements, staffing needs, and ways to measure success.  

Digital Government Design Principles & Standards

The United Kingdom has been leading the way in innovating the digital services for their entire government. They have established both design principles and a service standard. These are excellent starting points for any government to consider and also help bring staff at all levels along in the process.

Open Data Guides & Frameworks

National organizations are creating excellent guides to help shape open data policies including recommendations on language, sections to include, and linking to examples.

Example Open Data Policies

Open data policies take on different forms depending on their municipality. We’re seeing some fit different city and state regulations or directives. Additionally, some cities are writing their policies in a transparent way, asking for public input to shape the language and requirements.

Example Open Data Schedules & Plans

Some municipalities are creating schedules that direct when data is opened by specific departments, creating accountability. Philadelphia uses a free tool, Trello, to manage, assign, and track open data releases in a publicly visible way.

Example Open Data Portals

Open data portals are where the data sets are shared. There are numerous services for data portals including Socrata and CKAN. Individual cities are launching portals, as are counties, states, and even entire countries.



Next Steps

There are many options and ways to create a open, digital future for a government. It’s important to take key learnings from these numerous resources and then customize to fit each particular municipality.

A few possibilities for Kansas City:

Regional Open Data Agreement & Portal

In Kansas City, we think it’s very important to collaborate regionally on data and release information in standard formats to create better comparisons and tools for the whole region. Kansas City has one of the best metropolitan planning organizations in the country, the Mid-America Regional Council, which has nine member counties, already hosts data, and brings together government leaders across the metro region. MARC is an excellent source to gather data through, and work with the member counties to display individual city/county data, collective data for the region, and facilitate data standard adoption. Through MARC, the municipalities can come together, create a regional open data agreement to collaborate and adopt data standards, as well as create a modern open data portal that serves the region.


Kansas City, Missouri has a growing open data portal, but is in need of an open data policy and digital roadmap to support it. After discussions with our city partners, we recommend an open data ordinance to give broad definition and to establish technical details through administrative resolutions. Additionally, a digital roadmap is in process to help establish the goals and metrics of a digital future for KCMO. We also recommend that an open data schedule be established and shared with all city staff and the public, especially for the benefit of civic technology volunteers in the Code for America Brigade who may be looking to utilize the data in tools they are building.  We will be working closely with our city partners, the Mayor’s Challenge Cabinet, and the Brigade to advise and develop the specifics of these documents and resources.


Kansas City, Kansas has passed an initial open government resolution to explore opening data and begin creating a policy, but does not yet have a portal or a full policy. Additionally, they openly offer their GIS data. We recommend creating an open government directive with an open data policy soon to follow, a digital government roadmap, and contributing to a regional data portal as well as establishing a data portal for the Unified Government, if resources allow.

We only have a few months left as fellows, but are committed to continuing to push along these initiatives in the time we have left.

09 8 / 2013

We have several great demo and test drives lined up! 

Are you a Kansas City small business owner? Join us to try out our app, BizFriendly, which helps small business owners learn how to better use the web for their business. We’re eager to hear what you think! Your feedback is invaluable in our next iteration. Please sign up with a free ticket to a half hour time slot that works well for you. 

Monday 8/13

KC Biz Care

1118 Oak Street, Kansas City, MO

3:30, 4:00, 4:30 pm

Sign Up 

Tuesday 8/13

Connecting for Good

3101 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, MO 

9, 9:30, 10, 10:30, 11, 11:30 am 

Sign Up 

Wednesday 8/14 

Demo Hour after 1 Million Cups 

Kauffman Foundation Conference Center - Plaza Room 

4801 Rockhill Rd, Kansas City, 64110

10-11 am 

Sign Up

Wednesday 8/14 

KC Chamber 

30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO

3:30, 4, 4:30 pm

Sign Up

06 8 / 2013

Today we demoed our app, BizFriendly, to Aneesh Chopra, the former CTO of the United States of America. Thanks for your enthusiastic advice and encouragement!

Today we demoed our app, BizFriendly, to Aneesh Chopra, the former CTO of the United States of America. Thanks for your enthusiastic advice and encouragement!

05 6 / 2013


Over 80 Kansas Citians came together June 1-2, 2013 for National Day of Civic Hacking at Hack KC in the Board Room at Union Station. Participants included software developers, city staff, designers, project managers, writers, neighborhood leaders and more!

Many participants were engaging in this type of event for the first time and had responses like “this is the first hack event I’ve been to and you’re awesome” and “these types of events are really awesome at finding people who are talented and dedicated.”

The local press was also excited by these new ideas emerging in Kansas City. Check out stories from 41ActionNews, Kansas City Star, and KMBZ.

Listed in order of presentation, here are the main nine projects worked on over the weekend:

Daily 311 Brief - Andrew Hyder 

The Kansas City 311 Daily Brief shows cases opened and closed yesterday using KCMO’s open 311 data.

Achieved in a weekend: Repurposed Boston’s Daily Brief app for KC and connected open data

KC Airport Community Engagement - Bill Mullins
Proposal to see how to best invest money for the airport versus other infrastructure through user-centered evaluation of what’s civically important using stakeholder profiles such as urban seniors and airline staff.

