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#ASKTOP: Do agencies need funding to partner with TOP?

Funding is not required to partner with TOP or to run a TOP sprint. You are welcome to use the TOPx Toolkit to run your own TOP sprint at any time and doing so does not necessarily require a budget. What you should plan to do is spend some staff time on all the aspects of managing your TOP sprint – including sending weekly emails, recruiting participants, and other tasks through the three phases of the TOP process. If you feel that you’ll need more assistance from our team at Census Open Innovation Labs, please reach out to us to explore an interagency agreement.

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Yes, we only work with open data in TOP sprints. Any data utilized in TOP sprints should be open for public use by the time the sprint begins. In some cases, agencies have opened new datasets for the first time as part of their sprints. However, if the dataset is in the process of being published, but is not yet open when the sprint begins, this can cause problems for tech teams and the sprint timeline. In addition to open data, tech teams are welcome to use any proprietary data or restricted-use data they have access to.

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Sprint participants work remotely and are distributed all across the country. Participants collaborate via weekly emails and virtual milestone sessions every two to three weeks. We also use communication platforms such as Slack to allow for asynchronous chats between all the members of the sprint cohort including the tech teams, user advocates, and data stewards.

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The products in a TOP sprint are built by technologists outside of government. Past participants include some of the largest global companies, as well as startups, small businesses, and students. Visit our product gallery to learn more about past teams and the products they built.

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The products are owned and maintained by the tech teams that built them. They determine what path to take after the sprints, including commercialization, delivering new features to existing customers or users, or sometimes open-sourcing the products or handing them off to a partner. Government contracts are not an intended outcome of the sprints; however, some agencies have chosen to pursue licensing or procurement for products that serve their missions.

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The Opportunity Project (a.k.a. ‘TOP’) offers a framework for government agencies to facilitate collaboration between technologists and community organizations in order to rapidly design digital solutions for the public good.

TOP operates through 12-week technology design sprints, focused on the nation’s toughest challenges, from the opioid crisis and disaster relief to improving STEM education and workforce development. To date, over 200 digital products have been created, using open data to serve families, businesses, and communities nationwide.

The Opportunity Project is a program of the Census Open Innovation Labs (a.k.a. ‘COIL’) at the U.S. Census Bureau. Learn more about COIL.

TOP has been operating since its launch in 2016. Since then, TOP’s thousands of participants have created 200+ digital products.

A TOP sprint is what we call the 12-week product development cycle during which government agencies, technologists, and community organizations rapidly design digital solutions for the public good.

A TOP sprint works through a 12-week product development cycle. Prior to the sprint launch, federal agencies first define problem statements, and then collaborate with technologists and community advocates outside of government, who rapidly build digital products to solve those challenges using open data. The process from start to finish can take between three and five months.

If our summer and fall sprint timelines do not suit your needs, the TOP team has developed the TOPx Toolkit for federal agencies, a step-by-step guide on how to facilitate a TOP sprint at your agency. The TOPx Toolkit enables federal agencies to run a TOP sprint on a flexible and modifiable timeline. It provides users with the necessary information and tools to execute a TOP sprint.

Participation in The Opportunity Project takes many forms and is open to the general public. Participants are selected based on skill sets, expertise, and alignment with specific problem statements that have been selected in a given year.

If you’re from a government agency, tech company, university, community organization, NGO, or other entity and would like to participate in a future TOP sprint, please contact us.

What each participant does in each sprint varies depending on their role:

  • Tech teams build products with federal open data that help solve national challenges.
  • User advocates provide feedback and ensure the products meet real user needs.
  • Data stewards provide feedback and help teams find and use relevant federal open datasets.
  • Product advisors help tech teams develop products with a viable long term strategy.

    Learn more about each role and sign up to receive updates about upcoming sprints and opportunities to engage with us.

TOP sprints are fully remote and participants are distributed all across the country. There may be opportunities in the future for in-person workshops and events.