Mid-Atlantic Osmosis

I had the pleasure of attending the UnWIREd conference in Baltimore this past weekend, and got a chance to watch people that love their city engage in a productive dialog about how to make it better.

Dave Troy and Beth Blauer of Baltimore

I have lots of friends in Baltimore, and attending civicly-focused events there is always fun because of the passion and dedication of people in the community. I estimate that I knew more than half of the attendees at the event from previous hackathons and similar events.

I attended the event mainly to serve my own purposes – I’ll soon be taking a new position with the City of Philadelphia, and I wanted to get a sense from those attending UnWIREd of how they see open data from their city being a key ingredient in building solutions to urban problems.

The cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia share a lot in common, and face many of the same challenges. There is much that these cities can learn from each other as officials and activists in both places work on solutions to the problems facing their communities.

Place making session at UnWIREd

One gratifying takeaway for me came from a discussion with newly appointed Baltimore CIO, Chris Tonjes. Chris reiterated his interest in a civic application first developed at a Philadelphia hackathon. He and I have chatted before about it on Twitter, and the developer is a former Code for America fellow from Philadelphia.

It’s hugely satisfying to see the products of Philadelphia hacking events develop into reusable solutions that bring value to other cities. It brought to mind the influence that Baltimore has had on the civic hacking landscape in Philadelphia – for example, a hugely successful education hackathon in Baltimore last year influenced the development of a similarly themed event in Philly several months later.

This osmosis of ideas and solutions between cities is important – it highlights the shared stake that cities have in finding innovative answers to vexing urban problems. The best allies cities have in identifying solutions to the problems they face are other cities.

Going to be interesting to watch this trend develop and spread from the Mid-Atlantic to other places.


  1. Barbara McAleese · August 28, 2012

    Hi, Mark:

    My name is Barbara McAleese, I’m the Assistant Director of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

    I’m writing to invite you to join our round-table lunch discussion on October 5 with City Councilman Bill Green to explore collaboration between Penn Nursing’s new Healthcare Innovation Lab and the City’s new Open Data Initiative.

    Our faculty are working on a variety of healthcare open data projects with CMS and HHS. Penn Nursing Professor Kathy Bowles has partnered with a recent Wharton grad to launch a successful startup called RightCare Solutions – it’s an application that helps to reduce hospital readmissions amongst high-risk patients. The startup has attracted close to a half-million dollars in prize funding.

    Other roundtable attendees include Wharton, Penn Engineering, Penn’s Center for Technology Transfer, and Penn’s Government Affairs office.

    We would love it if you could join us!

  2. mheadd · August 28, 2012

    Sounds cool, Barbara. I’ll follow up with you on attending. Thanks!

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