CityCampSF 2011

SF developers, public servants pitch their civic tents at CityCampSF

CityCampSF 2011 photo by Ryan Resella

Photo by Ryan Resella

If there’s one lesson that’s inherent to CityCampSF, it’s that crowdsourcing will save the world.

The second CityCamp San Francisco was hosted at the city’s Office of Technology, and featured projects that heavily favored using the community residents to make their block, neighborhood or city better. My takeaway? While the state of California may have proven that direct democracy doesn’t work, the city of San Francisco has shown that giving the power to the people may be the best way to save it.

Here are two examples:

SF Fire App

This is perhaps the best example of how people can help people. The app allows CPR-trained volunteers to get smartphone notifications of cardiac arrest patients who may be near them.

Developers used CityCampSF to work together and create another app to map Automated External Defibrillator (AED) locations. This technology is critical to help save lives, San Francisco City Attorney (and mayoral candidate) Dennis Herrera said, and that information was not readily known before.

Real World Sim City

One of the things I tweeted during the Real World Sim City presentation was “It’s amazing what can be crowdsourced — learning about billboards, gov’t apps, even a Robocop statue in Michigan!” For some reason a spam account picked up on that and commented, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” which unknowingly played right into the ethos of the project. One of the ideas Loveland Technologies Creative Director Jerry Paffendorf talked about was ‘Inchvesting,’ or paying a dollar per inch for vacant lots in downtown Detroit. Sure, you can’t do a lot with an inch, he said, but it gets people involved and invested in their neighborhoods, and good things come from that. You’ve probably heard of another venture Paffendorf had a hand in – the 10-foot bronze statue of Robocop enough people thought was a good idea that they donated $50,000 to make it happen on Kickstarter.

The whole experience was symbolic of the Internet, he said. “Take something that’s really serious, but put some kind of art experience on top. If you want to clean up the park, put a little Robocop on top of it.”

There were so many excellent panels and so little time. There were people coding in the atrium, talking in the hallways and exchanging ideas and business cards in every corner. SF Director of Public Works Ed Reiskin said he applauded events like this, calling them the “next step forward in civic engagement.”

“You ask, ‘how can we empower people,’ how do we take the information the government has and make it work better, make it more useful, more accessible, in ways that we in government didn’t imagine,” Reiskin said. “When you work in an organization you don’t question some of the basic assumptions of why you do what you do. Coming in from the outside, having tech savviness, but also just being citizens, you make sure the government works for you, and that’s tremendously powerful and helpful.”

To learn more about check out #citycampsf on Twitter and the CityCampSF Flickr group.


CityCampSF founder, NationBuilder Chief Organizer and Gov 2.0 Host Adriel Hampton on CityCampSF:

CityCamp founder Kevin Curry on how CityCamp San Francisco fits in and stands out:

SF Director of Innovation Jay Nath on the value of a city innovation officer:

Tropo’s Mark Headd discusses the impact of hackathons on the open government movement and how developers can get involved:

SF City Attorney and 2011 Mayoral Candidate Dennis Herrera on the role of meetups in civic engagement:

2011 SF Mayoral Candidate Joanna Rees on the role of meetups in civic engagement:

Open government keeps its heart in San Francisco with (second) CityCampSF

CityCampSF 2011

Adriel HamptonSan 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.

We asked CityCampSF founder and organizer (and Gov 2.0 Radio host) Adriel Hampton to discuss its objectives and goals and share his thoughts on the state of San Francisco open government.

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 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 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.

Register for CityCampSF and follow on Twitter at @CityCampSF.