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Sprints

Learn about sprints and how we tackle national challenges.

Sprints are 12-week product development cycles that bring together tech teams and collaborators to build public-facing digital products using open data.

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Problem Statement

Improving Minority Businesses’ Access to Capital

Challenge:

Develop digital products to help improve minority businesses’ access to capital

Why This Problem is Important:

Minority owned businesses are critical to the national and local economies. They are a critical part of job creation and preservation for more than 2.2 million jobs. Yet these businesses face obstacles to surviving and thriving, particularly because of difficulty accessing capital. The 2021 Small Business Credit Survey found that Black-owned firms that applied for traditional forms of financing were least likely to receive all of the financing they sought – 40% of white-owned firms received all of the financing they sought, compared to 31% of asian-owned firms, 20% of Hispanic-owned, and only 13% of black-owned firms. This trend persists even among firms with good credit scores. One key reason for the lack of bank financing for MBEs is lower credit, lower net worth, and lack of assets, and.without alternative capital options, businesses either reduce operational capacity or go out of business.

Without the ability to access needed capital, minority businesses often find themselves struggling to grow and gain any traction in their selected industry, stunting job creation, slowing down local economies, and further increasing the earnings gap in the United States.

Agency

Minority Business Development Agency

Target Audience

  • Engaged Minority Business Owners and Minority Entrepreneurs seeking access to capital
  • Advocacy organizations supporting these individuals
  • Lending, financing and investment institutions

Problem Statement

Analyzing Equity in Federal COVID-19 Spending

Challenge:

Develop innovative tools that combine datasets to help inform community leaders on equitable distribution of federal funding. Teams are encouraged to analyze how federal COVID-19 spending has been shared with communities most vulnerable to impacts of the pandemic.

Why This Problem is Important:

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has made $4.5 trillion available for relief efforts. How has this money been spent? A greater understanding of how government spending reaches different communities is a step forward for data transparency and a call-to-action to improve equity. Access to federal financial data alongside demographic data can help community leaders make higher impact funding decisions. In line with the recent Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, this problem statement seeks to put equity at the center of the government spending agenda.

Agency

U.S. Department of the Treasury

Target Audience

  • Local officials and decision makers
  • Policy and advocacy organizations
  • Research communities
  • Data journalists

Problem Statement

Tackling the Climate Crisis through Climate-Smart Communities

Challenge:

Improve climate resilience planning in communities around the nation by creating tools that enable local decision making and facilitate federal support of local-level priorities.

Why This Problem is Important:

Climate change-driven extreme events and patterns are causing cascading problems in our nation’s communities. As the associated frequency, severity, and costs increase, so, too, does the risk facing Americans, especially those most vulnerable to climate impacts, such as poor, rural and minority populations.

Unfortunately, the pace and scale of climate-related impacts are outpacing our nation’s response. Both the average annual number and combined cost damages of billion-dollar disasters (BDDs) in the United States have quadrupled since 1980. Resilience to these growing threats must be built locally, and local decision makers need data from all levels of government at their fingertips to communicate about and address local climate-related risks and opportunities.

Agency

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Target Audience

  1. Municipal, county, tribal, and state decision makers who are responsible for planning and action, especially in underserved communities
  2. Climate adaptation/resilience professionals who provide local decision makers with expert guidance and translation services

Problem Statement

Preventing Crisis for Low-Income Renters & Small Landlords

Challenge:

Develop digital tools to prevent financial hardship and housing insecurity by raising awareness of and connecting at-risk households to housing assistance.

Why This Problem is Important:

In 2020, those who fell behind at least three months on their mortgage increased 250 percent to over 2 million households. Collectively, these households are estimated to owe almost $90 billion in deferred principal, interest, taxes, and insurance payments. Similarly, over 8 million rental households are behind in their rent. Now, as the economy recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, eviction moratoriums established to help vulnerable renters will sunset, potentially leading to households being displaced and/or individuals becoming homeless.

Further exacerbating this problem is the fact that many small landlords, who are an important source of affordable housing, are not prepared to weather missed tenant rent payments and may face the tough decision to evict renters in order to retain their properties if assistance is not swiftly provided.

