In the period of 2009 – 2014, public interest technologists and designers started turning their attention to the public sector, asking the question: How can we collectively improve people’s experiences of government? Organizations like 18F, USDS, Code for America, MindLab, Helsinki Design Lab, Gov.UK, Presidential Innovation Fellows, Public Policy Lab, and the Lab at OPM popped up inside and alongside government.
On the municipal level, the City of Philadelphia was a part of this early movement, and was intentional about fostering a space of creativity and risk-taking inside the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT). New and existing talent experimented with emerging methods and tools. And born out of this collaboration was the “alpha” team who opened up avenues for open data and built early prototypes of phila.gov.
Over the years, the “alpha” team expanded their scope and diversified skill-sets—transitioning from a developer-centered team to one that included data managers, content strategists, user experience designers, visual designers, and service designers. The Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) was created in 2016 by the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to elevate the team’s work and human-centered design methodologies. In 2018, ODDT launched the new phila.gov platform.
Now comes the next step in the evolution of these efforts.
ODDT is dissolving as an office, and team members will transition to OIT and the CAO.
- ODDT’s Open Data team has already joined OIT’s more centralized data team under Chief Geographic Information/Data Officer Henry Garie. This team, CityGeo/CityData, publishes open data, visualizes data for common use, develops GIS applications, supports analytics, and enhances the City’s data governance and strategic value. Through this unified effort, OIT is growing the City’s comprehensive use of data.
- Content strategists, user experience designers, and visual designers who compose ODDT’s Digital Transformation team are transitioning to OIT at the end of the year. This team will maintain and expand the new phila.gov platform, and work on OIT’s enterprise-wide technology projects—providing a user experience (UX) design and content strategy lens to those projects. Andrew Buss, Deputy CIO for Innovation in OIT, will direct the Digital Transformation team in the interim.
- ODDT developers will also join OIT’s reimagined software engineering team led by the Director of Software Engineering, Dan Lopez.
- ODDT service designers and design researchers will spin off into the Service Design Studio led by Liana Dragoman, Director of Strategic Design in the CAO. The Studio will work on City-wide process-improvement efforts as part of the CAO’s enhanced mission of transforming public-facing service delivery through cross-agency collaboration and creative problem-solving.
All teams will collaborate with one another across practice areas and disciplines to develop solutions that improve the public’s interactions with government and staff work experiences.
Marker of progress
Philadelphia is a city of firsts. Six years ago, when the City of Philadelphia first hired human-centered designers and developers, these roles and skill-sets were new at the City and across the U.S., especially on the municipal level. Methodologies like human-centered design, open source development, and agile were equally unfamiliar in government. Since then the Philly team broke new ground: publishing important open datasets, writing content guidelines that championed plain and inclusive language, developing software in the open on GitHub, creating the alpha and beta prototypes for phila.gov that reoriented City information in support of residents’ needs, collaborating with colleagues to build the City’s capacity for modern and accessible approaches to design and product development, and launching the PHL Participatory Design Lab and phila.gov.
The City’s current state of design, development, and data is built on these firsts. As we’ve reached a state of fluency, it’s time to scale. Under the leadership of Stephanie Tipton, Interim Chief Administrative Officer, and Mark Wheeler, Chief Information Officer, design, development, and data now have permanent homes, growing teams, and expanding portfolios in OIT and the CAO. Designers, developers, and data experts are working on high impact enterprise-wide service improvement projects, which is an exciting place to be in 2019.
We’re forever grateful to past and present team members, civic designers, public interest technologists, and leaders who have contributed to the team’s trajectory and this marker of progress.
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Great news! We’re hiring UX and content designers to support this work.
Please apply on SmartRecruiters:
- (1) UX Strategist
- (1) UX Designer
- (2) Content Strategists
Applications are due on November 18, 2019. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.