July 6, 2021
Cyd Harrell’s “A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide” is the book we’ve always needed, but wouldn’t have been possible until now thanks in no small part to the unparalleled experience she’s accrued over the years working at Code for America, 18F, California Administrative Office of the Courts, and other service design-focused environments inside and outside of public service.
Unsurprisingly, a designer with deep practical appreciation for the core work, coupled with the ability to think strategically, execute and lead, “A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide” is accessible to everyone. It is a must-read for the entire civic spectrum — from civic hackers and entrepreneurs to city managers, city councils, procurement, policy professionals to federal chief information officers.
Cyd touches on all the nuances of civic technology — including self-care, which doesn’t get the attention it needs — and does so in a way that welcomes and encourages newcomers, but also fills in the gaps for industry veterans who think they know it all.
While there are many quotable excerpts, Cyd’s emphasis on effective communications and collaboration as essential skills is one more folks should heed. I’ve seen many government and broader civic technology efforts — from startups to grassroots to nascent public service initiatives — not get the traction they should have because of a lack of a great narrative.
Words of wisdom:
“Civic technology can be the ideal means to put your tech skills to good use - but it will be your communication and collaboration skills that will clear the path for you to do that. Communicating well, managing through influence, and making good strategic choices are must-haves; everything from judgment to facilitation to persuasive writing is at a premium. There are not yet-and I’m not sure there ever should be-roles where you can have a major impact on the public good simply by quietly completing your tickets. You can expect to talk about your work, a lot and to listen to other people talk about theirs.”
“A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide” is the perfect blend of a generalist’s perspective with obvious been-there-done-that insights. I wish I had this book more than a decade ago when I first endeavored into this work.
Fortunately, with “A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide,” Cyd is helping many others go further faster and stand on the shoulders of the civic technology giant that she is.