Arlington Visual Budget Wins MMA Innovation Award

ARLINGTON, MA (U.S.) – January 17, 2014 – Online Budget Visualization Tool, Designed by Involution Studios with Town of Arlington, MA Offers Financial Transparency to Taxpayers

Arlington Visual Budget has been selected to receive the Massachusetts Municipal Association Innovation Award at the MMA Annual Meeting on January 25th in Boston.

Sponsored each year by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Kenneth E. Pickard Municipal Innovation Award recognizes unique and creative projects and programs that increase the effectiveness of local government. Judged by former municipal officials, consultants, and professors, an innovation must address a problem that is common to municipalities across the Commonwealth in an original, cost-effective, and efficient way. Winning innovations must improve a municipal service, administration, or performance, while adaptability to other communities is also a consideration. This award lets municipalities recognize successfully established innovative programs or projects and to share these new, unique, and effective solutions with other cities and towns.

Last fall, Involution Studios of Arlington, MA, along with the Town of Arlington and Finance Committee members Annie Lacourt and Alan Jones, conceptualized a web application that provides an easier way to communicate complex municipal financial information. Involution donated all development services for this project, the first known municipal budget visual representation of its kind.

The initiative exemplifies the nation’s commitment to the international Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. President Obama has challenged agencies to “harness new technologies” and “solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public” and emphasizes a “bottom-up” philosophy that taps citizen expertise to make government smarter and more responsive to private sector demands.

AVB provides the next generation of accessibility in financial information that enables citizens to see, engage, and discuss.

The Visual Budget system converts the town’s revenues and expenditures to simple graphics and charts that describe Arlington’s finances. It also provides definitions for complex budgeting terminology, and includes a tool where residents can input their yearly property tax bill and find out exactly how the town spends their tax dollars. Taxpayers can learn about town revenues, expenses, and funds displayed in both graphical and tabular formats. What’s more, the system enables users to provide feedback and ideas, an essential component of empowering citizens with both information and a greater voice in decision-making.

Town Management Analyst Michael Bouton said he was happy to work with Involution’s creative team on the project. “It was a blank canvas,” Bouton said. “We came in with an idea and the conceptualization of it was them.” Involution designers Roger Zhu and Ivan Dilernia donated their time, and the company has made the code for the project available online for other town governments to use. An Arlington resident, Involution’s Creative Director Juhan Sonin was excited about the collaboration, saying “It’s a part of our civic responsibility as designers to get involved in the design of policy.”

Read what the Sunlight Foundation says about how the Arlington Visual Budget will be used in 2014.

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