Beacon Labs Launches to Promote Data-driven Policy in the U.S.

Beacon Labs
May 14, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (SAN FRANCISCO, May 15, 2018) - Beacon Labs launches from Bayes Impact as an independent nonprofit organization to focus on expansion of data-driven public policy solutions in the U.S. With a goal to better serve under-resourced communities, and with a growing need to empower policymakers and advocates with the best information, Beacon Labs is unveiling Encompass, an open-source initiative that visualizes how accessibility to basic services like health care vary across demographic groups.

Addressing gaps in the public sector with data

Rising inequality across the U.S. has resulted in an urgent need to design and adopt evidence-based policies that will help create a more effective social safety net. With a goal to shift the conversation around government as usual, Beacon Labs illustrates how democratizing access to data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can support historically overworked and overburdened public agencies.

“A cultural shift across the public sector in the United States is definitely taking place,” says Zac Townsend, Beacon Labs board chair and former Chief Data Officer of the state of California. “Many states have started investing in open data portals and are actively engaging in transparency as a means of fostering trust and accountability with their constituents. This transition is necessary, but agencies are still struggling to carve out the resources needed to take the next step toward data-driven policymaking. The launch of Beacon Labs as a trusted nonprofit partner will help fill that gap and is a step towards better governance and more effective public policy.”

Beacon Labs works alongside government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels—such as Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Veterans Affairs, and the California Department of Managed Health Care—to target the gaps that exist between U.S. policymakers and the communities they serve. With the scale and power of data, Beacon Labs aims to increase the reach of vital services across the U.S. to ensure communities have equal access to the resources they need to thrive.

Encompass: Visualizing better policy

Investing in the open-source community is part of Beacon Labs’ plan to democratize access to advanced technology. Over time, the group of data scientists and software engineers believes that it will be less costly to test out new data modeling techniques and uncover insights that could inform policy decisions for stakeholders who may not otherwise have the budget or resources.

The nonprofit’s latest initiative, Encompass, uses open-source routing libraries and satellite imagery to improve upon current population and geospatial models commonly used in health care policy research. Packaged as an open-source application, the Encompass map interface, population model, and routing APIs can be easily adapted to fit different use cases, such as mapping how accessible federally-funded clinics are to low-income or uninsured populations, or mapping how far people are from hazardous waste sites.

“Building an accurate picture of gaps in access to care for different communities is an important first step in addressing social inequity more comprehensively,” Mehdi Jamei, Beacon Labs Executive Director noted. “With Encompass, we are excited to empower researchers, advocates, and policymakers with better data insights that target the access issue for the most vulnerable populations.”

Building on key partnerships with federal and state government agencies, Beacon Labs intends to scale Encompass, and similar data-driven policy tools, to other state regulators across the U.S.

Background and contact info

As the bridge between technology, policy, and community, Beacon Labs provides data solutions needed to shape evidence-based policies in service of a more equitable future. Learn more about Beacon Labs at: or by emailing

Media Contact:

Name: Tara Holmes
Number: 415-993-2784