Miami Tech & Startup News

With Knight Foundation investment, ISeeChange will continue bringing Miamians together to combat climate change

With Knight Foundation investment, ISeeChange will continue bringing Miamians together to combat climate change

By Riley Kaminer

Could a people-powered government help tackle some of our most pressing public challenges?

The Knight Foundation thinks so. It has just announced a $685,000 investment into New Orleans-based citizen engagement startup ISeeChange. The company, which was founded in 2015, offers a platform enabling communities to collect data on flooding, heat, and pollution. The idea is that this data will help all stakeholders come together to create climate-saving solutions.

This investment will enable ISeeChange to expand across Miami-Dade County. The startup also aims to partner with other Miami-based government, academic, and nonprofit organizations working with citizens on climate change mitigation. The startup reports that they will focus on collecting data in underserved communities.

“Among all of the cities we work with, the citizens of Miami are passionate partners when it comes to protecting their neighborhoods and ISeeChange is a bridge between these citizens and their local municipal agencies,” Julia Kumari Drapkin, founder and CEO of ISeeChange, said in a statement. 

“Knight’s investment is critical because it allows us to work more closely together with Miamians to develop innovative strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change locally and ensure all solutions are informed by the people who are most negatively impacted.”

ISeeChange’s AI-powered platform cross-references community-reported events, providing a clearer picture of how climate change is affecting the Magic City at any given time. The platform has been active in Miami since June 2020 and is credited with providing the flood data that secured $20 million in grants for stormwater mitigation projects across Edgewater, Little Havana, Wynwood, and Allapattah.

The app has also enabled the City of Miami to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the services it provides. The ability to access real-time data has helped the city respond more quickly and cost-effectively to flooding scenarios, in part by eliminating data silos across departments. Other cities around the U.S. – including New Orleans, Boston, and Ocean City, New Jersey – report similar findings.

The Knight Foundation is partnering with ISeeChange through its Smart Cities program, which aims to leverage digital tools to improve citizens’ lives.

“Digital technology and the vast data currently available in cities enable us to achieve out-of-the-box solutions,” commented Lilian Coral, director of Knight’s national strategy and technology innovation program.

“When and where cities deploy public transportation routes, build urban tree canopies to cool buildings or plan to build electric vehicle infrastructure are decisions that rest on the hidden technological infrastructure of our cities,” Coral continued. “One key element that makes ISeeChange stand out is that it highlights the central role that residents can play in improving their communities, especially in areas most negatively impacted.”

Globally, the ‘civic tech’ space has seen significant growth since the onset of the pandemic, with upwards of 26 prominent digital participation products currently on the market. While some civic tech startups have come under scrutiny for their use of artificial intelligence to monitor and interpret citizen sentiment, the increased adoption of these startups’ products overall points to a general belief that their benefits outweigh the potential costs.

In Miami, the need is particularly urgent – with a predicted sea level rise of 10 to 17 inches by 2040 and 1.75 to 4.5 feet by 2070. Coral thinks that ISeeChange can soften the blow: “Based on ISeeChange’s experience to date, we are confident that this approach will continue to effectively inform impactful solutions and strategies that make a real difference in Miami.”

Miami is increasingly a smart city hub, with two upcoming global smart city conferences: Smart City Expo USA on September 14-15 and Smart City Expo Miami on December 12-14.

*Photo at top of post is by Aaron DeMayo,


Riley Kaminer