Templates for open data community events

These templates are based on documents that have been used by agencies from the White House to the Department of Education. Feel free to modify and use these templates for your agency-organized data jam, datapalooza, or hackathon or to develop your own.

Data Jams

Invitation List

Aim for 100 RSVPs, assume 50 will attend. Include approximately 20 policy or subject matter experts, 40 developers and 40 designers.

First Last Email Affiliation Type RSVP?
John Doe John.Doe@email.edu Univiersity X SME – Education Innovation Professor Y
Jane Smith Jane.Smith@email.org Civil Society Y Designer – UX Lead Y
Sally Developer Sally@developer.com Start-up Z Developer N

Invitation

To: Invitees

Subject: Invitation: Join us for a [topic] data jam on [date]

Good [Morning/afternoon],

On behalf of [host], and in collaboration with [co-hosts], I would like to invite you to a Data Jam. Please save the date for [date] in [location].

This Data Jam will bring entrepreneurs, technology leaders, and policy experts together to explore and discuss new ideas for private-sector tools, services, and apps designed to improve value, affordability, and outcomes in [topic].

[Host] will be sending further information in the coming days, but if you are interested in participating, please RSVP or send questions to [Email address for logistics]. This invitation is non-transferrable.

Sincerely,

[Sender]

Agenda

Data jams should be fast-paced, with the majority of time devoted to collaborative ideation.

Time Subject Speaker
9 a.m. Opening Remarks Person to set the energy of the day
9:15 a.m. Structure of the Day Emcee
9:20 a.m. Data Brief 1 Subject matter expert
9:25 a.m. Data Brief 2 Subject matter expert
9:30 a.m. Brainstorming session Moderators lead this conversation at each table
10:30 a.m. Pitch A captain from each table
10:45 a.m. Vote Emcee
11:00 a.m. Coffee break  
11:15 a.m. Brainstorming session Moderators lead this conversation at each table
12:15 p.m. Lunch  
1:15 p.m. Pitch A captain from each table
1:45 p.m. Commitments Emcee
2:15 p.m. Closing remarks Person to emphasize the impact of this work

Brainstorming Session

Define your problem statement

In groups of about 8-10 people (try to include a mix of skills and experience in each group), start with a moderated discussion to define your problem statement in three parts:

  1. Nature: Your North Star! What is the difference between today and what could be? (One sentence!)
  2. Opportunity: So what?! What could be better about the world? (One sentence!)
  3. Constraints: What could get in the way? (Bulleted list)

Brainstorm

  • 5 min: In SILENT brainstorming, everyone draws at least three ideas on sticky notes. DRAWINGS are important. Sketch out what your idea should look like.
  • 10 min: PITCH your ideas to your group and then stick them on a board. Try to group similar ideas if possible.
  • 5 min: Silently VOTE on your favorite ideas. Everyone gets 3-5 dot stickers to place on their favorite idea. You can all vote on one idea or spread over many. You can vote for your idea.

Refine

  • 10 min: For the top 1-3 most popular ideas, choose a captain for each. Ask participants to form teams around their favorite idea and refine the concept to sketch a (large) one-page pitch that includes:
  • A snappy title!
  • A drawing
  • One sentence explaining the idea
  • Pitch: Teams present their idea to the entire room. Give teams 3-5 minutes per pitch (less time for bigger rooms).
  • 10 min: Repeat silent voting with dot stickers across the entire room.

At this point, you can ask participants to raise their hand to commit to building initial prototypes for a datapolooza…

Datapaloozas

Invitation List

Depending on space, aim high. A recent education datapalooza held more than 600 attendees. In addition to the attendees of any of the data jams, invite other potentially interested administration partners, companies, and press.

