Thanks to our friends at TechSoup Global (see Glenn Fajardo’s, “Building Better Solutions Together, Faster”), we have been inspired to take a closer look at what’s happening with the “new citizens” movement, a grassroots effort that’s spawned its own ecology of adherents, events, organizations – and truly valuable output.
Known by different tags, including Gov 2.0 and civic engagement, and typically manifesting as, variously, hackathons, hackfests, startup weekends, and codefests, the idea is pretty simple: people interested in solving social/civic problems and who, bless them, possess advanced technology skills, come together for a time-bound event during which they take on thorny problems (see Random Hacks of Kindness, for example) and quickly turn out apps, platforms, and technology solutions that traditional IT organizations might labor over for long periods of time at great expense or perhaps never even consider. Consider just a few examples of events where savvy, energetic developers put their heads together to solve difficult problems in innovative ways:
- The Data Science Hackathon in April 2012 when some “200 data scientists from more than 10 cities around the world spent 24 hours in London designing solutions to help improve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index,” according to Jessica Meyer Maria’s article in GovTech.
- Code for Oakland, now in its second year and part of the Code for America network, which tackled, among other things developing “a web helper” to assist kids missing class in getting caught up on work they’ve missed (see Angie Chang’s “Code For Oakland: The Most Diverse Hackathon Ever” on the Forbes site).
- Startup Weekend Seattle Gov, which spawned many good ideas, including the winner, WhichBus, which tells you, among other things, which bus to take.
Since so many of these efforts are cropping up, we thought it might be helpful to begin mapping a bit of this territory (we use OrgScope for this; here’s a link to additional OrgScope posts). Here is a first pass at mapping some of the groups:
Another cut maps efforts in a particular city, in this case Code for America’s 2012 work in Detroit:
Note that one focus area is Access to Transportation which, as a quick web search indicates, is similar to what is going on in Seattle where WhichBus won a Startup Weekend competition.
This is one of those posts that could go on forever, tracking down all of the cool things that are unfolding and discussing the seemingly endless possibilities for bringing in random developers to solve really tough stuff in record time.
If one goal of these collaborative efforts is to publicize and address complex issues, organizational maps can help organize and strengthen the terrain. The less isolated a network is, the better chance it has at succeeding. Why risk creating multiple, disconnected silos when an organizational map can help create a more elegant, highly-connected network of networks.