2019 Open Evanston Annual Report

State of Open Data

Evanston's open data work became more visible throughout 2019, a primary goal of the first open data report in 2018. The number of datasets, especially those updated through automation, has steadily increased throughout the year.  Staff and residents have grown in their ability to navigate and use the open data portal for analyzing and generating insights about City of Evanston programs and policies. 
The open data portal also has more robust training and tools to tell clearer stories with data. Evanston has hosted two regional data events to upskill staff, other municipalities, and local community partners. The following report provides a snapshot into the City’s progress in sharing more datasets with the public and increasing collaboration and data sharing among staff.

Year in Review

Open Evanston

One of the key additions to Open Evanston was access to Socrata’s data storytelling tool, which is being used to share this open data report.  The tool has provided the perfect way to create data-rich and interactive experiences for the development of the 2020 Budget, the Police Data Dashboard, the 311 Weekly Report,  and training for residents.  These data stories provide staff members with achievable examples of well-formatted presentations combining their data with a narrative context.

The number of pageviews in 2019 grew by 228% from the previous year and there were 251 assets created by the end of the year.  Open Evanston’s most popular datasets were Evanston ArrestsEvanston Police Activity, Building Permits, Benchmarking Covered Building List, and Traffic Crashes.

The open data team has also taken advantage of Socrata’s release of Socrata Gateway. In the Summer and Fall 2019, Evanston was part of beta testing. The tool has made automation a viable option for datasets that previously would not have been easy or possible to automate. The goal is to make it easier for staff to keep data regularly updated.

Data Governance Team

The data governance team grew in size and focused on increasing the comfort and use of the open data portal.  Twenty staff members signed up for the inaugural Open Data 101 training. The goal was to raise awareness of the tools available to share data publicly, keep it updated, and use it for internal and external work. Staff also had the opportunity to shape a data panel that was part of the Emerging Local Government Leaders Road Trip event, hosted participants in the NU Loves Data Contest, and assessed the state of open data in our organization.

Open Data Initiatives

What Works Cities

The City of Evanston submitted a report for What Works Cities Certification in 2018 and, based on progress from our 2017 report, What Works Cities committed to working with the City of Evanston to achieve certification by 2021.  Efforts this year include:
  • Presentation to the City Council about Evanston’s ongoing open data efforts
  • Hosting two regional data events to assist partners
  • Developed publication process and data quality controls
  • Documented data governance team responsibilities on Open Data Transparency page
  • Planning and development of City Council Goal Performance dashboard
An internal team of the following staff supports these efforts: 

Hillary Beata, Digital Services Specialist
Patrick Deignan, Communications Manager
Shenicka Hohenkirk, ICMA Management Fellow
Deanna Howlett, Youth and Young Adult Outreach Worker
Kate Lewis-Lakin, Budget Coordinator
Mark Varner, GIS Specialist
We continue to work on the 311 Report Enhancement with assistance from John Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence, completion of a public City Council Goals Dashboard, creating a digital citywide annual report, and general management of data projects in the new year. 

Evanston Emerging Local Government Leaders' Road Trip Event

Public Safety Data

Data projects with the Evanston Police and Fire Department built on the progress of the previous year.  Commander Ryan Glew led two public engagement events to present the Police Dashboard and answer questions. A video is included of the presentation in May.
With the assistance of Sylwia Koziana, a City of Evanston intern, the Evanston Fire Department added a Fire Response Times dashboard to show various metrics for both emergency and non-emergency calls. A public facing tool is in development for 2020 and will include an ability for users to filter by station and year. 

Youth and Young Adult Dashboard

Deanna Howlett, a Youth and Young Adult Outreach Worker and a member of the Data Governance and What Works Cities team, is a leader in analyzing and presenting data on the program’s work and community impact. She developed a dashboard that shows quarterly data of the program’s demographics and the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, a key initiative.

Getting Started Guide

A Getting Started Guide was drafted to support  robust training for staff beginning their open data journey.  The guide walks the reader through ensuring data quality and submitting and publishing a dataset. The Guide is a living document and will be added to as data needs and experiences grow. 

Next Steps

The progress of 2019 is leading to exciting and interesting open data projects for 2020. Upcoming data projects include work in the following departments:
  • Community Development
    • Assessment of Sidewalk Gaps Data
    • Quarterly Economic Development Indicators
  • Fire
    • Public Fire Response Time Dashboard
  • Health and Human Services
    • Development of a digital annual health report
  • City Manager's Office
    • Budget Transparency
    • City Council Goals’ Performance Dashboard
    • Digital Annual Report
  • Administrative Services
    • Analyzing and sharing insights of parking data in light of changes in fees and regulations
Policy-wise, residents will help shape a data privacy policy for Evanston and the Data Governance team will continue to provide training opportunities for staff and residents, including assistance with automation and using the portal to create maps.
Ultimately, work will continue to build on the foundation of staff assistance and public engagement to shape an open data program that works for all.