Author: Kevin Curry

Things I learned from CityCamp

This article first appeared on

By Jonathan Minter / June 28th, 2011 /

I feel very fortunate to have been part of the planning group for CityCamp Raleigh.  Although I work for the City of Raleigh, I was part of the team as an average joe – not an “official city representative” – which allowed me to do things that have nothing to do with my day-to-day job responsibilities.  Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the everyday routine and shop for post-it notes and markers instead.

Here are some things I learned from the weekend and the planning that went into it.

  • I finally learned the value of Twitter.  I have been a Twitter voyeur for some time now and just set up an account a couple months ago.  Watching the real-time conversation from the audience about what was going on throughout the weekend made it a much more immersive experience.
  • I learned that there is a passionate group of citizens who are willing to not just talk about the problems our city faces – but are also willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work solving them.
  • I learned that the quality and availability of government data in standard formats is a foundation to lots of great things – namely an enabler to all those tech-savvy citizens who are willing to use that data to solve problems.
  • I learned that personal interaction between citizens and city employees can help city employees get exposure to the folks that ultimately consume our services.  As IT folks, sometimes we’re supporting the folks who support the folks who are on the front lines serving the citizens.  It always helps to be able to draw a line from where you stand to the people who will eventually be served by your organization.
  • Finally, I got a glimpse of what teamwork the open source way is all about.  There were no formal leaders, job descriptions, or top-down direction – just dedicated people who brought their skills to the project and jumped in wherever they could bring the most value.  We used technology tools based on their goodness of fit and experienced the freedom that comes from internet-based tools that interoperate with one another.

I’m looking forward to more interaction throughout the coming year and then another CityCamp Raleigh 2012!


CityCamp in Action: SF Fire App Data

Granicus co-founder Javier Muniz shows his day of work on the SF Fire App at CityCampSF.

Granicus co-founder Javier Muniz shows his day of work on the SF Fire App at CityCampSF.

The fourth of CityCamp’s four goals is:

Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over

In the case of CityCamp San Francisco, participants created outcomes during the event by curating data describing AED locations throughout the city. AEDs are automated external difibrillators, those devices you see in airports that can be used by just about anyone to stabilize cardiac arrest victims. AED locations are important data that can save lives, particularly if they are open and portable. Curating this data is non-trivial, however. Collecting AED locations is labor intensive. Mistakes in data can cost lives. Data provided by the City of San Francisco is a decade old in some cases. Some places you’d expect to find an AED don’t have one.

So the challenge arises: how do we fix this?

Thanks to smart folks who came to CityCampSF, that question is being answered.

SF ❤ Open Government

Tomorrow is the first of two important events happening in San Francisco. From 5:30 – 7:30 PM Pacific time, SF Open 2011 will:

bring together the 2011 San Francisco Mayoral candidates for a discussion on open government, civic engagement, technology and innovation. Participating candidates include Michela Alioto-Pier, John Avalos, David Chiu, Bevan Dufty, Tony Hall, Dennis Herrera, Joanna Rees, Phil Ting and Leland Yee and will be moderated by Mitch Kapor. The event will be held June 16 at Automattic (registration). SFOpen 2011 serves as the kick-off for San Francisco’s Summer of Smart, “a four-month experiment in urban innovation and open government.”

SF Open 211

On Thursday, June 16th, Candidates for Mayor of San Francisco discuss the role open government for their city in a public forum produced by GovFresh

Two days later, CityCampSF will make San Francisco the first city to host a second CityCamp unconference. The list of registered participants is amazing. Several city employees are signed up, as are some of the mayoral candidates.

CityCamp San Francisco

On Saturday, June 18th, San Francisco will be the first city to host its 2nd CityCamp

You can follow all of this local open gov action online:




CityCamp Raleigh Is On June 3-5, 2011!

Raleigh citizens creating solutions for open government

CityCamp Raleigh is three days of open sourced talks, workshops, and hands-on  problem solving, to re-imagine the way the web, applications, technology, and participation will shape the future of Raleigh.

CityCamp brings together government, business, neighborhood, non-profit, and academic communities to work toward next generation solutions for Raleigh. You don’t need to be technical either–we need ideas from a variety of participants to help create solutions.

