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NSF Awards Connected DMV, GMU, and UMD with $50K Civic Innovation Challenge Grant

NSF Awards Connected DMV, George Mason University, and University of Maryland with $50K Civic Innovation Challenge Grant


WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2021 -- Connected DMV, a regional non-profit, in partnership with George Mason University and the University of Maryland has been awarded a Civic Innovation Challenge (Stage 1) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research 311 data to understand municipalities’ civic technology use during disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. The Civic Innovation Challenge is a national research and action competition that supports ready-to-implement pilot projects with potential to produce scalable, sustainable, and transferable solutions to address community-identified challenges in the mobility and resilience domains.

The Civic Innovation Challenge is funded with $11 million from NSF, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Project teams comprise civic partners—such as local, state and tribal government officials, and non-profit and community leaders—working together with researchers.

A team of researchers and policy experts in the DMV area (the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Suburban Maryland) will examine the existing and disparate 311 systems across DMV local jurisdictions, explore how functionality within these systems develops both over time and during public health crises, and create a framework for unifying regional civic technology assessments that can be co-developed by institutions and citizens with functionality that improves community resilience. This effort is led by professors of Information Science, Dr. Myeong Lee (principal investigator, George Mason University) and Dr. Susan Winter (co-principal investigator, University of Maryland at College Park), university students, and the Connected DMV team.

Dr. Lee serves as the Director of George Mason’s Community Informatics Lab which studies the dynamics of local communities, groups, and information inequality through computational methods. “Because 311 data provides a rich footprint of residential civic technology use, computational models that leverage 311 data allow researchers to understand how and why certain neighborhood characteristics, such as poverty, shape people’s use of and access to civic services” explains Dr. Lee. “This in turn makes it possible to identify and address disparities in access to information.”

During the initial phase of the Civic Innovation Challenge, the Connected DMV team will conduct roundtables with local governments to assess existing 311 frameworks, identify how and why 311 systems are used, and compare performance measurement practices.

“311 systems are key communication mediums, especially during emergencies and events, and it is imperative that government, academia, and community organizations work together to optimize public services,” comments Stu Solomon, President and CEO of Connected DMV. "Connected DMV’s regional mission and access is uniquely positioned to lead this civic engagement effort and to develop a 311 framework that can be replicated across the country.”

At the end of Stage 1, the team will share its initial findings with the NSF and propose how the research efforts can be used to develop a framework for increased collaboration and functionality of multiple 311 systems across jurisdictions. NSF will select, through a merit-review process, Stage 2 awardees who will each receive awards of up to $1 million to support project implementation. More information about the competition and the Stage 1 winners can be found at


About Connected DMV

Connected DMV is an initiatives-based, charitable 501(c)(3) organization that works with regional organizations across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – the DMV – to help drive ongoing improvements to social, digital, and physical infrastructure. Connected DMV focuses on initiatives that span local jurisdictions and require public-private-academia-community collaboration to best achieve the dual objectives of enduring economic health and social equity.

About George Mason University

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 38,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at

About the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students,10,000 faculty and staff, and 297 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 58 members of the national academies. The institution has a $2.1 billion operating budget and secures more than $1 billion annually in research funding together with the University of Maryland, Baltimore. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit


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