This Johns Hopkins center that's helping cities harness data is expanding - Technical.ly Baltimore

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May 1, 2019 11:46 am

This Johns Hopkins center that’s helping cities harness data is expanding

The work in coaching, training and applying research started by the Center for Government Excellence is now operating under the newly created Centers for Civic Impact.
An onsite training session led by Centers for Civic Impact.

An onsite training session led by Centers for Civic Impact.

(Courtesy photo)

In 2015, Johns Hopkins launched the Center for Government Excellence to help cities use data and evidence-based approaches in their work providing services and addressing civic issues.

Started as part of a Bloomberg Philanthropies effort called What Works Cities, GovEx, as it’s known, since helped 140 cities (including Baltimore) through technical assistance and coaching in building systems that use data and analytics.

Since launching, the center has expanded its work to offer more training for public sector personnel, as well as policy work that helped apply academic research at the local level, said Executive Director Beth Blauer. This week, the center launched an expansion that will formalize each of those core competencies and bring focus to the respective areas.

It also comes with a new name: The Centers for Civic Impact.

Under that brand, three programs will be operating on JHU’s Homewood campus:

  • The Center for Government Excellence, which will continue offer the custom technical assistance and coaching. It’s led by Sheila Dugan.
  • GovEx Academy, which will focus on training and education, led by Eric Reese.
  • Center for Applied Public Research, which will focus on evidence-based research how it can be applied within cities, led by Katherine Klosek.

Speaking on the new programs, Blauer called GovEx Academy a “natural progression” that reflects a core takeaway of the center’s message to cities: Cities, she said, “think they have to hire in this talent. Our big focus has been, you’ve already got tremendous talent on the ground.”

So instead of hiring new employees to implement data-based tools and strategies, cities can instead focus on upskilling the workforce that’s already there.

“This is really getting at those subject matter experts and then giving them a bounty of skills so they can push and evolve their delivery,” said Blauer, who has long been a leader in open data and performance management, and served as director of State State under Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Providing such skills can help create a “culture of learning” that helps to retain talent, along with improvements to services.

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The Center for Applied Public Research is building on work make connections between the higher education and research communities and local governments. This can help develop best practices that are crafted with participation from cities, and provide connections between people people tackling the same problems in different cities so they can learn from each other.

Housed within JHU’s Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, the program will look to leverage JHU education and research assets, too.

The center has grown its team over the last year as it builds technology infrastructure, and Blauer said hiring will continue as it grows the academy program as well.

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