Achieved in a weekend: Community discussions and presentation document

Re.Use.Full - Leslie Scott, Ai Namima, Kol Kheang, Alexis Petri, Melissa Melina, Jon Kohrs

Re.Use.Full helps match people looking to re-home their gently used household items with worthy nonprofit organizations who can put them to good use.

Achieved in a weekend: name, logo, launch site

Needs:  front end development, design, talk with non-profit orgs  and people who frequently donate household items to charity

Made in KC - Richard Shipley, Katie Greer

Made in KC is a digital listing for locally made products available online and as an Android app. A big need is a branding mark that can be put on products and utilized by businesses to show that they are locally made. With the individuality of the local brands in mind, the logo was developed in a way that the colors can be customized by each company.

Needs: help getting word out, meetings with local manufacturers and restaurants, fundraising

Garden Free - Caitlin McMurty, Louisa Whitfield-Smith, Camilo Snapp, Jarrett Homann, Zach Flanders, Jon Stephens

Garden Free is dedicated to improving urban food access by connecting those looking to grow healthy food with the land they need to do so. Need a place to garden? Enter your address and Garden Free will show you properties near you in Wyandotte County, color-coded for how easy it is to start a garden on the site.

Achieved in a weekend: integrating open data, launch site, criteria for land

Needs: designers, GIS coding for the different criteria

Votify - Andrew Douglass, Wesley McKain, Deborah Soetandio

In seeing that mayors in many American cities are elected by voter turnouts in single digit percentages, Votify seeks to connect voters with election information and notifications. After entering your address, Votify finds your voting precinct and sends you an email when you have an election coming up. Data is captured by a combinations of scraping data from election boards and election boards providing information directly. In the future it will add mobile integration and calendar invites with an appointment to vote.

Needs: Connections to voting advocacy groups

WikiKC Neighborhood Stories - Synthia Payne, Larry Arnold

WikiKC was furthered over the weekend by creating a place within in it for telling personal stories about neighborhoods. Stories were collected from many HackKC participants to get the collection started. The team found it was helpful to write down what others are saying, rather than just trying to write down your story.

Achieved in a weekend: new wiki pages, story collection

Needs: getting in all neighborhoods, more stories, easy way for anyone to add their story

Awesome Transit Apps- Kyle Rogler, Ryan Mott, Ron McLinden, Bradley Dice, Jestin Stoffel, Mack Yi

This team saw two big problems in Kansas City in that all of the bus systems are not combined in one map and they also do not give updates on bus arrivals. By working with KCATA via Twitter over the weekend, the team was able to use GTFS and OneBusAway to integrate it into a near real time map.

Achieved in a weekend: translated KCATA’s GPS feed into GTFS-Realtime, applied it to the OneBusAway Visualizer

Needs: real time data, make it more fun through game mechanics, add all bus systems for the metro area, connections to transit agencies

Teardown Tattler - Jase Wilson, Briston Davidge, Paul Barham, David Snodgrass, Shawn Davison, Gatlin Hebert, Marlene Jeffers

Many of Kansas City’s buildings have already been lost. Most could have been saved if people had gotten involved sooner. Teardown Tattler monitors the city’s 311 database for dangerous building notices, allows users to sign up to get an email notification of new notices as well as browse the site for map of current notices. The target user is any concerned citizen, but especially those who want to affect urban planning and already community organize around planning decisions.

Achieved in a weekend: built front end page, scrape 311 data, Google street view of the buildings, email notification

Needs: Add monitoring of demolition permits, but that’s often too late in the process to save a building so we’ll architect a process to identify at risk buildings using water shutoff data and other key indicators of demolition. Add user-specified geographic areas for monitoring/notifications and saving multiple locations. Add Advocacy arm utilizing Neighborland API.

Civic Tech Expo


Some great organizations also came out to share how they’re making a better Kansas City. We had booths from Boys Grow, Urban Harvest KC, Kansas City Maker Faire, Connecting for Good, and a DIY touchtable running OpenPlans.

Want to do more?

If you love these projects and want to build more civic tech for Kansas City, join the Brigade!


HackKC was organized by Jase Wilson of Neighbor.ly, Will Barkis from the Mozilla Foundation, Ariel Kennan and Andrew Hyder from Code for America, and Aaaron Deacon from KC Digital Drive.

Thank You to our Sponsors

Intel, Mozilla Foundation, Google Fiber, KCNext

31 5 / 2013

Kicking off a National Day of Civic Hacking by talking about the futures of civic technology with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County & Kansas City, Kansas. Where are we at with tech today? Where are we headed in the future?

Kicking off a National Day of Civic Hacking by talking about the futures of civic technology with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County & Kansas City, Kansas. Where are we at with tech today? Where are we headed in the future?

01 5 / 2013


View from roof of Kansas City, Missouri City Hall looking towards Kansas City, Kansas City Hall.

By Ariel Kennan

For the A Team, as our fellowship team is affectionately known as our names start with A, our residency month was about getting to know Kansas City. How do you learn about a place? Walk its streets? Meet its people? Attend its events?

