Around the Studio: Arlington Visual Budget, Revisited

by Emily Twaddell

“Hey, we saw you in the keynote!”


Last year we cheered when Arlington Visual Budget (AVB) won an Innovation Award from the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA). This past weekend the Visual Government (VisGov) team was back again for the MMA annual meeting to continue the conversation on open government. Arlington Town Finance Committee member Alan Jones reported that on Friday, the day started with people telling them that the keynote speaker, futurist Mike Walsh, had given AVB a shout-out along the lines of “the best thing he’s ever seen.” On Saturday, Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine demonstrated the software at the Mass Selectmen’s Association annual meeting where it was once again well received.

Situated at the event’s trade show, the VisGov team found themselves amongst a wide variety of local and national vendors, ranging from fire suppression systems to the Hampshire council of governments, along with the Massachusetts State Lottery, emergency services products, law firms, even vendors of street lights, parking meters, garbage cans, and social media apps to engage citizens.

Many attendees, who had already been introduced to AVB and were looking for more information, really seemed to “get it.” As Finance Committee member Annie LaCourt explains, “Elected officials and city and town financial managers see the need to be more transparent, so Visual Budget is a great tool to add to their tool box and they are very interested in working with us. They appreciate that we understand their pain.” Jones remarked that the Vis Gov team, orignators of Visual Budget, gathered many ideas for new features and functions that will add real value as they work on the next release. Updates will make it easier to instantiate the budget visualizations and enable municipalities to easily sign up and upload their data to set up their own VB instantiation.

Along with the city of Asheville NC, Massachusetts towns that are adopting and adapting the AVB app include Mansfield, Newburyport, Melrose, Cohassett, and Bourne. All of these efforts bring intelligence and energy to the VisGov mission to transform financial transparency for municipalities.

About VisGov and Involution Studios

VisGov is a working group that has emerged from the award-winning Arlington Visual Budget project, with diverse backgrounds in technology, software engineering, user experience design, and municipal finance. Along with technical partner Involution Studios, VisGov provides web-based, interactive graphical tools that help cities and towns convey the “story” of a municipality’s policies and priorities and establish credibility and support through transparency and openness.

New to the open source tools in Visual Budget? Read about AVB’s origins.

Topics: open source, Open Government, infovis, arlington