Inside data-driven policy change: data in the District Attorney’s Office

Oren Gur and Wes Weaver of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office

On November 1, Oren Gur and Wes Weaver of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) joined Fels students and alumni to discuss the value and power of data in their field. Oren Gur is the Director of Research for DAO and Wes Weaver is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst, and they shared how the DAO utilizes data to help understand how policy efforts relate to the criminal justice system in Philadelphia. They also discussed the recently launched Public Data Dashboard, a public data portal that increases the transparency of Philadelphia’s criminal justice system.

Here are some reflections from Fels Master of Public Administration student Henry Paul:

"I was super fascinated by this talk from Oren Gur and Wes Weaver from the DAO. The way they talked about using data to make decisions that had real impact on people's lives was candid, intuitive, and insightful. The focus on the importance of collecting meaningful data while balancing ethical concerns, using automated, independent process to verify that data, and using intuition to see patterns and abnormalities really showed the possibilities that data can have in helping the public while also working to minimize the potential problems and biases that 'big data' can sometimes create.

I was also particularly interested in the development of the DA's Public Data Dashboard website. Using technology to increase transparency and improve the relationship between citizen and government is one of the topics that interests me most. The discussion about the design principles of creating that website and how to make it easy and intuitive for the public is exactly the kind of practical, applied focus that brought me to Fels."

Throughout the year, Fels offers programming designed to explore real-world applications of public policy and administration. For more opportunities to meet and learn from public leaders, view upcoming events at Fels.

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