Starting my sabbatical

Last Fall, I was awarded a 3 week sabbatical to go out into the world and make a difference.  On Monday, I started my 3 weeks.

Many of Socrata’s employees choose to work here because they are passionate about Open Data, Civic Engagement and bettering the world. This is part of who we are as an employee population and as a company. 

To support that vision, Socrata has started to offer a paid sabbatical and stipend to one of our employees each year, who will use this time and money on a civic engagement initiative or project of their choosing. The initiative or project they choose should be representative of Socrata’s product, core values and mission.

For the past year, I've been working with a local non-profit, Bread for the City, and helping lead a Code for America team in DC to streamline the process of applying for affordable housing in the city.  Currently, if you want to apply for Section 8 housing in DC, you need to fill out a paper application for each building you want to apply for.  There are over 100 buildings in DC, each with their own paper application form.  None of the forms are the same and none of them are online.  According to Bread for the City, each person they serve applies for 4-6 buildings, spending approximately 15-20 minutes filling out each paper application.  Even then they are not guaranteed housing.

To address this problem, we have built an MVP that provides an online form that, when filled out, automatically maps the form input to PDF versions of each building's original application form.  Most buildings are unwilling to use a different application form, so providing an application in the same format as what they are accustomed to is important to them.

We are closing in on a solution that Bread for the City can work with, and we are now looking toward next steps.  With applications migrating from a paper-based workflow to an online form, there are new opportunities to learn about and improve the affordable housing application process.

The next few posts will be about my sabbatical journey.