The importance of identifying these renters and landlords and connecting them with aid will only grow as we face the long term economic impacts of the pandemic.

Agency

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Target Audience

  1. Small landlords, at-risk renters, and nonprofits or legal organizations serving vulnerable renters and/or those at risk for homelessness
  2. Trade associations or other entities seeking to help small landlords retain their properties, financial services providers, and state, local, and tribal governments.

Problem Statement

Analyzing Housing and Migration Trends Post-COVID 19

Challenge:

Use data to help stakeholders understand post-pandemic housing and migration trends, and create tools that help to visualize and process this information for data driven predictions and recommendations.

Why This Problem is Important:

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic’s global shutdowns challenged many past assumptions about affordable housing needs. Office worker commutes and business travel fell suddenly and sharply, with 60 million fewer commuting miles as 37.1% worked from home. Some social and economic patterns are likely to return after the pandemic, while others may continue in a changed form or be gone forever.

The housing needs of both remote workers (e.g., office jobs) and on-site workers (e.g., restaurants, delivery, hospitality, etc.) are shifting. Affordability may change for some urban areas, as people relocate to desirable and newly achievable places including the less expensive exurbs of large cities, to lower-cost southern states, and to communities that facilitate non-work activities.

Given these changing circumstances, understanding and predicting where housing may become more affordable, which locations may require additional housing assistance, and what strategies may be employed to support those who cannot afford costly housing or relocation will be pivotal to ensuring an equitable recovery.

Agency

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Target Audience

  • HUD clients and landlords
  • real estate developers
  • banks and funding organizations
  • public housing analysts
  • local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs)
  • non-government advocacy organizations
  • city and regional planners
  • tribal governments

Problem Statement

Increasing Content Accessibility for Multilingual Communities

Challenge:

Develop (ideally open source) tools to help serve the increasingly multilingual community in NYC and in cities nationwide, enabling them to access government resources for an equitable recovery to the impacts of COVID-19.

Why This Problem is Important:

With more than 3 million foreign-born residents from more than 200 different countries, New York City is home to one of the most diverse populations in the world. New Yorkers come from every corner of the globe and speak over 200 different languages. Nearly one-half of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and almost 25% – or 1.8 million people – are not English Proficient.

In crisis response and recovery, critical public health and operational information must be delivered in multiple languages. Facts emerge on a rolling basis, and information changes quickly, but new information is currently shared first and primarily in English – making it difficult to ensure that the millions of non- English Proficient residents are able to receive critical information in a timely manner. In an emergency situation, and during an economic recovery from crises such as COVID-19, if people lack equal access to usable information, how can we ensure an equitable recovery?

Agency

New York City Maryor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer

Target Audience

Local governments and NGOs who need to communicate with diverse language speakers in the United States. The majority of target users will be people who manage digital and print content within public-facing institutions. The ultimate beneficiaries of this initiative are non-English Proficient people.

Problem Statement

Helping Small Businesses Thrive in a Digital Economy

Challenge:

Develop digital tools that help small business leaders and their workforces to enhance their online presence and ability to process data and information relevant to their businesses in real time, thereby allowing them to be competitive in the digital ecosystem.

Why This Problem is Important:

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses struggled to stay afloat. As of May 2021, the number of U.S. small businesses that were open had decreased by 33.8% (pdf) compared to January 2020. Those that stayed open faced reduced revenues, as well as increased expenses and new operational realities given health and safety restrictions. During the pandemic, much of the economy also transitioned online. However, only 29% of small businesses in Florida report benefiting from online sales, highlighting inequities in preparation for this shift. Given these challenges, economic recovery will also not be straightforward for smaller scale operations. However, small businesses play a critical role in the economy, with 60% of net new job gains in Florida since 2012 having come from companies with less than 100 employees (pdf), confirming the pivotal role of these organizations to the state’s economy.

Agency

City of Coral Gables

Target Audience

Small business owners, their employees, and economic development professionals, as well as visitors and residents.