Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What Is Civic Hacking??

[post updated on May 4, 2015 to add Guardian article link]

Civic hacking is using a 21st century tool set to create effective solutions and improvements in our governments and communities.

My 100-word summary of civic hacking is:
Civic hacking is collaborating with others to create, build and invent open source solutions using publicly-released data and technology to solve social, economic, and environmental challenges relevant to their neighborhood, city, state, or country. These civic challenges include topics like voter registration, public transit, helping consumers buy homes and helping families choose schools. The goals of civic hacking are as diverse as the different types of people who are civic hackers. Civic hackers can be programmers, designers, data scientists, good communicators, civic organizers, entrepreneurs, government employees and anyone willing to get his or her hands dirty solving community problems.
Pretty much everyone involved with civil hacking has their own definition of what it is, based on their experiences with it and their vision of what they want it to achieve. Civic hacking in terms of using local government's open data is a relatively new phenomenon, so like most young phenomena, it is evolving, maturing and changing. If you get involved with civic hacking today, what you see and do will most likely be quite different from someone's experience with civic hacking five years from now.

Civic hacking is one form of civic engagement, a way for residents of a city or metro area to personally work on making their city a better place to live. It's a participant-driven 'ask forgiveness not permission' way to improve your own quality of life and that of your neighbors.

If you like TED videos, watch "Why good hackers make good citizens" in which Catherine Bracy explains her view of civic hacking.

One of the best articles I've read explaining civic hacking is the Guardian's "White House and NASA gear up for National Day of Civic Hacking."

If you want to watch a video that gets more into the nitty gritty details of civic hacking in an American city that's been in the forefront of the movement, check out "Civic Hacking 101" where Christopher Whitaker explains Chicago's approach to the topic.

Below are a few links to other posts and articles talking about what civic hacking is. If you're deeply interested in learning more about civic hacking, do a few Google searches for "civic hacking," "civic hackathon" or "civic hack," and you'll see what others think about or are doing with civic hacks.

"Civic Hacking"

"What is a Civic Hacker?"

"Defining Civic Hacking"

"Civic Hacking and the Maker Movement Create Smarter Cities"

In future posts, I'll cover more aspects of civic hacking, including an upcoming civic hackathon in Appleton, which I hope will be the first of many participant-driven hacking events to improve life in northeast Wisconsin. If you have questions about civic hacking, please contact me at bwaldron [at] gmail [dott] com.


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