This month, our Technical.ly Podcast is all about civic innovation, so naturally it features a couple of D.C. voices.
Steve Case, the investor who recently wrapped up a tour of the American Heartland by bus, told us about the silent tech hubs hiding in plain sight. Case believes that places like Madison, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City and Saint Louis have their own entrepreneurial strengths.
“What unites all these different cities,” he said, “is a belief that these startups, these entrepreneurs really are going to be at the epicenter of the next chapter … and the best hope for jobs and growth and opportunity.”
And to prove that the spirit of civic innovation is still kicking (and screaming too) in places outside of of New York and San Francisco, Laurenellen McCann gave a fiery talk at the Code for America Summit last month. She discussed the “existential crisis” dogging civic technologists — and how they can solve it.
“We’re not doing civic technology right if we are not stepping outside of our own context,” she said, “and into the context of the communities that we’re working for.”
She had one example in mind: the day Code for DC participated in the city’s Funk Parade to reach the non-tech-embedded community. There, the brigade set up a Tech Embassy — “effectively a hands-on science fair for arts and technology,” she said.
Civic technologists need to expand their horizons to “street festivals, flea markets, farmers markets, block parties,” said McCann. Any “communal barn-raising that magnetizes people and brings them together.”
In short, she concluded, “there can be no trickle-down in civic tech. We’re only going to win if we can get concrete.”
There will be an occasion to hear more civic tech leaders live at our Rise conference, held Oct. 22-24 in Philadelphia. Speakers include Forbes Editor Randall Lane, PublicStuff Cofounder Lily Liu and Alisha Green of the Sunlight Foundation, who will discuss the next set of challenges for open government activists.