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City of Houston's First Ever Open Challenge

The City of Houston’s first ever Open Challenge was launched on October 1st, 2015. Former Mayor Annise Parker and Former Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez asked the civic tech community to help the city identify solutions to three challenges. Instead of 24 hours, which is how long we give citizen technologists at our annual Hackathon, participants had 2 months.

The first challenge was around deed restrictions. Deed restrictions are maintained by Harris County and the only data that the City can provide is a listing of potential deed restriction violations that have been reported to the City. Keeping these restraints in mind this challenge was open ended. The City asked participants to study deed restrictions and create a plan to manage the information. How should it be communicated to the public? Is there a “best-practice” in deed restrictions in another city?

The second challenge dealt with public meeting notifications. From city council sessions to neighborhood association meetings, Houstonians should easily be able to find the public meetings that are important to them. The challenge was to create a customizable notification system.

The third challenge concerns City Council Records. Ever Wednesday, City Council meets to discuss policy and authorize spending. The minutes are reproduced online, but they are not easily reportable. The challenge is to create a scraper that categorizes data in a useful and meaningful way.

The results of the Open Challenge are in! After two months of working on the challenges and a grueling week of assessment from judges, the winners of the first ever City of Houston Open Challenge were announced on Dec. 10th at the Open Houston Meetup. We want to congratulate:

Deed Restriction Challenge Winner – We received two very different submissions for this challenge. We received a thorough study of deed restrictions from one group and a proposed structure for deed restriction from another group. We think both submissions have benefits and have decided to split the prize. Thanks Rachel Green, Rebecca Rodriguez and Kyle Shelton for your hard work!

Public Meeting Notification Challenge Winner – Congre.us. Congre.us created a fully functional public calendar that includes meetups, events and council sessions. Thank you Patrick Eleden for your hard work!

City Council Record Challenge Winner – Parabyte. Parabyte created a search function for procurement. It is a fully realized vision with very fast searching capabilities. Thank you Rakshak Talwar, Micah Thomas and Fabian Buentello for your hard work!

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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