This Week in Civic Tech: Bloomberg Philanthropies Boosted Spending in 2015, San Diego Expands Crowdsourcing Partnership

A look back at highlights and happenings in the world of civic tech.

by / June 9, 2016
Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Flickr/Center for American Progress-Ralph Alswang

This Week in Civic Tech presents a line-up of notable events in the space that connects citizens to government services. Topics cover latest startups, hackathons, open data initiatives and other influencers. Check back each week for updates.

Bloomberg Philanthropies Boosted 2015 Spending

An annual report released by Bloomberg Philanthropies in late May shows the organization, known for its innovation work in government, donated $510 million in 2015 — a 10 percent gain over the previous year.

The figures come as promising news for public-sector officials since nine out of the group’s 13 major projects in 2015 were directly connected to government. Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patricia Harris highlighted the investments in an introductory letter in which she noted the organization’s efforts to support data analytics in cities through the group’s $42 million What Works Cities initiative, its $125 million road safety program, and a $48 million Clean Energy Plan to give states expertise to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon emission laws created in 2015.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the philanthropy’s founder, said investment in climate change is apt to continue as the organization works to assist the 196 nations that committed themselves last December to reducing greenhouse gas emissions so climate change stays below 2 degrees Celsius.

“One of the most effective ways of fighting climate change is also the least expensive: making markets more transparent,” Bloomberg said. “Giving business owners, executives and investors accurate and reliable data about climate change allows them to price risk into their decisions — improving the stability of markets and making low-carbon investments more attractive.”

Rebecca Carriero, a spokeswoman at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said that while the organization declined to report the total amount of spending in government, the funding designated to the public sector is growing overall. From 2011 to 2015, Bloomberg donated more than $2.12 billion, and this spending has only risen year after year: Compared to 2011, when spending totaled $330 million, investment growth has risen 35 percent — or 31 percent if accounting for inflation.

Michael Bloomberg, who contributes funding from his portfolio of businesses, is one of the 154 wealthy individuals and families that have signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment organized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that asks millionaires to give more than half of their wealth to charity during or at the end of their lives. According to Forbes, Michael Bloomberg, 74, has a net worth of $45.6 billion.

San Diego Expands Waggle Parternship

On June 9, the city of San Diego expanded its partnership with real-time crowdsourcing service Waggle to gather feedback from the city’s more than 10,000 employees.

In 2015, the city experimented with the service to improve its strategic planning and communications, and after review has decided to open the platform up across city departments for further insights into such areas as change management, culture building and engagement. In a news release, the city reported that it will also offer the technology to its local businesses that want to contribute their input on civic issues.

“The city of San Diego recently formalized our vision, mission and values, and an overarching theme that emerged was that we could provide better service to the people of San Diego through technology,” said David Graham, San Diego’s deputy COO, in the release. “Our goal is to consider the voices of our employees and residents more frequently, and more directly, to cultivate a more responsive local government.”

Unlike traditional employee intelligence apps, anonymity and real-time dashboards help Waggle collect natural and instantaneous input from employees. Users can anonymously vote on a set of answers to a question or post their own questions, tracking results and interacting with fellow coworkers. All this data is then fed into various charts, heat maps and graphs for decision-making.

The announcement comes just after the city launched its new city services app on June 2 called Get it Done. The 311 reporting app helps citizens request street repairs and other neighborhood services through their mobile phones.

Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.