Tricia Davies, Founder and CEO of The Public Good
“Our work is always informed by social goals and involves the client as thought partners. Each project is unique but based on a standard framework of rigorous research, stakeholder involvement and financial realities.”
Tricia is a connector, thinker and maker. She’s the founder and CEO of The Public Good, an advisory firm that provides research and planning expertise using open data, community input, and financial analysis to improve social outcomes for all. Tricia has worked inside and alongside government and non-profits in policy analysis and program execution including homelessness, community development and educational equity in NYC and internationally for 20 years. When she’s not working on building community, she’s dreaming up entrepreneurial projects for her kids (aged 8 and 12) to keep them busy: “Nothing’s stuck so far.” You can connect with Tricia through LinkedIn or via email.
What Does She Do?
Tricia and The Public Good support leaders and communities in designing and implementing solutions using quantitative and qualitative data research, financial modeling, community engagement, and technology tools to make data collection and sharing more accessible.
“Our work is always informed by social goals and involves the client as thought partners. Each project is unique but based on a standard framework of rigorous research, stakeholder involvement, and financial realities.”
How Did She Get Into This Work?
“Money was not part of my cultural upbringing.”
The daughter of an artist and a secretary, Tricia was born in Detroit, raised in Chicago, and moved to Phoenix in 6th grade. Her desire to flee Arizona was so all-consuming that she found her first job the following year – a paper route – to pay for a plane ticket back to Chicago. Given the modest means of her family, there was no plan for her to attend college, but she told herself “I’ve got to make it happen.” Once she transferred to Rutgers she thrived and never looked back. Upon graduation, Tricia sought out experience in the public sector and become part of a management trainee program at the I.R.S., while also acting as an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor. During her tenure in the early nineties, she recalls, “I always thought about these things: The male/female ratio, the number of people of color. Everyone at the top was a white man. Middle management was white. And everybody doing the work was black, brown, or Hispanic. This was kind of fucked-up.”
After two years in this environment, Tricia returned to school, excited to study at Columbia University, where she earned her MPA at the School of International & Public Affairs – focusing on labor economics and welfare. Following her graduation she worked in KPMG’s public sector practice for several years, specializing in financial consulting projects, ultimately deciding that corporate culture didn’t suit her.
Throughout her career, Tricia’s practice has combined the rigor of academic thinking with experience learned on the ground to accelerate the pace of government policies. Tricia is an “impatient advocate” who wants to make change happen.
After accepting a pro bono assignment on behalf of the American Jewish World Service to focus on capacity building with NGO’s in West Africa and Ghana, she returned to the States in 2003 to launch The Public Good, leveraging partner collaborations with other thinkers and makers who are passionate about improving social goods.
Having worked both inside and outside of the public sector, she finds herself frustrated by people who’ve never experienced a day in government. “They think they have known how to solve the problems of how the government runs. If you’ve never been in the trenches, worked at a homeless shelter, or negotiated budgets with a Commissioner you can’t begin to understand how complicated the system is.”
In addition to her work as a principal at The Public Good, Tricia has been an adjunct professor at SIPA for the past two years, supervising student capstone projects. Last year her class worked on a project for the World Bank on open data in Tanzania.
What Project(s) Is She Working On?
The Public Good just wrapped up a deep exploration of assets, resident needs and opportunities for hyper-local community building in western Queens on behalf of UJA Federation, NY. The final product includes neighborhood-based demographic statistics and user-centered feedback as well as physical assets that provide the planning committee with insights to design opportunities for community engagement.
Tricia’s passion project of several years has been researching resource inequities in the NYC school system, including the concept of “choice” and how it differs for individual families depending on their human capital and socioeconomic status. To that end, Tricia and her team have been exploring opportunities to make Open Data a tool to increase access to information and resources and ultimately, improve options and choices for ALL families in the NYC public school system. This is a live link to the open data research The Public Good is doing around community-based school diversity and equity.
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
In 2016, Tricia took her SIPA charges to BetaNYC’s The School of Data conference. The class project explored the utility of NYC’s Open Data portal on behalf of NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) and the event was her first formal contact with civic tech.
For several years Tricia worked out of the Center for Social Innovation (CSI), but once she started attending Civic Hall events – which hosted the BetaNYC event – she decided: “This is my sort of vibe. There are more interesting opportunities here to learn from people and showcase work I’m doing with my team.”
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
Ask: Tricia is keen to work with members of the Civic Hall community who are interested in exploring public data as a tool for equal opportunity in education (or other civic services/public goods).
“The Public Good is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with others who have deep experience or knowledge in either a public sector domain or on a technology tool with a civic application (typically open-source) that can be improved through community feedback.”
Offer: At CSI Tricia regularly did lunchtime workshops on how to do government contracts. If this is something folks are interested in, she’s game.
This coming fall, Tricia hopes to do a live demo/lunch about her open data project on advocating for City policies which will bring communities together and integrate schools. While Tricia is clearly a policy wonk who knows open data, she admits to being a novice around approaching public officials and would appreciate guidance and introductions on behalf of this project.