Civic tech

Hit and Miss #8

Hi there!

Thanks to a nice week off, I’m feeling better this weekend than I have for the past little while, despite still having a fair bit of work to do. (That work has kept me from responding to some emails and messages—I’ll reply soon!) I hope this letter finds you well.

In honour of how I’m feeling, I’d like to talk about one of my favourite things: civic tech. If you’ve been around me much at all the past year, you’ve likely heard me rave about it. Both as a general concept and in its local incarnations (more on both in a moment), civic tech has improved my life. Whether for introducing me to some great folks or for showing me possible future paths, I have many thanks to give to the civic tech movement (and the aforementioned great folks who participate in it).

What is civic tech? For those unfamiliar, it’s a broad, relatively informal movement that aims to address civic problems (which take all sorts of forms, but often connect to either the local community or some level of government). It usually manifests through regular local meetups that convene people from different disciplines and backgrounds. At these meetups, participants hear from speakers working on interesting projects and propose their own projects for collaboration with one another. Civic Tech Toronto is one of the pioneers in this space in Canada, but cities across the country have their own initiatives.

Near and dear to me is Ottawa Civic Tech. I’ve attended regularly since January of this year. This meetup has opened my eyes to many of the excellent initiatives—tech-driven and non-tech alike—going on in Ottawa and in the federal government. It has given me the chance to work on some neat projects, which I’ve mentioned in past newsletters, and brought me into some exciting events like the Connected Canada conference. Even more importantly, I’ve met some great folks through it, people who inspire me and show me through their own actions the many ways I—or anyone—can help craft a better future through civic technology.

Last week, I attended the second meetup of CivicTechWR, a civic tech group starting up in my hometown(s). This was very exciting to me, because I long felt that the tech boom in Kitchener–Waterloo lacked a community drive. (Doubtless this view isn’t fully informed—I’m certain that many tech companies in KW give back to the community!) The meetup I attended talked with speakers from the House of Friendship, a local nonprofit serving a wide variety of community needs. It’s interesting how the context of a civic tech group influences its attendees and projects: in Ottawa we hear a lot from government or government-adjacent attendees and speakers; in Waterloo (caveat: it’s very early days), the mix appears to lean toward attendees with a tech background and speakers with a local focus. It was great attending CivicTechWR, and I wish them the best of luck.

I encourage you to investigate civic tech groups in your local area. Regardless of your background or abilities, there’s a way you can contribute—that’s the whole spirit of the thing! It’s hard to describe the great feeling that a civic tech meetup inspires, but I always walk away energized and optimistic. Even if civic tech doesn’t do it for you, I recommend seeking out and diving into whatever gives you that feeling.

All of the best for the week ahead :)

Sent on October 29th, 2017.