Want to Fix Your City? There's a Camp for That.

The good folks at City Camp , SF.GovfreshCode for America and GAFFTA hosted an event called City Camp SF . I’ve got to say, I was not prepared for the amount of intense “brain hacking” that happened with people from across sectors. It was a great day of learning and connections. The day covered topics from bridging the digital divide to Sim City-ing cities for civic engagement to crowdfunding community solutions, the latter of which was a topic hosted by the guys who crowdsourced the somewhat controversial, but very successful RoboCop Statue being built in Detroit, and who started Loveland, a platform on which you can buy square inches of real and virtual land in Detroit for $1.

To learn more about the brilliant ideas that were discussed throughout the day, check out #citycampsf. Here are my top takeaways:

Bringing Sim City Ideals into our First Life Cities 

We often forget that our cities are living, breathing organisms that are constantly being changed to reflect the needs and demands of its citizens. In essence, we live in a Sim City – a city that is being built and maintained and developed constantly. Perhaps we can reengage citizens by creating an experience that reflects that. From crowdsourcing art projects and city clean up initiatives, or even decisions on city spending and where to locate services,  if we can make platforms that allow people to engage in a fun and participatory way that can show them real time results, we might have a great formula for a new form of civic engagement.

The Digital Divide isn’t Just About the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”.

The digital divide is a universal and nuanced problem. While important, it’s not as simple as developing broadband or wifi for disadvantaged communities. It's a multilayered issue.There are divides between programmers and politicians, designers and community organizers, seasoned business leaders and startup gurus . As City Camp, SF Tech Dems, Code for America and others begin to tackle how we bridge the digital divide and open up our governments, it’s becoming clear that each group (designers, programmers, organizers) is using different language to discuss data, how we use it, and how we help people engage with it to improve our city. We’ll see how the community begins to self organize and if a universal language begins to develop.

What Comes First, the Community Engagement, or the Online Engagement?

It’s an exciting time for developers interested in creating platforms that allow people and neighborhoods to share information and solutions. But in order to get people to use those apps and platforms, do you need people and communities already connected? Can people engage with their neighbors online in constructive way, even if they don’t know the name of the person who lives next to them?

How do we Take the Great Ideas and Excitement that Comes out of Events like City Camp and Turn them into Tangible Projects for People to Work on?

GAFFTA is sponsoring the Summer of Smart series that is weaving together events that allow people to take ideas that came out of the recent Mayoral Open Government Forum and today's event and begin to work on them at an event next weekend called “Hackathon for Everyone”.  It's clear that there’s a lot of energy and interest in developing the resources and ideas in this city for public good, and they’ve come up with an exciting model to help people materialize their ideas into actions. Stay tuned for more.  

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