Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Building Philly’s open data movement

Nov. 19, 2012, 7:19 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

If you had the keys to your city’s data, what would you do? Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s first chief data officer, is in that enviable position.

headdFormerly the lead of government relations at Code for AmericaHeadd now works directly with agencies and departments on the standards and procedures by which they release their data to the public.

We talked with him to find out his top priorities, the barriers he faces and why Philadelphia’s open data movement is a process, not an outcome.

What are the top three datasets you think all cities should make available and useable?

M.H.: Definitely transit data because it touches the lives of so many people on a daily basis. Also crime data. In every city that I have worked in, it’s one of the most requested datasets. And also financial data - people want data about where and on what the government spends its money. Those three sets at a minimum should be available in every city.

What are challenges you face in improving public access to information? 

M.H.: Inside Philadelphia, there’s an acute awareness about the importance of open data. The more subtle point I have to get across is about how government views its role. People in government, especially those working in tech, traditionally have thought their role was to create websites, apps and data visualizations. But it’s a collaborative approach. We need to be at a place where people outside the government help us better deliver information and services. This requires government to think of themselves less as solution developers and more as stewards of data.

In your work at Code for America, what sort of apps, platforms or projects do you see gaining traction?

Award goes to project that brings news to Austin's hearing impaired

Nov. 19, 2012, 6:54 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation


ACCESS News, a Knight Community Information Challenge project that brings news to the deaf and hard-of-hearing hearing in Austin, Texas, has been recognized as "Best Hands-On News" by The Austin Chronicle.

“ACCESS News is a groundbreaking half-hour news program designed to open the city, and the world, to Austin's sizeable deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” the Chronicle said. “Anchored by Gallaudet University graduate Tamara Suiter-Ocuto, this civic-minded project is relevant for both hearing and deaf, bringing everyone together to foster a greater sense of civic responsibility and understanding.”

ACCESS News is a half-hour television program hosted by Suiter-Ocuto, who is deaf, and interpreted by Jennifer Stoker. Tamara interviews people from all walks of life, including: Congressional leaders, Nobel Prize laureates, law enforcement officials, New York Times best selling authors, community activists and more.  Each episode is presented in American Sign Language, English, and captioned.

Engaging Minnesota donors on Give to the Max Day

Nov. 16, 2012, 1:45 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Thursday was Give to the Max Day at and Minnesotans indeed gave to the max: collectively the community raised $16.3 million for more than 4,000 nonprofits across the state.

Some 53,339 individuals donated via, an innovative online resource seeking to change the way Minnesotans give and help create a stronger nonprofit community. 

Now in its fourth year, uses a web platform to help nonprofit organizations of all sizes reach new donors, increase giving through fun and engaging campaigns and significantly reduce fundraising costs. The day helps individuals find, learn and contribute to Minnesota, facilitates quick and easy online donations and organizes charitable contributions in one location. Last year, it raised over $13 million.