Civic tech aims to solve the problems facing the civitas, the people, who are still the source of the legitimacy for all the moral claims that we’re making on volunteers, on philanthropic funders, and on governments. But while the moral argument about public benefit continues to inspire many people’s participation, there was an odd lack of specificity about a few important concepts that are really central to the endeavor. As a member of the civic tech community, and after three intensive days of listening and talking, I still don’t feel I have answers to a few important questions:
What are the main problems we’re solving?
Who is this public we’re benefiting?
What exactly is “the civic tech approach” to this public’s problems?
This Monday and Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles, The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies are bringing together an incredible group of more than 300 global mayors, urban experts, city planners, writers, technologists, economists, and designers for the second annual "CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges."
Many of these attendees are coming armed with bold, scalable ideas of their own. So we asked some of them to share one great idea that has worked in their city. Here are 10 inventive ideas that CityLab 2014 attendees from around the globe are putting into practice.
In short, we’re still pretty much confused about the impact of technology on democracy and participation. Perhaps, as suggested by Tiago and Catherine Howe from Public-i, the problem is that we’re focusing too much on technology, tempted by the illusion it offers to simplify and make democracy easy. But the real issue lies elsewhere, in understanding people and policymakers’ incentives and the articulation (or lack thereof) between technologies and democratic institutions. As emphasised by Catherine, technology without democratic evolution is like “lipstick on a pig”.
CSI is intended to help City Council take a data-driven approach to public spending based on seven different measurements of neighborhood health – from housing and commercial corridors to public amenities and education. These metrics, not just which neighborhoods are best organized or outspoken, will influence neighborhood improvement strategies over time.
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — This city might not have become a global hub of the “sharing economy” today if 2009 hadn’t been such a lousy year for Daan Weddepohl.
In short time, Weddepohl lost his job, his girlfriend walked out on him, and his apartment went up in flames. He was left without any possessions and had to ask people for help. To Weddepohl, now 33, showing vulnerability wasn’t easy in the era of Facebook, where everybody seems to lead cheerful and happy lives. But it led him to an interesting discovery.