The purpose is to highlight the power of participation, promote open source in local government, and explore how technology is used to increase government transparency. CityCamp Raleigh will foster communities of practice and create outcomes for participants both during, and after the event.

We’ll be hearing inside views of the city from local leaders and getting inspiration from experts on social innovation and open data, before a participatory barcamp to discuss problems and new ideas, and finally ,a work day to see what solutions we can create.

We want to collaborate and create the next generation of government using community-based solutions. CityCamp Raleigh is how open government, “Gov 2.0,” goes local–and you can join the movement.

Get involved here.


Sponsor CityCamp

I’m glad to report that we’ve rolled out means to direct financial and in-kind support to local organizers. Thanks (again) to, CityCamp now has a registered 501.3 (c), not-for-profit, fiscal agent. The recently published Sponsor Prospectus provides overview and details for how individuals, companies, and non-profits can make tax-deductible contributions through direct payments and sponsorship packages. The purpose of this action is to create a modest fund that will be used to boot-strap CityCamp activities world wide.

Most funds will be distributed to CityCamps in the form of grants to local organizers who agree to host a CityCamp and meet the expected criteria. Some funds will be used for coordination and collaboration activies for all CityCamps, including the CityCamp web site(s), the forum, administration, and special events.

Our approach is to provide just enough structure and support to grow and sustain CityCamp and not a bit more.  We want to make it easier for CityCamps to happen by helping to raise the funds and other resources necessary. Local organizers aren’t required to use this sponsorship program.  CityCamp is still an “open source brand.” Anyone is free to use the Sponsor Prospectus for their own CityCamp fundraising.  The only requirements for using the CityCamp Sponsor Prospectus are to 1) agree to the “Start-A-Camp” criteria and 2) reference the  source prospectus URL.

I hope that you, dear reader, will do what you can to support CityCamp.

For more information email Kevin Curry.

Want to contribute right now?

Click to Contribute via PayPal.


CityCamp Brighton This Weekend, 4-6 March

Friday 4th March – Sunday 6th March 2011

is about rethinking the way the web, technology and participation will shape the future of our city.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re someone with a great idea or a problem to solve, or if you’re a developer with specific skills – if you’re passionate about our city and want to be inspired to create new solutions, then this is for you.

We’ve lined up three days of inspiring speakers, discussions powered by you and hands-on building of solutions. And it’s free.

Part of the CityCamp movement, started in Chicago last year, CityCamp BTN brings together local government, business, community sector and academic communities, to work together.

Register your place now!


From the Archives: Thoughts After CityCamp Chicago, 24 Jan, 2010

My biggest takeaways:

It’s essential to get a good mix of perspective. We had civil servants, vendors, journalists, non-profits, and citizens. It would not have been as successful if it was gov-to-gov, vendor-to-vendor, or even gov-to-vendor.

It’s essential that the conversation not revolve entirely around tech and data. In 2010 we can assume that technology and data are involved. We’re just scratching the surface on process. And the processes involved are not just about methods and means for collecting-publishing-visualizing data. Providing greater opportunities to get citizens’ voices heard and to increase their engagement in civic duty is important.

There is a new and important role for journalism: tell the stories behind the tech and the data. However, journalists may not have the education and knowledge to do this well. Interpreting stats is hard. I am excited to see Global Integrity stepping up to start a “help desk” specifically to work this problem. I think there is a new “extreme programming” model that papers could adopt; or perhaps to put it in terms papers already understand: pair your journalists up with data-viz-stats people like you pair them up with photographers.

People want what City Camp provided. We are going to learn from it, refine it, and keep it going.

Don’t wait for me or Jen to keep City Camp going. Anyone can do this anywhere at anytime. Copy what works. Adapt for your local perspective. Just do it.

£10,000 prize for the best innovation at CityCamp Brighton #ccbtn

CityCamp Brighton announced that:

one of our amazing sponsors, the Aldridge Foundation, has agreed to put up a ten thousand pound prize fund to implement the best innovation we create at CityCamp.

We’re very pleased and proud that the Foundation has given us, and the city’s innovators, that level of commitment. Most of all we’re hugely excited to be able to turn some of the ambitions and ideas of CityCamp into real, delivered change.

The full details of the prize will be announced on the day, but it will take the form of a development fund to help the team behind the best idea work with the relevant public services over six months to deliver their vision.

There’s no point in waiting until the event. Start now!