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Centers for Civic Impact Launches at Johns Hopkins University

The new organization essentially consolidates the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx), the Center for Applied Public Research and the new GovEx Academy all under one umbrella at the university.

The Centers for Civic Impact, a new group aimed at helping governments use data and research to improve quality of life within their jurisdictions, has launched at Johns Hopkins University.

The group builds directly on work being done by the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx). In fact, GovEx is one of three entities that make up the new center. Another is the recently created Center for Applied Public Research, which is also housed at Johns Hopkins. That group focuses on policy research in the public sector. Meanwhile, the third group is the new GovEx Academy, which provides training and other educational assets to government.

The group’s civic impact executive director, Beth Blauer, said during a recent phone call that the move to put these three entities under one umbrella comes amid rising demand for GovEx’s services, which she attributed to the work resonating among public-sector stakeholders. Moving forward, Blauer expects the Centers for Civic Impact to accelerate all that they do in service of helping government better use data.

The new center, she said, will be able to more effectively deliver its services; help build technological skills; fill the knowledge gaps caused by reduced public-sector resources; leverage other work being done at Johns Hopkins; and more. This new status quo could even help the group reassess who it works with, Blauer said, noting that right now they mostly work with mid-sized cities via a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, but that they have tracked increasing demand from state government, county government, and even some nonprofit organizations focused on the sector.

One of the key causes for the expansion right now is an increase in philanthropic support. Donors to and supporters of the Centers for Civic Impact include Johns Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ballmer Group, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Bloomberg Philanthropies in particular has been instrumental to GovEx since it started back in 2015. In fact, the organization was first launched to Support What Works Cities, which is a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative aimed at helping to guide cities in the use of data and evidence-based decision-making to solve their challenges as well. All told, GovEx has so far worked with 140 cities across the globe, sometimes taking its assistance on the road in the form of GovEx pop-up trainings.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.