Bull City Hack Challenges
This is an OPEN working document for members of the Durham Community.
If you want to post your own Challenge or Project Idea to help form a team, scope your project or you just have a good idea you’d like to see worked on, simply make a comment in the googledoc and we'll give you edit access!
Find relevant datasets @ Code for Durham Open Data Portal
and in the links below each Challenge
New Project Ideas by Theme * ones with links have been scoped out somewhat
Community Challenge Briefs
2014 Project Ideas
Redeploy Open Source Apps for Durham
War on Cankerworm Outbreaks!
Saving Lives by Saving Minutes in Emergency Response
Saving $ on Local Government Energy Usage
Open I&R - Towards Open Social Services Directory
Crime Prediction with Foreclosures & Vacancy Data
“Hear our Voices”: Civic Engagement in Poorer Communities
Access to Finance: Expanding affordable finance to compete with loan sharks
Regional Gentrification over Time (Visualization)
Connecting School Gardens to Food Deserts
2040: Gentrification & Planning for Public Transportation (& Affordable Housing)
Affordable Rental Housing Tracking / Visualization
Volunteer Crowdsourcing for Events
Topic Areas (Brainstorming)
Community Partners for More Ideas
Contact to Project Mentors
Potential Community Partner: Indy Weekly, Lisa Sorg (added 11/20)
Comment here or join a discussion at our Code for NC Forum
Problem: Downtown’s lack of signal chirpers. Sandwich boards, parked Elfs, and public art on sidewalks. These are only a few of the common hazards the blind and visually-impaired face. The public bus station in downtown Durham is difficult to access, intimidating and mostly unnavigable once there. Sidewalks end into dangerous crossings. Poorly installed tactile, ribbed sidewalk ramps point the blind diagonally into the street instead of directly across the street. Many of these problems are documented in an amazing piece of civic hacking done by Lisa Sorg in her research for her story “Mean streets: Navigating downtown Durham as a blind person takes courage, a cool head and thick skin.” Blind people in our community have been hit by cars and are regularly at risk. Approximately 240,000 North Carolinians are sight-impaired, and that number is expected to double over the next 30 years. As Downtown Durham changes and grows, now is the time to embrace new technology infrastructure that not only helps the blind but modernizes how we all navigate the real world.
Potential Next Steps
Problem: Cankerworms have reached outbreak levels over the last few years in the City of Durham, a designated Tree City USA, and an infestation in Charlotte has continued for 20 years, partially due to changing bird migration patterns. These worms crawl up trees in the fall, lay eggs which hatch in the spring, when they rapidly eat through the canopies of mature willow oaks, like those that line the streets of Durham’s historic neighborhoods. This pattern leaves the trees even more vulnerable to dying. To add insult to injury, the tiny worms fall out of trees in droves on to peoples heads and clothes all spring.
Intended Outcome: Better tracking of infestation and prevention measures through a crowdsourcing app. In the Fall, citizens would geotag & take pictures where preventative bands have been wrapped around willow oaks, or note trees where they should be wrapped. In the Spring, the app can be used to report cankerworm attacks & sightings. Reports would be aggregated onto a map where people can track tree health & whether infestation boundaries are expanding or contracting year to year.
City and County of Durham, Greg Morrow, CTO & Kerry Goode, CIO
* Good for novice coders
Problem: Due to poor mapping and routing tools built into the current EMS dispatch software, sometimes the response times ambulances are sent to the scene take much longer than the target 9 minute response time. Each minute that passes between a medical emergency and getting professional care could be the difference between significant harm, brain damage or even death. The target average emergency response time in Durham County for an ambulance to the scene is less than 9 minutes. However it could be much better. Durham is not that big. Note to the gov software industry, prepare for disruption.
Solution: A simple map that EMS dispatchers could use by typing in the address of the accident and getting the closest fire station, and shortest route (including traffic) to the emergency scene.
City of Durham & Durham County, Tobin Freid, Director of Sustainability
Problem: The City and County of Durham, like many of the 40,000 municipalities across the country, own and manage many buildings - for Durham, 70+ county & 100+ city facilities. The budget for power for these buildings can add up to 10s of millions of taxpayer dollars. However understanding the energy usage data across these facilities month to month is difficult. Using the data to prioritize retrofits and other efficiency improvement measures is a timely process. Usage data comes monthly in the form of a bill or complicated spreadsheet and is different for electricity and gas. Transforming the data into actionable insights is a lengthy, multi-step and difficult process.
Compare buildings energy usage against benchmarks, normalized for weather, sq footage and # of employees. The tool should be able to automatically update monthly with an import of the energy output. The tool should have a public interface for all city employees understand their building’s efficiency stands. This info could be used as a backbone of a monthly usage reduction challenge.
keywords: open referral, I&R, 211, community resources
Problem: The social safety net is fragmented. There are many small social programs and individual nonprofits that change priorities. The first step to a healthy social safety net is up-to-date, trustworthy information about the resources available that is easy to access in a variety of contexts. The current system still seems to require manual interns to labor to pull together updates to a database of community resources, and the data collected are not available in open formats to use to easily get in the hands of social workers and clients through a variety of interfaces.
