Mapping the Story of Government Transparency

Mapping the Story of Government Transparency

Story Maps are becoming an increasingly important tool for cities to engage and inspire audiences, just as GIS is becoming an increasingly important tool for cities to understand and address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Failing infrastructure.

Strained budgets.

Climate adaptation and resiliency.

Heightened citizen expectations.

These are just a few of the major challenges facing our cities’ and our nation’s infrastructure. Solving infrastructure challenges alone will be daunting, but solving the myriad other social, economic and environmental issues our cities face requires a fresh approach to building understanding and responding. Cities today need to think in new and innovative ways – not just about their individual challenges, but also about the collection of challenges they face, their impact on each other and how they define the most impactful responses. In short, a more holistic, collaborative approach to problem solving must be undertaken – not only with cities themselves, but the entire community working to address these challenges, including foundations, nonprofits and citizens themselves. This necessity of collaboration, I believe, is why organizations such as the Citi Foundation, Living Cities and their partners are increasingly embracing the power of geographic information science and other technologies.

The City Accelerator, a partnership between Living Cities, the Citi Foundation and Governing, teamed with Esri to bring the power of data visualization to five cities’ compelling stories about the need to take an innovative approach to infrastructure finance and capital improvement planning. In launching the previous two cohorts, the City Accelerator required semi-finalists to produce a short video appeal describing why their city should be chosen to participate in the 18-month cohort. For the third cohort, the opportunity was ripe to leverage the power of storytelling and mapping. So we introduced the tool to the applicant team members, many of whom don’t fit the mold of the traditional ArcGIS user in city government.

Geographic science has long provided a proven approach and framework for understanding and analyzing our cities’ challenges. Geographic information systems (GIS) have provided countless “systems of record” for decades in cities across the United States and abroad. GIS is increasingly deployed as a system of engagement that gives cities the power of deep analytics combined with an easy framework for communication and sharing. Maps help us describe situations and tell stories, providing people with a greater understanding of the world around them. The stories they help tell can often be more valuable than the data itself. In the context of cities, maps provide a way for citizens and taxpayers to better understand how spending or other decisions are being made as it relates to where they live and work.

A storytelling ability is the future of modern mapping. Esri has been delighted by the adoption of our Story Maps as a storytelling device. Story Maps let users combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images and multimedia content. They make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell a city’s stories, which can lead to enhanced community engagement and greater support for government decisions (such as on infrastructure investments). As evidence, I invite you to review the five exemplary Story Maps created by the semifinalists in the City Accelerator program:

We hear a lot today about the importance of “big data.” In my mind, it’s not about big data; it’s about big understanding. Story Maps are becoming an increasingly important tool to share that understanding with larger audiences in a way that engages and inspires just as GIS is becoming an increasingly important tool for cities to understand and address the challenges of today and tomorrow. I thank Living Cities for their thoughtful embrace of Story Mapping and GIS and I look forward to watching the progress of their cities with you.


Latest Articles

Supporting and Growing Overlooked Entrepreneurs with Urban Innovation Fund

In 2012, Julie Lein and Clara Brenner started Tumml, an urban ventures accelerator with a mission to empower entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. Through their experience with Tumml, Julie and Clara saw how investors can overlook certain types of entrepreneurs, mostly women and people of color. Building on their experience, Lein and Brenner founded Urban Innovation Fund (UIF) as first-time …

1863 Ventures Seeks to Close the ‘Friends and Family’ Financing Gap for New Majority Entrepreneurs

Melissa Bradley understands how barriers to capital for entrepreneurs of color hurt our economy and our communities. “There is clearly a cost if we do not invest in diversity,” said Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures. “We miss out on great returns when we are not inclusive in our investment theses. There are opportunity costs for all of us.” She cites …

A Vision for Systemic Change in the Twin Cities: An Interview with Marcus Pope

JK:We’re celebrating your new role as President of Youthprise! Can you tell us a bit about Youthprise? MP: I’ll start by sharing Youthprise’s mission, which is to increase equity with and for Minnesota’s Indigenous, low income, and racially diverse youth. We take the “with and for” very seriously; half of our board members are young people between the ages of …

The Legacy of Wealth Inequities in the Brown and Flynn Families: A Hypothetical Exploration

The first post in a two-part series explores the potential of capital to undo the historical legacy of inequities. Race is a complex issue that continues to drive many of the socioeconomic outcomes in the US. For example, if you are a person of color born in the United States, your zip code is more of a predictor of your …

Get Updates

We want to stay in touch with you! Sign up for our email list to receive updates on the progress we’re making with our network of partners, as well as helpful resources and blog posts.