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Empowering citizens to make meaningful use of open data

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Open4Citizens (Empowering citizens to make meaningful use of open data)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

This project aims at empowering citizens to seize the opportunities offered by the availability of open data to address needs related to social sustainability.
The aspects of social sustainability this project addresses are related to two fundamental gaps:
• the first gap concerns the distance between the way citizen services are designed and the citizen’s everyday life. Such gap may emerge because of the way services are designed - when the design logic is driven by technical or bureaucratic approaches - or as a consequence of substantial social changes, that existing services are unable to address. This gap generates constraints in citizens’ everyday life, that makes such services socially unsustainable.
• the second gap consists in the distance between the technological possibilities offered by the availability of open data and the capability of citizens, interest groups, grassroots groups and communities to understand and use such possibilities. This gap generates an exclusion of citizens from the possibility to seize the opportunities of open data.

The main goal of O4C is to empower citizens to actively use open data to design new urban services.
Most urban services deeply affect citizens lives by shaping and constraining the way they experience, and interact with, the cities they live in. Moreover, a large variety of data is increasingly made available, and is being produced by social and sensor networks. Only few people assign a value to this varied data, although the potential of open data to create new services increases every day. O4C considers these two issues as causes for social un-sustainability of urban services; and the main goals of O4C is to widen the awareness of the potentials of Open Data to create conditions that enable citizens to explore and develop new services or adapt/adjust existing ones coherently with their own lifestyles.
In the O4C project we will develop tools and methodologies that allow citizens to make meaningful use of open data as an actual resource. During the project time span of 2,5 years we concretely engage citizens in two cycles of participatory hackathons, by developing and testing methods and concrete tools, by designing and testing a digital platform ( and by laying the ground for a network of citizen centred OpenDataLabs across Europe.
The first year of the project was divided into two semesters differing in terms of aims and activities. During the first six months of the project, the efforts of the consortium was dedicated to defining a framework and consolidating a common understanding of the particular O4C approach. The following six months – the second semester - consisted in the preparation and execution of the actual events and hackathons across the 5 different locations (the 1st cycle of hackathons): Barcelona (17-18 September), Copenhagen (7-9 October), Rotterdam (4-5 November), Karlstad (12-13 November) and Milano (17-18 December).

In order to make sure the hackathon event was supported by an adequate framework of datasets and attended by relevant stakeholders, the consortium decided to articulate the innovation process around the hackathon in three phases: 1) the pre-hackathon in which the each pilot could define a theme, identify relevant datasets and engage relevant participants, 2) the hackathon event and 3) the post-hackathon, where the outcomes of the event could be developed in their technical and business aspects.
To facilitate the implementation of these three phases, the local teams at each of the 5 pilot locations have been engaging numerous stakeholders and collaborated with networks of people, public authorities and organisations. As a result of this, across the consortium, we hosted 5 successful hackathons during the Autumn of 2016 – spanning topics such as healthcare, transparency in public administration and urban transformation, citizens participation in the management of urban parks and migrant integration.
Into the 2nd project year we digest the learnings and insights to inform our continued work – as we plan our 2nd hackathon cycle.
The extension of hackathon event to a broader co-creation process involving citizens, IT experts, public authorities, interest groups and other relevant stakeholders is probably the first progress this project proposes beyond the state of the art.
So far Hackathons have been considered as events for IT experts, which could “play” with relevant data and apps, to create very interesting, solutions, that unfortunately were not always very relevant for society, The low relevance of the hackathon results for society is often due to the lack of participation by “problem owners”, i.e. other parts of the social ecosystem that had very good knowledge of everyday social or urban problems. The O4C project is experimenting on this form of co-creation and will consolidate it with the creation of OpenDataLabs, i.e. physical centres, supported by a virtual platform, which support citizens’ use of open data.