Resources (Data/Examples of Hacks):
Community Partner & Mentor: Code for Durham, Adam Martin
Seeking Government & Academic Partner
Problem: During the financial crisis home foreclosures skyrocketed. In addition to home prices decreasing, residents in some neighborhoods worried that foreclosures could lead to vacancies and increased crime. According to a recent paper: on average, violent crimes within 250 feet of foreclosed homes increases by roughly 19% once the foreclosed home becomes vacant, compared to crimes in areas between 250 and 353 feet away” (“Foreclosure, Vacancy and Crime” Lin Cui, Randall Walsh”)
Intended Outcomes: Give city officials and police department analysts a tool to stay ahead of potential crime increases by tracking foreclosures or other leading indicators to help direct enforcement resources & focus partnerships with community housing finance organizations (like Self-Help) to help prevent neighborhood deterioration.
Resources (Data/Examples of Hacks):
Community Partner & Mentor: City of Durham, Neighborhood Improvement Services, Nicholas Allen
Problem: Poorer communities everywhere need better ways to give feedback & engage with local schools and government, esp tools integrating basic mobile tech (voice & text). People are too often too busy to go to a public meeting. And traditional city websites are always out of date.
For Durham’s Poverty Reduction Initiative, how can we make a community organizing tool more accessible and fun? Can we gamify polling and participation?
Gamification for engaging in local issues (maybe tie actions to coupons for public services)? City goals (a) disseminating new info on city policy and initiative proposals (b) collect honest and robust feedback on these new initiatives.
Connecting 211 Resources
Self-Help, Will Perreault
What are the boundaries of an underserved area?
Problem: Due to federal regulation, to become a member of a local Credit Union and get access to financing other than payday lenders with exorbitant interest rates, you must live in a designated underserved “investment area” Underserved areas are determined by a rubric of stats that could be reconfigured in different geo boundaries. For example CountyA may not be considered an underserved area but County A+B together might be, giving more people access to affordable finance.
About Self-Help: Self-Help is community development credit union that aims to provide affordable financial services to low-wealth and underserved communities and families. Since 1980, Self-Help has provided over $6.4 billion in financing (78% of which went to low-income borrowers) and served over 100,000 members.
Desired outcomes: We want to be able to re-draw different geo-boundaries and dynamically see whether the geography fits within the model criteria of “underserved.”
City of Durham, Neighborhood Improvement Services, John Killeen
Making policy choices to combat poverty in an area is often inhibited by lack of understanding of history of poverty in the larger geographic area
What if we could visualize Triangle’s regional poverty context over the past 20 years? How has poverty in the Research Triangle geographically shifted over time, and how have children been impacted?
1990-2015 slider (by five years?)
Dark shade of blue for % of population in a block (or block group) with <80% of the Average Media Income for the state (or the average of the counties covered (Durham, Wake)
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Dan Schnitzer
Problem: School Garden Produce. Where does it go? How do we best utilize the produce?
Solution: an app that connects those who need fresh produce with school gardens. A school garden worker (student, teacher or parent) can upload what has been harvested and a user can match their needs or call “dibs” on produce. There could be a set location to pick up the produce and the one who “calls” it or who bids the highest (depending on the model) can pick it up. It can do to shelters, restaurants, families, co-ops etc.
Durham Chapel Hill Carrboro Metro Planning Organization (DCHC MPO), Andy Henry, Durmus Cesar, John Killeen
Problem: How do cities plan future public transportation needs & budgets (e.g. light rail, roads, and new bus routes) in a way that ensures equitable access affordable transport options for citizens between their living and working locations? The current planning process involves intensive modeling, projecting jobs and population and travel behavior patterns out 30 years. However, being able to layer in socioeconomic pop distributions is not currently possible (see related challenge above).
Related: HUD & DOT’s affordability challenge. http://hackforchange.org/challenges/easy-access-to-location-affordability-data/
Intended Outcomes: A mashup of current poverty data & public transportation options with the 2040 population & job growth projections & future transportation options to help identify potential gaps in the current plans for pairing affordable public transport with where the need is likely to exist.
Update: See here for latest notes from Hack Housing Brainstorm Session (more detailed challenge descriptions)
Problems: Many communities struggle to get sustainable economic development.right. Lack of public awareness around changes in affordable housing options in Durham and ability to track local inventories of rent within affordable ranges block by block as Durham grows and develops
Desired outcomes: interactive visualization of subsidized rental unit inventory and current rental prices within affordable ranges that automatically updates itself over time!
Code for Durham, Adam Martin
How do we bring an old-fashioned barn-raising into 21st century?
Problem: One common problem low-income home owners face is making expensive home repairs. And there are volunteers ready to help. However community members lack a simple tool to coordinate volunteers willing to spend a few hours on a Saturday or weekday to help.
Intended Outcome: Almost like OpenTable for volunteer events (reservation platform). Need a application or platform that is EASY to use (e.g. a browser plugin to Google Calendar & Gmail) for people to volunteer their available times or skills within various time slots (with limited # volunteers) to work on various 1-day volunteer events, like home repair projects or other event-based volunteering events; This could be a tool that nonprofits from soup kitchens to Habitat for Humanity to Appalachian Service Project or any nonprofits could use that regularly organizes volunteers to come for a specific event; like Neighbor.ly but for volunteer timing.
Code for Durham
Community Empowerment Fund
Michael T Wilson
Rites of passage mentor program
Other Reference Data