Event Recap: code for america national summit 2015
 

On September 30, 2015, we joined over 1,200 civic innovators for the National Code for America Annual Summit in California. The Summit kicked off with an inspiring morning where Code for America Founder & Executive Director, Jennifer Pahlka, discussed how 21st century government and technology should be re-imagined to better citizen engagement in government. Speakers then presented real-life practices, tools, values, and stories of the impact innovations in government are having across the United States. 

At the Summit, Civic Innovation Project Director and Founder, Lourdes German, was delighted to speak on a panel organized and moderated by Microsoft, a capstone sponsor of the conference, led by Microsoft’s Chicago Technology & Civic Engagement Director, Adam Hecktman. The theme of the panel focused on data visualization, and included the following experts: Gordon Feller, Cisco’s Director of the Internet of Everything, Holly St. Clair, Chief Data Officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Derek Eder, Founder & Partner of Data Made and Claire Micklin, Designer from the University of Chicago. Adam Hecktman began the panel with very insightful comments, challenging the audience to evaluate the Knight Foundation's recent question - How might we make data work for individuals and communities? What should we be doing, how should we do it, and how do we help communities?  In response, panelist Holly St. Clair spoke about her approach to data visualization at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Clair Micklin spoke about the platform she developed focused on buildings that lack recycling services and Derek Eder spoke about his many advancements, including the platform he launched that day to help citizens in New York state understand the City Council legislative process. Lourdes German contributed to the conference themes by discussing her approach to data visualization of financial data in government at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and showed the audience screens of the new Civic Innovation Gallery (click here to check it out!)  visualizing government financial data.  Gordon Feller closed the conversation, speaking about Cisco's recent acquisition of Tropo and the various ways that cities consume and use data. 

The photo gallery below captures key conference highlights:

 

The conference included numerous speakers and sessions. Our top key takeaways include:

  •  “Transforming government for the 21st century encodes our values. It doesn’t just change tools, but it fundamentally changes how we work. 21st century starts with users. It requires research, is iterative, is creative, involves our community.” These insights came via David Eaves and Jennifer Pahlka.  
  • Code for America policy director Jake Solomon asked us to imagine a few things: “What if government came “installed” ...What if when someone lost their job they received a text from the government offering enrollment in unemployment, or information on health benefits….We have the chance to build government services that can put people first.” William Lightbourne, the Director of California Department of Social Services, joined the conversation with Jake Solomon on what Social Services in California is currently doing and where it’s going. He noted that “government needs to move from a culture of eligibility to a culture of coverage….Do whatever you need by any means possible to help people.”
  •  Stacy Lindau, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago and Founder of NowPow, LLC spoke passionately about disparities in health care— “there’s a mortality rate that is shameful in some of the richest cities in the world….We need to see the unvisible. The unvisible is what we choose not to see because we choose not to look down there...to engineer solutions to injustices”, she noted. 
  • Danny Avula, Deputy Director of Richmond City Health Department, spoke about how poverty impacts the health and well-being of people. To help solve this problem, he worked with Code for America Richmond to build tools to help facilitate community health screenings, and noted “they leveraged technology to start the process of systems change.”
  • Hillary Hartley, Deputy Executive Director of 18F, discussed how she is enacting change with her team as an extension of the federal government GSA. 
  • Ariel Kennan, Director of Innovation and Design at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations spoke about her experience in civic technology, explaining, ”If I fix a design of one small thing,” she said, “I’m likely improving lives of thousands of New Yorkers.” 
  • Author Gabe Klein held a book signing for his newest work, the Start-Up City, and summed up our motto when he wrote: "Civic innovation is the key to great cities" when autographing a copy for our founder. 

Code for America is a non-partisan, non-political 501 organization founded in 2009 to address the widening gap between the public and private sectors in their effective use of technology and design. To learn more about this event or Code for America's mission and work, visit www.codeforamerica.org.

To see photo credits for the select images appearing above taken by Microsoft News, Tropo, and CISCO, please click on the image.