I had never heard of the term “civic hacking” before this past weekend. I had always considered “hackers” to be those breaking into things on the Internet. I had never considered that civic hackers are just individuals who help make this country’s democracy more open and more impactful. As a new member of the E-Democracy staff team, I spent the weekend with over 600 hundred other journalists, coders, advocates, and civic hackers at Transparency Camp 2013, discussing the ways that organizations like E-Democracy can help build a better country.
Transparency Camp 2013 is an unconference hosted by the Sunlight Foundation, an organization that aims to make government more transparent and accountable. At Camp, participants gather to talk about ways in which we can work to make policies and software that bring transparency to government and engage citizens in government decision-making processes.
So what does transparency and open government have to do with inclusive community building? In short: everything. Longer: the work needed to create more inclusive communities means knowing what all the pieces on the board look like. Whether you be advocate, journalist, or citizen, understanding what is going on with the government, who is making decisions, and what decisions are being made are key to understanding how we build better communities together. If anything Transparency Camp 2013 taught me that there are questions everyone should be considering: what do you want from your community, what are your thoughts on how to keep building a “more perfect union,” and what are you going to do about it?”
As a student of issues related to transparency, the most thrilling experience this week was the dozens of different workforces and countries represented and that no matter their work, we all had the same goal. Because I am trained as an organizer, however, I want to keep calling on all these fantastic organizations to continue hiring and training individuals and groups from marginalized communities to do this work. The future of civic hacking, the future of open and transparent government, belongs to every community and every voice.
I made sure to assign some homework to myself as I left Transparency Camp. I had to, I had so many ideas on projects to research and build and conversations to have that I needed to organize my work right away. My homework goals for coming weeks:
1) Researching the concept of civic hackathons and the ways I ways I can be active in the “National Day of Hacking” occurring in Minnesota on June 1st and June 2nd
2) Creating a research plan that provides transparency on issues related to food policy here in Minneapolis-St. Paul and then sending that information out into the world. (This is an issue in which I am personally involved and passionate about.)
3) Researching and presenting information to the E-Democracy community on the ways that they can participate in the work for a transparent and open government.
Expect to hear more about both these things and ways that you can participate in the coming weeks.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about the work that occurred at Transparency Camp 2013, check out some of these great organizations and projects below:
1) ElectNext, a political platform that is working to provide transparency on candidates, organizations, and legislation by analyzing political data available online. Check out their Digital Political Baseball Card program on their website, https://electnext.com/
2) CivicMedia: Check their website out to study the was that data can be used to support advocacy campaigns and story-telling: http://civicmedia.info/guide/
3) Reconstitutional Convention’s “Governance Future Lab,” which is bringing together social inventors to design “better systems of governance.” http://reconcon.govfutures.org/
4) MapLight, this organization studies the impact of money on politics, providing a database to analyze campaign contributions and voting records, http://maplight.org
5) National Day of Hacking, http://hackforchange.org/
For now, I urge you to check back here for more posts related to Transparency Camp 2013 and please, more importantly, keep thinking of new ways we can work together to build stronger and more inclusive communities.
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