Sunday, July 26, 2015

Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 4

Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 1: Learning More About An Emerging Topic.
Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 2: Google Searches & Google Docs.
Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 3: People In Emerging Communities.
Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 4: Organizations In Emerging Communities.

When a new technology or field of study is first emerging, most people in the emerging topic will be very loosely connected or not connected at all. This means there won't be a lot of long-established organizations focused on that field of study. But with diligent online sleuthing, you’ll be able to find at least a few organizations that are tied to relevant people and projects.

Because it is, for the most part, a non-profit, non-business type activity, civic hacking will have fewer organizations involved with it or focused on it than an emerging manufacturing technology or other topics which are primarily focused on for-profit ventures in the short or long term. Although the discussion below about organizations and emerging communities relates to any field, some of the organization types described will have minimal relevance to civic hacking. For other emerging topics, such as advanced personal manufacturing or 3D printing, all of these organization types can play an important role in creating or being part of a connected community.

To get a better picture of what organizations you should research to become knowledgeable about and connected to a new field, consider the following types of organizations.
  1. Universities
  2. Labs and Government Agencies
  3. Startups Or Established Companies
  4. Startup Accelerators
  5. Member Organizations
  6. Industry Organizations
  7. Media And News Aggregator Websites

Start off with Google searches for your topic of interest plus keywords related to universities. For civic hacking, you could try:
  • “civic hacking” university
  • “civic hacking” college
  • “civic hacking” research
  • “civic hacking” “research paper”
The results of your searches will give you clues for other search terms. After you do a second round of searches with the refined search terms, you should have a list of universities where research is being done on civic hacking and closely related topics. You will also have a good list of people who are researching civic hacking or have high visibility in the field (see Part 3 of this series). Next, do a third round of searches using the names of the universities which appear to be most highly involved with civic hacking. After finishing the three rounds of searches related to universities, you’ll have a fairly good picture of academia’s place in your emerging topic. In addition to Google searches using the Web engine, repeat some of the more general searches using the Google News search engine.

Labs And Government Agencies

Using the same logic as you did for universities, do another round of Google searching with the keyword ‘lab,’ then the term “government agency.” You might need to try more specific relevant search terms such as “national science foundation” or “NOAA” if you know or can determine labs or government agencies involved in your field of interest. Often the searching you’ve done related to people will have helped you identify labs and government agencies they are working for or have gotten grants from.

Startups Or Established Companies

During the Google searches described in the first 3 parts of this post series, you probably identified companies involved in the field. Some of the companies may be startups while others may be established companies in a related field. If you haven’t already searched for “startup companies” in your emerging topic, do that now. Also do searches with related terms such as ‘investors,’ “venture capital,” or “angel investor.”

Startup Accelerators

When startups in an emerging topic begin to get media buzz and significant amounts of money invested in them, startup accelerators focused on your field of interest may begin to spring up. Those accelerators can do a fantastic job of helping build community in the emerging field because they bring together people active in that field. A large company or large investment firm may want to create or help develop an accelerator in areas of innovation where they see huge potential.

Member Organizations

Search for meetups, user groups, events and associations in the emerging topic. In the early days of community growth, most of the member organizations will be participant driven because there’s not much revenue potential in small communities and communities which don’t have a big revenue stream. For civic hacking in 2015, you will probably find the most local or regional member organizations by including the search ‘’ or ‘eventbrite.’ When learning about civic hacking, you’ll quickly become aware of Code for America (CfA), which is a national 510(c)(3) organization, closer to a company than a member organization. But there are also CfA Brigades, which are local participant-driven member organizations. Also search on social media sites. In 2015, Facebook connects over a billion people. 700 million use WhatsApp. 350 million use LinkedIn. 300 million are on Twitter. Google+, Google Groups, online forums, and other social sites are also very helpful for certain communities or if you want to reach countries outside the US.

Industry Organizations

When emerging technologies begin to generate large revenue streams or appear to have high potential revenue but require significant capital investment, industry organizations will be formed to connect the community forming around that technology. Early stage emerging technologies may be covered by existing organization until the new field becomes large enough to justify the cost of a separate industry organization. Searching for “trade organization,” “industry organization,” and similar terms along with the keyword for your topic of interest should lead you to at least one organization that is involved with your topic.

Media And News Aggregator Websites

By this time you’ve no doubt developed a fairly extensive list of media and news aggregator websites for your emerging topic. Or if you haven’t written it down, you can quickly create such a list by looking through your past searches, especially the ones done using Google News. Periodically visit those news sites to keep up-to-date with interesting or pivotal developments, to find out which people are making an impact, to help determine where you want to be involved, and to get a clearer picture of how the community of your emerging field is being connected.

The above searching and note-taking will give you a good understanding of the role organizations are playing in building the community you’re interested in. This knowledge will let you plug yourself into the system, decide who to reach out to, and have a better idea of where the opportunities are that you might want to take advantage of.

Future parts for this series about community building will be published on the myDigitechnician blog because I’m addressing a much wider audience than just civic hackers and because most civic hackers are likely more interested in building hacks than communities. I'll update the 'Connecting Communities' posts on DHMN Civic Hacks with links to the future posts done on myDigitechnician.


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