Civic Switchboard Wrap-Up

The initial iteration of the Civic Switchboard project that started back in 2017 is wrapping up! We are so thankful to everyone who took part in the project - workshop participants, cross-pollinators, field project teams, community of practice calls,members of the civic data operators google-group and our project team. We’d also like to thank our project funder, IMLS, with a special thanks to our program officer, James Neal.

In the five years working on this project, we’ve been gratified to see the interest and enthusiasm for connecting libraries and civic data in their communities around the US. The in-person Civic Switchboard workshops in 2018 brought together 22 different teams of library and data partners from regions all over the country. In the field projects during 2019 and 2020, we supported 14 different on-the-ground initiatives in places as varied as Juneau, Alaska; Queens, New York; Houston, Texas; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Spokane, Washington. From all of you, along with the participants in community of practice calls, we have learned a tremendous amount about the various ways that libraries can support their communities with and through open civic data. We’ve tried to capture as much of this as we could in our Civic Switchboard guide, which grew and developed over the course of our project.

And, speaking of the guide, we are now excited to share with you a professionally designed version, suitable for printing or reading on your device of choice. Along with the full guide, we also created a much-condensed version that highlights selected case studies and library roles to make the case quickly about the important role of libraries and civic data. We are so grateful for the work of designer Karen Sheets who brought our work to life!

We encourage anyone interested in facilitating a community of practice around libraries and civic data, whether in your own region or beyond, to continue the conversations this project started - we are happy to share what we have learned and resources we have gathered. And don’t forget about the civic data operators google group as a way to connect!

The Civic Switchboard Data Literacy project is still in full swing -you can find educational resources on the Civic Switchboard website.

And finally, we wanted to share the final thoughts in a series of blogs from our external evaluator Jake Cowan, an independent consultant who joined us in 2019 to provide insight to the impact of the Civic Switchboard project.

Take Aways from the Civic Switchboard Evaluator - Part 1

I joined the Civic Switchboard team in February 2020 in the role of project evaluator. I am an independent consultant, longtime collaborator with the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, and also a frequent collaborator with libraries. I am passionate about using the tools of evaluation to support projects like Civic Switchboard.

The evaluation work I led and facilitated had three focus areas. The first was creating a logic model that would help the Civic Switchboard team better understand the outcomes associated with their work. There are separate blogs discussing the other two focus areas of this evaluation – documenting the work in Civic Switchboard field projects and supporting planning the future of Civic Switchboard.

The logic model developed for Civic Switchboard can be accessed here, along with an accompanying overview document here. What will likely be most interesting to libraries is the logic model’s mapping of library activities that influence local civic data outcomes. The outcomes included on the logic model can be used by libraries to describe and measure why their civic data work is important.

In addition, this logic model includes an outline of Civic Switchboard’s activities and outcomes, from the perspective of Civic Switchboard as a national initiative that is working to increase support in the library field for libraries to adopt roles in their local civic data ecosystems.

See Part 2.