Civic News

5 big ideas from Hack for Diversity and Social Justice

The teams that gathered over the weekend built data-driven projects using a Census Bureau toolkit.

Pres Adams talks #SocEnt to open the proceedings.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

As Artscape crowds sweated below, about three-dozen people came together in a University of Baltimore room to Hack for Diversity and Social Justice over the weekend.
Organized by Presidential Innovation Fellow Tyrone Grandison and Startup Maryland, the event was designed to let civic-minded people in Baltimore work with the U.S. Census Bureau’s CitySDK, which brings government APIs together.
The teams were given a rundown on the Census Bureau’s dev kit and some ideas to open the proceedings from organizations like the White House Council on Women and Girls on Friday night. On Saturday, the teams reconvened for a full day session to begin working on ways to address the issues.
There wasn’t prize money given out, but each team will get support from connected organizations as they look to take their ideas to the viable product stage.
“The community was terrific and we felt it would be unfair to all the teams to name ‘winners,’ so we are going to work with all of them to help them along,” Grandison said after the event.
Here are the projects that emerged from the session:

1. Empowering Women
  • Working with Kimberlyn Leary of the White House Council on Women and Girls, this group sought to create an app that would find whether there are correlations between high rates of school suspension for girls of color and other community challenges such as domestic violence, unplanned pregnancy and gun violence. The visualization app would use APIs from Open Baltimore and the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance’s Vital Signs index.
2. Tax Lien Auction Accessibility
  • This team, which included Baltimore civic hackers Ryan J. Smith and Jake Marold along with Rachel Shorey (who works by day at the Sunlight Foundation), sought to make data from Baltimore tax lien auctions more widely available. The annual auctions are known to surprise even property owners’ whose property end up for sale, and are not widely publicized beyond groups of developers. The team is working on a map of properties that went to tax lien auction in a given year, as well as an infographic on individual auctions and cleaning of the city’s data.
3. Rebuilding Re-Entry Baltimore Data Project
  • Led by Laurin Hodge and her mother Teresa Hodge of Mission: Launch, this group is planning a hackathon in the winter to work specifically with Baltimore re-entry data. (Our sister site, DC, profiled their efforts in D.C.) They came to Hack for Diversity and Social Justice to find out the data that was available about how many people are released from prison within given timeframes in Baltimore, as well as access to services. “We came to see what data existed so that we can start the ground work between now and the hackathon in the new year,” Laurin Hodge said following the event.
4. Root Power
  • This group is looking to make a platform for community organizing data. With the data, they want to inform community decision-making, and help empower youth and families. Along with community organizers, the data could be used by foundations and human service providers. Data could be gathered through a survey that may be promoted on social media, and within neighborhoods.
5. Bike Rack and Bike Lane Placement
  • This team plotted locations of bike racks and bike lanes in Baltimore, then overlayed it with income and ethnographic data. The data showed that the bike racks and paths were in whiter, richer areas of Baltimore. A visualization could be used to convince policymakers to rethink placements in the future.


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