Thursday, July 9, 2015

Oshkosh / Green Bay / De Pere: NE Wisconsin’s Next Civic Hackathon?

Collaborative regional civic hacking in NE Wisconsin got off to a great start with the DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015 on June 6, 2015.

Now it’s time to bring civic hacking to another city in the region.

I’ll gladly help any city in NE Wisconsin, big or small, organize a civic hackathon or other type of civic hacking event such as a workshop, short overview or informal discussion your city.


This week I connected with a TIME community (tech, innovators, makers, entrepreneurs) leader in the Oshkosh area, and she’s interested in helping bring a civic hacking event to her town. We’re going to meet and discuss Next Steps for Oshkosh. She'll also talk with other potential Oshkosh civic hackers to make them aware we'd like to organize a civic hacking event hosted in Oshkosh.

A number of Oshkosh civic hackers participated in the June 6th civic hackathon in Appleton. There were also a few who registered but couldn’t make it to the hackathon, so they’ll be a good core to start with for an event based in Oshkosh.

If you live in the Oshkosh area and want to help get civic hacking going there, contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

Green Bay / De Pere

A few people in the Green Bay metro region have expressed interest in having a civic hackathon in their area. Several civic hackers from there participated in the hackathon in Appleton in June. The Green Bay Metropolitan Statistical Area had a 2014 estimated population of 314,531. If only 1 person per thousand is a civic hacker, and if only a third of those civic hackers were able to make it to a hackathon in the area, we’d still have 100 participants from the Bay area.

I’ve got a meeting scheduled to discuss hackathons (and other topics) with a GB area civic hacker on July 13 at Luna Cafe in De Pere. We’ll figure out Next Steps and start things rolling for civic hackers in Packer territory.

If you live in the Green Bay metro area and want to being involved with organizing civic hacking activity there, contact me.

Other NE Wisconsin Cities

As mentioned above, I’m interested in working with people from all over the 18 counties of NE Wisconsin to get civic hacking launched in their cities. It can be a full-scale hackathon or a shorter and more informal event. This is just the start of a list of cities in our region, but in addition to folks from Oshkosh and the Green Bay area, I’d love to talk about civic hacking with people from Black Creek, Brillion, Chilton, Clintonville, Elkhart Lake, Fish Creek, Florence, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Keshena, Kohler, Manitowoc, Marinette, Neenah, New London, Oconto, Peshtigo, Plymouth, Ripon, Shawano, Sheboygan, Sturgeon Bay, Two Rivers, Washington Island, Waupaca, Waupun, Wautoma and Winneconne.

If you’re a coder, designer, civic activist, elected city official, city administrator, or just a citizen interested in civic hacking, contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com, and we can discuss how I can best help you out with this.

Event Focus:  General / Library / Education-Schools-Students / Host City Topic

The next civic hacking event in our area could focus on just the general topic of civic hacking, or it could have a specific theme such as library civic hacking or hacks related to education, schools, or students. It could also also be centered around a hot topic for the host city, similar to how Seattle did Hack The Commute, San Francisco did Hack The Drought, and Philadelphia did Hacks For Democracy.

Core Team / Venue & Sponsor

Only two things are essential to pull off a civic hacking event.

  1. Core organizing team. This can be as simple as one or two people. If you want to organize a small simple event in your city, you can handle that all by yourself. If you want help, you and I can organize and put on an informal, short-notice, participant driven civic hacking activity. If a day-long or weekend-long event is desired, it works better to have an organizing team of six to twelve people so nobody gets burned out and most everything gets done.
  2. Venue & Sponsor. A venue is needed for the civic hacking event, as well as a sponsor for the venue. If the owner of the venue is an in-kind sponsor for the event (meaning they provide the facility at no cost), that simplifies things because we won’t need to find a sponsor to pay for the venue. If the venue’s not an in-kind sponsored facility, we’ll need to recruit a local organization or person to cover the venue cost.

Start Connecting With Participants, Partners & Sponsors

Once a decision is made to do a civic hacking event, a top priority is to start promoting the event and getting potential civic hackers to put the event on their schedule. We’ll develop a plan for doing PR and marketing to get the news out about the event to all potential civic hackers.

Because civic hackers are usually donating their time and brainpower to something that will benefit the community (while they’re having fun), it makes sense to have the event be as enjoyable for them as possible. If it’s a day-long or weekend-long event, that usually means providing the meals and beverages, as well as a few other participant perks. Someone will have to recruit in-kind or financial sponsors to cover the cost of those perks. Recruiting sponsors is an activity with both good and not-so-good aspects. The good part of recruiting sponsors is that it presents a great opportunity to build new relationships, spread the word about civic hacking, and create local support for the activity. Some potential sponsors may end up as event participants, or may connect participants with the event. The downside to recruiting sponsors is that it takes time, and not everyone is comfortable asking people, companies or organizations for support, especially financial support.

We also need to recruit civic hacking partners. These are local organizations that endorse the concept and want to associate their organization’s name with the event. Having a well-known and respected local, regional or national organization be an event partner can help convince sponsors to financially support an event, can persuade media to provide event coverage, and can end up connecting more potential civic hackers with the event.

Informal Civic Hacking Event -- The Avenue HQ

We’re planning an informal civic hacking event for sometime in the next couple weeks. It will be sort of a follow-up to the June 6 civic hackathon. We’ll discuss and work on hacks from the June 6 event, like the ones related to the AppletonAPI and “Is It Recycling Week?” We may discuss new hacks. The agenda will be driven by the interests of whoever shows up at the event.

We should have a firm date and time for this event within the next week or so. It’s currently expected to be held at The Avenue HQ, 120 N Morrison St, Suite 101, Appleton, WI. All NE Wisconsin civic hackers (experienced and brand-new) are welcome and encouraged to participate.

The date and time for this informal hacking event will be announced on this blog, on the #dhmncivichacks channel on Slack, and on the DHMN mailing list. It will probably also be on Twitter, maybe on Facebook and Google+, but almost definitely not in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times.

Second Civic Hackathon In Appleton

In case you didn’t already hear, there has been talk about doing a second civic hackathon in the Appleton area. No date has been selected yet or final commitment made for sponsoring the hackathon. We’ll keep you up to date as we learn details. If you think doing another event like this in Appleton is a good idea, contact Karen Harkness with the city of Appleton to let her know you approve of the city being involved with another hackathon.

Consider Bringing Civic Hacking To Your City

If you are interested in being a civic hacker and bringing a 21st-century tool set to bear on the problems that government faces which affect you and your fellow citizens, consider being the spark that launches civic hacking in your city. Contact me if you want to discuss how you can be that spark.


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