In early February, the directors of a new play about Kansas City e-mailed Code for America HQ looking for introductions to the fellows. They were still in the process of writing the play and wanted to find out more about our work and partnership with the local government. The play is called Waiting for You On the Corner Of (13th and Walnut) and was created by the Sojourn Theatre* and the TEAM in partnership with the Kansas City Repertory Theater Company. It’s a highly participatory work and includes moments that ask audience members to respond to questions and draw on a map where they’re from in Kansas City—places they know, where they’re welcome-not welcome. This type of interaction begins to flip the theater as the audience becomes performers.

We were only in our first week in Kansas City when we saw the play—very much still outsiders and just beginning to know the lay of the land. The theater companies, however, had spent months in Kansas City doing research, talking to locals, meeting reporters, going to church, and digging deep into what makes Kansas City what it is today. They brought the historic segregation, corporations, urban planning projects, and just the general feeling of the city to life on stage. The piece was eye-opening and reflective on the current state of the city. We strongly identified with two characters—one who is an outside consultant working on a marketing campaign for the city called “I am KC” and another younger character who is building a utopian virtual model of the city. Both creating visions for the city: one as an outsider, one as a local.

After the play, there was a “talk back” session where audience members shared their views and recommendations on how to continue to improve the script. Locals corrected names of places and moments in history. Even with the research and immersion by the playwrights, there was still a local knowledge that was needed to polish the details.

As Andrew and I drove to the airport on our last day in Kansas City in early March, we reflected on the experience we’d just had in the past month. We had a shared feeling that we knew Kansas City, but the process felt unlike the way we’d gotten to know other places. I’m an intrepid traveler and I get to know places by walking their streets. As fellows in Kansas City, we instantly got to know some of the most powerful people, from the Mayors, to successful business people, to educators, and neighborhood advocates. We had instant access to them, their knowledge, and their events. This is something that takes much more time in many places. Although I have a strong network in New York City, where I have lived for the past 9 years, I would not say I have nearly the same access to this level of people, but I know the city intimately. Waiting for You opened our eyes to a lot of Kansas City issues that we couldn’t immediately see by going to meetings, and allowed us to dive deeper to reveal more in our research.

Kansas City is familiar now—people, icons, successes, challenges, history. I hope to spend more time walking her streets, the way I like to get to know cities, but I hope the locals will still fill in a few details too.

*I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with a member of Sojourn Theatre, Shannon Scrofano, on Sandy Storyline at the Tribeca Film Festival. Hopefully the first of many collaborations.

04 4 / 2013

By Andrew Hyder

Kansas City is serious about becoming the most entrepreneurial city in the country. They’ve been quickly organizing resources, technology, and laws to make sure that there is no better place to start and grow a new business. Like all grand plans, the region’s ambitious economic development strategy is made up of many important smaller efforts. The latest happened April 4th as Kansas City, Kansas passed a resolution to start putting its data online. 

Mayor Reardon, in his final month of office, brought this important piece of legislation to vote. The resolution, like others in San Francisco and Washington D.C., allows for city departments to begin to publish their internal datasets online. By putting its spreadsheets and maps on the web for everyone to see, Kansas City is commiting itself to transparency and open communication about its work. 

Kansas City opening up their data is an essential step to becoming an entreprenuerial city. The data created and collected by cities is paid for and property of the public, so making it easily accessible is important. Being available online, it reduces the time and costs for entrepreneurs to do business with the city, while also allowing the tech community to build new applications and web services on top of the data. Within City Hall itself, city departments can now communicate and share information more effeciently. As Kansas City, Missouri has also recently put online an open data portal, regional collaboration and sharing of data will soon be easy.


The CfA Fellows presenting to the Board of Commissioners.

This resolution is just one step in creating an online open data portal for Kansas City, Kansas. The process began when we presented to the Board of Commissioners about the importance of open data, civic technology, and Code for America’s role in Kansas City over the next year. We then provided advice and research to the Mayor’s office to help draft the resolution.We will continue to work closely with staff in both City Halls and the community to plan out the release of their important data.

Through transparency, open communication, and new technology, Kansas City is defining what it means to be an entreprenuerial city.

24 2 / 2013


During our last week of residency, we were fortunate to take a guided tour of Kansas City. Jase Wilson from Neighbor.ly graciously set up a driving/walking tour for us on a sunny Sunday in snow-covered KC. He rented a vehicle and drove us through parts of KCMO we had not yet seen. Jase’s background in urban planning and his enthusiasm for the city were apparent as he described buildings, neighborhoods, and historical transitions. 


At lunch time we met Steve Curtis to continue our tour in KCK. Steve’s passion for the city was made evident the first time we met him on Super Bowl Sunday, and his work in the community is truly inspiring. During the afternoon tour, we saw several Community Housing for Wyandotte County homes and their park project, as well as some local art initiatives Steve has championed. The tour highlighted the historical economic shifts in the city,  as well as the strong neighborhood ties.


Our amazing tour guides gave us an incredibly rich local perspective on Kansas City’s history, present, and future, that we might not have heard otherwise. Thank you Jase and Steve!


24 2 / 2013