Coders, designers, journalists, data scientists, and entrepreneurs joined representatives from more than 21 government agencies this month to confront complex societal problems affecting our neighborhoods, communities, and country. Why?
It was part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, a collaborative event that took place across the country on June 1 and 2. I was on hand for a locally organized event in Washington, D.C., and seeing representatives from these traditionally disconnected groups work together productively was engaging, inspiring, and fun.
We asked participants to analyze our public Consumer Complaint Database and challenged them to come up with ways to empower consumers by building tools and visualizations using complaint data. Since the launch of the database in June 2012, the number of consumer complaints has increased rapidly, surpassing the 100,000 mark earlier this spring. The breadth of the database has also expanded; it now includes complaints on seven categories of products, ranging from credit cards to mortgages.
Since the launch of the database, we’ve been thinking about how to get the public involved with the data. During the event, I was able to answer questions from civic hackers interested in using the data to build visualizations and applications. Kevin Ohashi, a blogger and self-proclaimed civic hacker, used our publicly available data combined with the Census Bureau’s population statistics to analyze and share which products, issues, and companies consumers are complaining about, as well as where these complaints are most prominent. This is exactly the type of involvement we’re hoping for and illustrates the opportunities we have to expand this type of public engagement.
We hope to connect with other communities interested in engaging with our database. We believe there is opportunity for coders, developers, and others with strong technical prowess to build innovative tools and applications that can enable consumers to live better financial lives.
Project Catalyst, a cross-CFPB platform focusing on supporting innovation in consumer financial products and services, is interested in continuing to engage with more people to see the exciting things that can be done with the data.
Ready to check out the data? Just tweet at @CFPB with #CFPBData and #ProjectCatalyst if you do, and stay in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.