Why CityCamp? