When digital engagement first piqued the interest of civic agencies in the late 2000s, it was an aspirational but somewhat impractical notion. As technology capacity has skyrocketed over the last half-decade, online participation has become more feasible, but there is a danger of development for technology’s sake rather than for user benefit. While
It has been a period of heady innovation, as a thousand flowers bloomed through the efforts of countless people. Now we have reached a key phase in this work, as we begin to transition from simply sowing seeds haphazardly to carefully designing and tending the gardens of civic tech.
The list of civic tech innovations offers plenty of gardening possibilities. These include apps, platforms, SMS-based processes and other tools that allow people to:
•Rank ideas for solving a problem or improving a community.
•Provide discrete pieces of data that help identify community issues, improve public services or add to public knowledge.
•Donate money to a cause or a campaign.
•Create or sign petitions supporting an idea, a cause or a policy proposal.
•Create or add to interactive maps that assemble information on community assets and problems.
•Coordinate volunteer efforts to solve a common problem.
•Play games that contribute to citizen education, gather public input or contribute in some other way to decision-making and problem-solving.
“You’re going to take 18 months to do this research. You’re going to hire a consultant to come and ask me for my opinions, and I will tell you exactly what I just told you: Fund leaders of color to work full-time at these organizations. Communities are getting so tired of being asked what we want to see, and then we propose solutions, and then these solutions are not funded because it doesn’t line up with funders’ agendas and priorities.”
When Google chose San Joaquin County, Calif., for its 2015 Government Innovation Lab, Monica Nino was ecstatic for what her county would receive. Now that it’s over, the county administrator is elated for what the lab took away.
In a word, she said it amounts to a loss of preconceptions — the old assumptions that insist government can’t be anything other than what it is.
Time and time again I saw people who became involved from initial curiosity, or even skepticism, become deeply engaged and staying involved over the course of several months. People stayed because they found the process to be fulfilling and they often forged new connections with neighbors, elected officials, and their community. These relationships were profound and often transformative.
Here’s an update on the kit and software I’m using on a daily basis, just in case it’s of use.
My main computer is an 11” Macbook Air.
It has the i7 processor and 8gb of RAM and is the best computer...