A field guide to Citizen Labs projects, people, and purpose.
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Citizen Labs works together with our entire community to promote transparency, better understand problems, and support informed decisions. We apply open data and open source technology, convene civic volunteers, and engage community leadership to create data-driven solutions.

Citizen Movement?

Our volunteer community runs and drives all Citizen Labs projects! We highly encourage all to become involved and contribute. We believe from our neighborhoods to our cities there's always more room for improvement. Whether it's starting a new project or proposing a new tool for the community to use, don't hesitate to just go for it!

Getting Started

  • The story of who we are.
  • We use Slack and GitHub as our primary means of organization and communication. Join via Sign Up.
  • Check out our active projects, or how you can jump in.
  • If you see a project you are interested in, join the project Slack channel, introduce yourself to the community and the project guide(s).
  • Visit project readme for specific instructions on who to contact or how to get started.
  • Not sure which project you want to join? Introduce yourself in #welcome. Talk to a few project guides, let them know what you are interested in. Project guides can help you determine if a project is a good fit for you. The guides for each project are listed are listed below.
  • Have an idea for a new project? Join #project-ideas to start a discussion on a new project.
  • Looking for a certain type of task in any project? Check the list of issues or use Waffle to view the big picture of all projects and open issues.
  • Not sure how to get started? Contact @allen, @brandon, or @jacebrowning in the Slack, or check out the #welcome channel, and we'll help you out. Also check out #micro-projects for quick projects that'll help you get you started.
  • Peak your interest with our Open Data Regional Review Portal, where data can be shared. Contact @allen, @brandon, or @jacebrowning in Slack with questions


Our projects tell stories about our communities, our world, and ourselves. We aim to record these stories on our blog. If you'd like to help with this, ping @allen or @brandon in Slack!

Infrastructure and IT administration

We're doing this on a per-project basis. Connect with @jacebrowning to dive in further.

Project Guides

You've probably noticed that there are a few people in every active project taking questions, and helping new folks get settled in. Project guides create value by deeply understanding the project and helping volunteers to get the most out of volunteering. You don't need to be super technical, just organized and enthusiastic! Guides typically fill a vacuum through their contributions to the team rather then being voted on or appointed. Ping @allen or @brandon in Slack if you're interested in getting more involved.

Active projects

Below is a list of some of our projects that are actively seeking help.

Grand Rapids Parks Project

Slack: #project-datacensus
Project Description: Have you ever wondered how your tax dollars affects the parks we use in Grand Rapids? GR Parks Projects joins parks millage data with OpenStreetMap to bring a simple to use transparent visualization for citizens.

Project Guides: @joel6653

Data: Grand Rapids Open Data Portal

Grand Rapids - US City Open Data Census

Slack: #project-grparks
Project Description: This project will update the City of Grand Rapids' entry in the US City Open Data Census. Grand Rapids is currently ranked 81st in the country and has not been updated since 2014.

Project Guides: @allen

Data: Grand Rapids Open Data Portal

Open Budget Grand Rapids

Slack: #project-openbudgetgr Project Description: Aggregating and normalizing county-level election results to be shared with the broader community. This team now has a fantastic dataset that's difficult to obtain. In addition to the ongoing data engineering effort, they could use help from statisticians, political scientists, and anyone ready to analyze this data.

Project Guides: @allen

Data: Grand Rapids Open Data Portal

River Edge Design Guidelines

Slack: #project-riveredge Project Description:
Design, data collection, visualization project to gain input from citizens regarding design priorities that would be used by the City for the Grand River.

Project Guides: @brandon


If you're looking for a certain type of task (e.g. beginner-friendly, data-viz) to lead you to a project, try checking the links to issue labels below:

  • analysis: Analysis questions, ranging from basic, exploratory questions to more complex questions.
  • beginner-friendly: Good for people new to the project or technology stack used by the project. If you are experienced we encourage you not to claim these issues but instead post in comments offering to mentor a new person.
  • bug: Bug report.
  • data-collection: Data collection task.
  • data-viz: Data visualization task.
  • discussion: Indicates this issue is a public discussion but may not necessarily have a specific task associated to it.
  • documentation: Request for help with documentation.
  • enhancement: Make everything better.
  • first-pr: For first timers only. Issues with this label are meant to be a digestible to help people get up to speed with cloning the repository, making a change and creating a pull request. Please do not claim this issue unless it is your first pull request for this project.
  • sandbox: Issues with this tag are connected to our community sandbox for teaching Github, cloning, making a change and creating a pull request.
  • help wanted: Catch all label soliciting for help.
  • proposal: Propose a project or idea.
  • question: Running into something you want to ask around about! Use a question label.
  • status-blocked: Not ready for development.
  • status-ready: Development task that is fully defined and ready to start.
  • status-in-progress: Someone is actively working on this issue. Please reach out to the person assigned this issue if you would like to contribute.
  • storytelling: Need help crafting a story. Writing assignment.