Code for America: CityCamp is seriously local

Code for America: CityCamp is seriously local
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Saturday December 3, CityCamp Honolulu packed the student center at the University of Hawaii. The one-day event brought together nearly 150 locals to discuss and plan for updating the interface for Honolulu’s city services. Forest Frizzell, director of the City’s department of information technology and Burt Lum, a local activist and the man behind ByteMarks Cafe, a Hawaii Public radio show, are responsible for hosting this important event. Burt emceed the event, and moderated the two panels that discussed everything from current city initiatives and records requests to the forthcoming 2012 Code for America fellowship program.

The day was half unconference and half panels and facilitated exercises. I really enjoyed the facilitated exercise Burt led during the last portion of the day. He presented design thinking methodology, showed a short video of NYU students practicing design thinking in the classroom, and then broke up the audience into eight groups where we were tasked with applying design thinking to a problem such as providing residents with real-time bus schedules or engaging the public in the city budgeting process. Each group had to think through the challenge and then quickly prototype a solution and present it back to the entire camp.

While the design exercise was the highlight for me, there were really vibrant discussions in each of the break-out sessions and commitments to continue the conversations and take action. Notes from each breakout session will be posted soon so be sure to check out the CityCampHNL site for more details on each session.

At the end of the event Doug Chin, Honolulu’s managing director, asked me what I thought they did well and what they could have done better.  What they did right was really show the participants that the city is listening to the community and is serious about citizen participation and engagement. The mayor made an appearance and more than 30 city employees from various departments including Human Resources, Customer Services, and Information Technology attended.

Because the participants were so engaged and active the only change I think they could make for CityCamp Honolulu 2012 is to extend it to two full days and allow for workshops to draft policy initiatives or outline datasets they’d like to have available in easily downloadable formats.

I can't wait for our 2012 fellows to begin working with the City and County of Honolulu and the residents of the city — there’s so much passion there.

For more information about CityCampHNL check out this article by Jason Hibbets, a major supporter of CityCamp and guest panelist from Red Hat, the CityCampHNL website or join the Google Group. They will be posting notes from the event and hosting monthly meetups to follow through on action plans discussed during CityCamp Hololulu.

This article was originally posted at codeforamerica.org and reposted with permission.
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