San Francisco will hold its second CityCamp, CityCampSF 2011, this Saturday, June 18, and include municipal employees, journalists, developers and neighborhood leaders “working on solutions for better communities and government.” The event is hosted by SF Department of Technology.
What is CityCampSF? Who should attend? What will be the takeaway?
CityCampSF is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations. As an unconference, content for CityCampSF is created and organized by participants and coordinated by facilitators. Participants are expected to play active roles in sessions. This provides an excellent format for creative, open exchange geared toward action. CityCamps have been held in several U.S. and UK cities, including Chicago, Colorado, Raleigh and London. The first CityCampSF was held last October.
The target audience for the event is Bay Area city officials, journalists, local creatives and community leaders. Attendees can expect to walk away with a wide range of outcomes, based on the level of experience and knowledge they bring to the event.
For example, I’ll be working at the event with Javier Muniz from Granicus on finalizing core development aspects of the SF Fire App initiative, and volunteers will be doing in-person outreach around the City to increase awareness of the need for public AEDs to reduce sudden cardiac arrest deaths. Last week at CityCamp Raleigh, one North Carolina state official began the day upset that community members were complaining about missing data from the state, and by the end of the day she was working with a team of folks on making the state’s data more accessible. Within 24 hours they had a working open data project live on the new ncopendata.org. That’s what CityCamps do.
What’s your take on the state of open government in San Francisco? What aspects are thriving or need more focus?
Open government as civic tech innovation is very strong in San Francisco, however, there are plenty of areas for growth. I’d love to see the City incorporate commenting streams into its public meeting webcasts, for example. That’s a feature that the City’s streaming media provider offers, it’s just a matter of the will to do it. I recently wrote for sf.govfresh about some of the things the City does well where it could take things to the next level. The City could take its vibrant official Twitter use to the next level through improved integration with official City websites and listening campaigns aimed at identifying and responding to public concerns. It would also be great if the City provided a stream that aggregated trusted content from the many niche Twitter IDs covering city services. I’ve also offered to put together a free half-day social media best-practices and risk management session for government social media, and I think that’s something the City really needs. Some of those topics will be discussed at CityCamp, I’m sure.
The City might also consider allowing direct access to expert staff through Facebook, similar to the efforts of the U.S. Geographical Survey. In terms of open data innovation, the City really needs to get more proactive at identifying and releasing new datasets on datasf.org. Citycampers might be able to help there through things like informal interviews with departments to help them identify data that would be useful to developers. I’d also like to see legislation for giving more authority to the City CIO, who in terms of enumerated authority right now is more of a figurehead than a citywide IT leader.
What are your long-term goals for CityCampSF, and how will it cultivate a sustainable open government movement in San Francisco?
Long-term, CityCampSF should be the event that brings together people new to the open government movement with mature leaders in the field to learn and collaborate. It should help government officials quickly get up to speed on civic tech issues and it should be the place where tough municipal challenges are matched with solutions. CityCampSF is also moving to sponsor related events by partners throughout the Bay Area, such as Code for Oakland, GAFFTA’s Summer of Smart innovation series, and the monthly Third Thursdays civic tech meetup to ensure that the community of leaders brought together by the unconference is sustained and grows between big events.