Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. The first round of 2013, which opens in February, will invite innovators from all disciplines to focus on tools for open government. In 2012, three challenge rounds, each focused on an emerging trend, drew more than 2,500 entries.

Challenge 1 - on NETWORKS: Winners were announced June 18.

Challenge 2 - on DATA: Winners were announced Sept. 20.

Challenge 3 – on MOBILE: Winners were announced Jan. 17.

Anyone, anywhere can apply for the challenge - whether for-profit start-ups or non-profit ventures. For more information on a variety of topics - from guidelines for for-profits, on intellectual property licensing, open source software and more - visit our FAQ.

CityStatus brings place-based city data to citizens’ fingertips

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1. What is your project? [1 sentence]

CityStatus provides citizens access to critical government data about places, when and where it’s most relevant: at the site itself, from a mobile phone — effectively eliminating the need to spend hours on the phone or at City Hall wading through paperwork.

2. How will your project use mobile tools and approaches? [2 sentences]

As 2012 Code for America fellows, we created a tool, BlightStatus, that leverages the types of technologies already in people’s hands and provides data about properties that would otherwise be inaccessible on a mobile phone.

As we begin to scale this project into CityStatus, we will incorporate GPS capability and seamless integration with existing social networks so that citizens can quickly and easily access and share official, location-specific information whether at home or outdoors, establishing meaningful connections between citizens, governments, and their cities.

3. Who will use it and why? [1 sentence]

CityStatus is designed for city staff, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, and individual citizens who need accessible, accurate, and complete information about location-specific, government-held data so that they can make informed choices about their homes, businesses, constituents, or neighborhoods.

4. Please list three ways they would learn about your project.

1) BlightStatus launch: BlightStatus, the precursor to CityStatus, will launch publicly in October 2012 at the City of New Orleans’ monthly meeting on blight issues, an event covered by several local and national media outlets and attended by top-level city officials and community representatives.

2) Vast Code for America network:
Our marketing will be amplified by Code for America’s far-reaching presence in the civic technology space, which encompasses 4,370 Facebook fans, 11,800 Twitter followers, over 30 city technology officers across 40 cities, 19 established Code for America “Brigade” chapters, and a blog that reaches tens of thousands of readers.

3) Community outreach and education:
As with BlightStatus, where we met with individuals and community groups throughout our development process, we will promote CityStatus through direct outreach and listening sessions, promotion with nonprofit partners and local news outlets, signage in neighborhoods, and our own social media presence.

5. What connections have you made, or will you make, with others [communities, organizations or networks] about your project? [2 sentences]

In the past eight months of developing BlightStatus in partnership with the City of New Orleans, we’ve built strong relationships with dozens of community groups, nonprofits, foundations, and local journalists, including the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Neighborhoods Partnership Network, and The Lens, and have already been approached by six different municipalities who are interested in re-deploying BlightStatus in their cities.

In addition, as 2012 Code for America fellows, we have had the great fortune to draw upon the knowledge and experience of a network of over 30 city technology officers and countless influential thinkers from organizations like IDEO, Pivotal Labs and Hot Studio, and have been mentored over the past year by Nigel Jacobs from the Office of New Urban Mechanics in the City of Boston, and Steve Spiker from Urban Strategies Council and National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership in Oakland.

6. What part of the project have you already built? [1-2 sentences, feel free to include links]

CityStatus will be an expansion of BlightStatus, a public-facing, open-source web application our team built in 2012 that— for the very first time— weaves together multiple disparate and confusing City data sources to tell a clear, complete story about the City’s blight reduction efforts, both on a high level and a very granular one.

The application currently features a searchable interface for finding information about individual addresses; an interactive map displaying information on a street-, neighborhood-, and citywide-level; tools for visualizing statistics and making sense of the complexity of the issue; and an email alert system that allows users to receive alerts when properties they have subscribed to have made progress through the code enforcement system.

View the open-source code here: and watch our video to learn more:

7. What does success for your project look like? [1-2 sentences]

Success would mean integration of CityStatus into the workflow of community-groups in at least four municipalities across the country in the first year, followed by increasing use in years to come. By creating an interface to government data that is simple, accessible, and inviting, citizens will be more informed and better served by their government, better equipped to take a more active role in shaping their own communities, and through these experiences, more encouraged over time to continue to take an active interest in their cities.

8. What resources do you need to succeed? [1-2 sentences]

CityStatus requires drawing directly from government-held data sources, which requires sustained partnerships with local governments and community members. Support from the Knight Foundation for our first year will allow us to pursue and cultivate key partnerships with city staff and residents, develop our mobile prototype and travel to participating cities to test CityStatus with users, and create a business model so that we may sustain our work moving forward.

Additional details:

Please list who is on your team:

Eddie Tejeda is a civic technologist and open source developer with 10 years of experience developing civic-engagement tools.

Alex Pandel is a designer, communicator, and problem solver, who always makes addressing the needs of users the highest priority in her work.

Amir Reavis-Bey, a software developer, has built online community sites for non-profits and has over seven years of experience in investment banking technology in New York City.

Serena Wales, a web developer, has built campaigning tools and web applications for non-profits, museums and corporations.

Expected number of months to complete project: 12 months to build the mobile interface, conduct user testing, and launch in 4 cities

Estimated Project Cost: $215K for 1 year of development and deployment in 4 cities

Name: CityStatus
@alexpandel, @eddietejeda, @gangleton, @maromba
Email address:
Organization [if applicable]:
Code for America
San Francisco, CA
How did you learn about the contest?
CfA network

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