Connecting residents to neighborhood data and their decision-makers to increase civic engagement

How might we use data to build local public policy knowledge and civic engagement?

Community members gather to discuss civic engagement topics
Photo by: Shannon Lo Wallace, 

Challenge Context
Better Baltimore was a 2017 civic innovation event series creating space for citizens to learn about and discuss change at the local level. It was accompanied by a data visualization exhibition sourced primarily through our local data partner, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance. The data visualization served to establish a common understanding of neighborhood disparities in Baltimore. All events were free and open to the public.

Better Baltimore events were designed to propel conversations about local action forward, capitalizing on the presence of the new mayoral administration & city council, working to further establish citizen priorities and providing pathways for engagement with local politics. All of the events had a focus on innovation and equity.


Project Team
Smile Indias was the lead visual designer on the data visualization exhibition, Michelle Geiss, executive director of the Impact Hub Baltimore, served as event collaborator and content editor, Molly Reddy was the primary researcher and strategist for the data visualization exhibition and the lead event planner. These events were planned and executed as part of my year-long civic innovation fellowship with Impact Hub Baltimore, focused on developing a civic innovation strategy. These events were sponsored in part by MICA’s Office of Community Engagement.


At City Civics 101 we opened with a condensed City Civics lesson by City Council Member Kristerfer Burnett and followed up with an amazing panel discussion moderated by Roberto Alejandro of StayUp.News.

Panelists included:
Kristerfer Burnett, Baltimore City Council District 8;
Graham Coreil-Allen, Public Artist and Citizen Artist Baltimore Cultural Organizer;
Christopher Ervin, President & Founder of The Lazarus Rite;
Ms. Shirley Foulks, Cherry Hill community organizer;
Adriana Foster, Community leader and organizer with United Workers.

Watch the full video from City Civics 101 here.

Mary Pat Clarke
Lunch & Learn with Mary Pat Clarke, Council Member for District 8.

With over 100 in attendance we closed the night with attendees inviting people to get involved with their causes and compiled what was shared into a resource guide. In addition to larger night time events we hosted 6 Lunch & Learns with Baltimore City Council members to allow residents to engage and ask questions of politicians in an accessible environment. The data visualization exhibit received a very positive response and was requested for use at additional community events including Baltimore Data Day and others.

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