local government

How to get started in civic hacking

citizen participation

What is civic hacking?

Seventy people gathered together one sunny Oakland afternoon to volunteer and improve their city. There were no rakes or yard tools normally seen at volunteer-day events though. No paint brushes, no trash bags, no canned soup bins. These seventy people were laden with laptops and were volunteering to improve the city’s website. » Read more

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Solving local problems through citizen participation

contest for citizen participation and local open government

Bloomberg Philanthropies recently launched the Mayors Challenge, a contest for funding in the European Union where large cities submit new, innovative ideas for solving local problems.

The EU contest is modeled on a similar competition for cities in the United States, where more than 300 cities submitted ideas covering issues ranging from sustainable development to education to citizen development. The grand prize of that contest went to a program in Providence, R.I. that works to improve the vocabulary of children in low-income households. » Read more

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How a hackathon can transform your community

Hack the Stacks

What started as an uphill battle in Burlington, Vermont on the National Day of Civic Hacking in June 2013, transversed into an understanding between local government, non-profits, the media, and the community four months later. What they came to understand was that we can grow stronger when we work together. When we partner. When we work on stuff that matters.

Robert Coleburn, a Technology Librarian (and systems administrator) at Fletcher Free Library, jumped at the opportunity to partner with Code for Burlington, a Code for America brigade, to help host a hackathon on the last weekend in October called Hack the Stacks. The event drew over 30 people volunteering to improve their community through open source technology. » Read more

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What open data policies can and should do

Open Data Policy

Authored by Laurenellen McCann, national policy manager for the Sunlight Foundation.


As more communities recognize the power and possibilities of sharing public data online, there is an increasing need to articulate what it means to open data—and how to create policies that can not only support these efforts, but do so in a sustainable and ambitious way.

» Read more

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Impact of open by default on local government

open by default in local government

Recently there has been a lot of buzz around the release of the White House’s new Open Data Policy in Memorandum M-13-13.

For those of you that may not have read the memorandum in its entirety it directs federal agencies to make all data open and machine readable by default. Obviously there are caveats to that. Agencies can redact data that does not meet disclosure standards regarding security and privacy. The excitement centers around the language of open by default.

What impact does this have on open data initiatives at the municipal level, and as the Open Data Program Manager for the City of Raleigh, NC, I ask myself: How does this affect Open Raleigh?

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Can governments crowdsource their brand?

Can governments crowdsource their brand?

A recent poll asked about brand practices for cities and city governments. While the results are still coming in, it's clear that citizens want to be included in this process. Having an open, well-documented process is critical to achieving consensus. But what about the power of crowdsourcing?

Should local governments leverage the power of their citizens and tap into public perception of their city? » Read more

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Code for America opens 2013 application period

Code for America opens 2013 application period

Does your city need to solve a big civic problem? Cities across the United States can now submit their Code for America applications for 2013. Boston, Philadelphia, and Seattle have just wrapped up their 2011 projects. We're eager to see what happens in Austin, Detroit, Chicago, Honolulu, Macon, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Santa Cruz in 2012. The application process opened on January 9, and applicants have until the end of March to complete their submissions.

What problems can your city tackle with help from Code for America? How can your city build on other open source projects to make your government more accessible, more efficient, and more engaged with citizens? » Read more

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A case study: Why open data is cool

A case study for municipal open data.

The heat is scorching! Residents across Ontario, Quebec and parts of the US are trying to stay cool. Many seek out public swimming pools and splash-pads, and turn to their municipalities for information. Others, like the Canadian 'hacktivists' Joey Coleman of OpenHamilton and yours truly of OpenHalton seek out ways to make that information more accessible.

Hamilton 's Dowsing and Milton Splash are two of the most recent examples of what is possible with open data. They represent a real-life case study of how open data can help keep us cooler, while also helping cities provide a better service at a lower cost.

This is how: » Read more

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Planning ahead for a new breed of "public" spaces

Think about a public space. Maybe it’s a park, or a public library, but some physical space owned by government. We have different expectations about public spaces, and our freedoms in them, compared to private spaces.

Think about a place where civic happenings go on, where dialogue and delivery of services occur. What comes to mind for me is the (maybe nostalgic) notion of a bustling city hall. People go there to interact with government and each other, and accomplish something. In theory, at least.

Now, imagine this public space is virtual. » Read more

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