First Last Email Affiliation Type RSVP?
John Doe John.Doe@email.edu Univiersity X SME – Education Innovation Professor Y
Jane Smith Jane.Smith@email.org Civil Society Y Designer – UX Lead Y
Sally Developer Sally@developer.com Start-up Z Developer N

Invitation

To: Invitees

Subject: [Date] [Host] [Topic] Datapalooza

[Logos of hosts and co-hosts]

[Hosts and co-hosts] cordially invite you to join us for a “[Topic] Datapalooza,” highlighting innovators from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors who have used freely available government data to build products, services, and apps that advance [topic area] in creative and powerful ways.

Please join us on [date] at [time] in [city].

RSVP to [email address] by 5 p.m. ET on [date] if you would like to attend. After you RSVP, we will provide additional event details and logistical information. Please note that this invitation is non-transferable.

Sincerely,

[Sender]

Agenda

Datapaloozas are celebrations of what’s possible with open data, and should be primarily devoted to external innovators demonstrating products and followed by significant administration announcements.

Time Subject Speaker
9 a.m. Welcome Person to set the energy of the day
9:05 a.m. Issue overview Expert on a challenge area
9:15 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
9:20 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
9:25 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
9:30 a.m. Issue overview Expert on another challenge area
9:40 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
9:45 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
9:50 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
9:55 a.m. Issue overview Expert on a third challenge area
10:05 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
10:10 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
10:15 a.m. Demo Open Data Innovator
10:20 a.m. Administration Announcements Senior Administration Official
10:30 a.m. Administration Announcements Senior Administration Official
11:40 a.m. Closing Senior Administration Official
12 p.m. Innovation Showcase  

Hackathons

Invitation List

Primarily invite designers, developers and other technologists. Decide on capacity based on event space and support staff available.

First Last Email Affiliation Type RSVP?
John Doe John.Doe@email.edu Univiersity X SME – Education Innovation Professor Y
Jane Smith Jane.Smith@email.org Civil Society Y Designer – UX Lead Y
Sally Developer Sally@developer.com Start-up Z Developer N

Invitation

To: Invitees

Subject: You’re invited: [Subject area] Hackathon, [dates]

[Logos of hosts and co-hosts]

[Hosts and co-hosts] cordially invite you to join us for a [Subject area] Hackathon, designed to [goal of the hackathon] using freely available government data.

Please join us on [date] at [time] in [city].

RSVP to [email address] by 5 p.m. ET on [date] if you would like to attend. After you RSVP, we will provide additional event details and logistical information.

Sincerely,

[Sender]

Agenda

There are infinite ways to host a hackathon – this is just one sample of an agenda based on what the Smithsonian and the Department of Energy have used before.

Time Agenda
Day one  
9 a.m. Welcome
9:15 a.m. Challenge overview
9:25 a.m. Structure of the Day
9:30 a.m. Pitch and Form Teams
10 a.m. Hacking time
12 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m. Hacking time
3 p.m. Breakout groups
5:00 p.m. Evening wrap
Day two  
9 a.m. Welcome back
9:15 a.m. Hacking time
12 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m. Hacking time
3 p.m. Demos start
4 p.m. Winners announced
4:30 p.m. Wrap

Useful Resources for All Events

Data brief

This is the document you send in advance of a Data Jam or hackathon to help attendees familiarize themselves with the highlighted data sets and/or APIs. Distribute the doc at the event as well. The brief should contain the following about each highlighted data set or API:

Title of data set www.URLofDataSet.gov Plain-language, succinct description of what’s in the data set, what’s interesting about the data set, and any special pitfalls to look out for. Also should include an example of how it’s currently being used or could be used.

Feedback Mechanism

At any of these events, you’ll be lucky enough to have technical people thinking about the interesting problems in your subject matter area. Post butcher paper or a white board at the event and ask attendees to add any feedback that comes up during the event. This is specifically designed to capture ideas they have about improving the data sets you’re using or data they wish was available – ask them to add their email address if they’re willing to give more detail in a follow-up. This is great source of ideas for projects that could become datapalooza announcements.

Guides for Organizers

These guides by civic hacking event organizers can help you organize a better event.