Vox Populi: Innovations in Civic Hacking

by Mark Headd on Vox Populi – Friday, October 7, 2011

There are some exciting things happening in the world of civic hacking, and some cool innovations are being used to make civic hacking events more exciting, and to perpetuate the value of hackathon projects.

Last night in San Francisco, a forum of mayoral candidates was presented with the top projects from a Summer-long series of hacking events called (appropriately) the “Summer of Smart.”

I wasn’t able to be at this event, but I did attend an earlier San Francisco mayoral candidate forum that kicked off the Summer of Smart. By all accounts, the event last night was a great success and there were some awesome projects presented to those who would be Mayor of San Francisco.

I love the idea behing Summer of Smart – holding an intensive, tightly clustered series of events over several months and then “jacking in” to the political process by presenting the outcome directly to mayoral candidates in a public forum.

I’m also really interested to learn more about the new “civic residency program,” which will provide resources and space for hackathon participants to continue to develop their projects. If it works, this could become a model for other parts of the country.

Another innovative civic hacking event is taking place in Reno, NV – the Hack4Reno event gets more interesting as the days go by.

The event’s chief organizer – Kristy Fifelsky, of GovGirl fame – has started a video series providing insights on how to organize and run a civic hackathon. Insights, tips and tricks from someone who is actually hands on with organizing a civic hackathon could be extremely valuable to other municipalities that want to hold similar events.

One of the most interesting tidbits about the Hack4Reno event from the first installment in this series – the hackathon will take place out in the open, literally. The current plan is to hold the event outside the Pioneer Center in downtown Reno. How awesome is that!

There appear to be contingency plans if the weather doesn’t cooperate, but I love that the organizers are thinking outside the box.

Another cool detail from the Hack4Reno event is that almost all of the planning for the event is being done using GitHib to assign and track work. This is a great way to encourage collaboration and underscores the commitment of those involved to the idea of transparency. Everything about this event is open.

Really looking forward to seeing more innovations from civic hacking organizers.

Keep em coming!