Weekly reading recommendations that will spur your thinking about elections, civic engagement and the spirit of democracy that America was founded upon.

With the 2016 Presidential Elections on the horizon, the 2015 elections - which were held this week on November 3rd - might have seemed hum-drum. However, a number of ballot measures passed that could impact low-income people and communities of color. San Francisco, for instance, passed a measure to authorize the city to issue up to $310 million in bonds to fund affordable housing programs. And in Seattle, a $930 million transportation levy will replace an existing levy that was due to expire at the end of 2015.

So, for this week’s #GoodReads post, we’re sharing articles and reading recommendations that will spur your thinking about elections, civic engagement and the spirit of democracy that America was founded upon.

A Complete History of Census Race Boxes - By Tanvi Misra, CityLab

Recommended by Tiffany Ferguson, Associate, Public Sector Innovation

“Race is a social construct” – a statement you will have likely heard more times than you can count if you’ve ever taken a social science course. It takes time to wrap your head around what this really means when you’re brought up in a country like America that portrays race and racial groups as static, monolithic, and foretelling of how an individual will behave or what they will be like. This short article describing a new data visualization of all racial and ethnic labels used in the U.S. Census illustrates just how much these categories have changed over time. As we march toward the year of America’s majority-minority tipping point, we should also be thinking about these imperfect stratifications, how they may continue to change, and the implications they have on the policy we make and resources we allocate.

Skyless Games to release ‘Sim City’-like game based on Philly open data - By Brandon Baker, Philly Voice

My Recommendation: Elizabeth Vargas, Associate, Strategic Communications and Engagement

Remember Sim City? Now Philly has created its own. City Hall players manage a simulated Philly based on real-world budget data. In this Sim-style game, players have resources they need to allocate. Rather than using a billion-dollar budget, it pulls in open data, meaning players are literally working with the same budget resources as Mayor Michael Nutter and City Council. From the article, “It serves as a sort of Urban Planning 101” and, like Sim-City, “has no end.” This bit of Friday fun illustrates the world of possibilities with a little bit of creativity and open data!

Can Cities Crowdsource the Chief Data Officer Position? - By Jason Shueh, GovTech

Recommended by Owen Stone, Senior Associate, Public Sector Innovation

The city of Long Beach, CA is launching an experiment that begs the question: can cities crowdsource the Chief Data Position? The city will work closely with CIO, Bryan Sastokas, who will ultimately own several of the team’s initiatives.

Engaging the Public Schools: Are you Ready? - By Susan Naimark, Rooflines: The Shelterforce Blog

Recommended by Tonya Banks, Senior Administrative Associate, Capital Innovation

Three ways engaging local schools can help community developers improve struggling communities:

1) Engage - Visit the schools, talk with parents and educators and discuss the problems and how they’re being resolved.

2) Unite Potential Playmates - Research which community-based organizations or institutions are investing in the schools and, if none exist, create bridge builders to unite funders, advocacy groups and parents.

3) Incorporate Education in Your Mission - If your organization’s mission encompasses anything more than housing production, it is likely that a working relationship with your local public schools has something to offer to help you meet that mission.

At a minimum, “the community is likely to be better off for it.”

HEB Grocery Chain to Give Stock to 55,000 Employees - By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New YorkTimes

Recommended by Ellen Ward, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation

This week HEB, one of Texas’ largest private employers, announced that they were giving 55,000 employees an equity stake in the company. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by this move. We know that the wealth gap is a major contributor to the inter-generational cycle of poverty and yet that gap is only increasing as homeownership rates decline (and minority household homeownership rates are half that of white households). If we want to move the needle on poverty, we’re going to have to come up with alternative ways to build wealth for low-income people. Allowing them to participate in the success of the company that they are no doubt contributing to, is a great first step. Well done, HEB.

Happy Reading!