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Code for Philly / Events / Hackathons / Municipal government / Technology

These 4 tech platforms might just change Philly for the better

Gerrymandering, access to community organizations and vacant local government seats got the Code for Philly treatment.

Team Open Seat Finder Philly during their demo, led by Project Manager Naomi Bush. (Photo by Roberto Torres)
A month can fly by, especially when you’re trying to help your city be better.

For the four teams that made it to the final sesh in Code for Philly’s Civic Engagement Launchpad, the month-long format paid off in the long run, letting civic tech buffs gather research, implement changes and lay the groundwork for the next steps on the road to building up their tech tools.

Open Seat Finder, GerryMapper, MyPhilly and Leverage demoed their projects last night at WeWork’s 1900 Market spot before a pretty serious panel of judges, including the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Christina Derenick-Lopez, who oversees Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski and his innovation team. (In January, Derenick-Lopez took over for Rebecca Rhynhart, who stepped down to run for City Controller.)

Of note: though seven teams started out, these four made it all the way to a demonstrable product. Though they didn’t demo, some of the projects remain active. Join the Code for Philly Slack for more info.

See a description of all seven projects here.

Through the monthlong development process, the teams worked alongside advisors from Azavea, PromptWorks and the City of Philadelphia. (PromptWorks also now employs two Code for Philly leaders: executive director Dawn McDougall and communications lead Pat Woods.) As both judges and participants noted, more time meant more preparation and research to focus on a problem the right way. For winning team Open Seat Finder Philly, it managed to unearth powerful research. For example, that one of every four Board of Election seats go unfilled every election process.

“The model of a longer format hackathon was helpful for getting our arms around the right solution and gave us time to build it out thoughtfully, too,” said Naomi Bush, a project manager with web dev firm Engine Room and part of the Open Seat Finder team that took home the people’s choice award aka the JAWN award. “There were some logistical challenges with being a remote team with availability only on nights/weekends, but we’re extremely proud of what we accomplished.”

For Leverage, the evergreen team that we last saw at the City-as-a-Service hackathon (CaaSH), it was able to continue work on its prototype, already in good shape from the two previous hackathons. GerryMapper team took time to use Azavea’s Cicero platform to visualize congressional districts, while the technologists behind MyPhilly (including Delphic Digital’s Laura Oxenfeld) deployed UX tests and found out that data on Registered Community Organizations (RCO’s) don’t come by too easily.

Code for Philly Executive Director McDougall said the #CELaunchpad model is yet another validation of how complex projects like the ones developed at the hackathon need more time than just a weekend.

“This leadership team and the community make all the long nights and weekends worth it,”McDougs, as she’s known to some, tweeted after the event. “Such a privilege to lead this evolution.”

Interested in more like this? Check out Code for Philly’s Woods talking about developing the future of civic engagement at Dev Day on Wednesday, May 3, during Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast and come to our mayoral tech town hall featuring Mayor Kenney on Monday, May 1.

Companies: Engine Room / Promptworks / Azavea / Code for America /

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