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Creating Digital Tools to Address Workforce Challenges

Open Data Technology Development Sprint Addresses Workforce Challenges

The U.S. Census Bureau’s innovation program The Opportunity Project (TOP) brings together technologists, government, and communities to rapidly prototype digital products—powered by federal open data—that solve real-world challenges for communities across the country. To date, TOP’s 12-week technology development sprints have catalyzed over 100 consumer-facing digital products that leverage open data to address challenges like disaster response, youth and veteran homelessness, expanding the innovation economy, and more. TOP also has catalyzed over a dozen new workforce data tools that are now available to the public and is curating workforce data sets to help technologists find and use critical workforce data.

In 2019, The Opportunity Project facilitated a sprint on “Investing in the American Workforce,” in which teams from industry and communities built tools to address the following critical workforce challenges identified by agencies throughout the federal government:

  • Catalyzing investment in Opportunity Zones
    Guided by the White House Council of Economic Advisers & HUD
  • Modernizing talent discovery for high growth entrepreneurship
    U.S. Economic Development Administration
  • Creating resources to unleash American entrepreneurship
    White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Helping the American workforce leverage multiple pathways for career growth
    U.S. Department of Education

As part of this effort, the Census Bureau facilitated a user engagement workshop in Chicago, IL that gathered over 100 stakeholders of workforce issues to seek their input on the four challenges. Over the course of the sprint, twelve technology teams, including those from Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Emsi, Redfin, and Center on Rural Innovation, collaborated with end users from nonprofit organizations and state and local governments, as well as federal data and policy experts, to develop digital tools that can be directly used by the public. Participants from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Sortis Holdings, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, National League of Cities, and other organizations provided key end user perspectives.

To help increase the reach and impact of these tools The Census Bureau awarded $20,000 prizes to each of two tech teams who developed workforce-focused products:

  • City Builder by Citi Ventures brings transparency to the Opportunity Zone ecosystem for investors, fund manager, wealth managers, and cities.
  • Inclusive Development Dashboards by Burning Glass Technologies assists regional workforce and economic development conveners to develop strategies and prioritize initiatives to achieve inclusive development in their regions.

The Opportunity Project team also developed a Data Curation Hub, a public resource that allows technology developers and the public to better navigate workforce data that has been recommended by government experts and test-driven by technology teams. The pilot module on workforce challenges includes useful information and an expert point of contact who can answer questions on 50 workforce data sets. This resource helps to address a recommendation of the Workforce Policy Advisory Board to better compile and enable workforce data sets for public use.

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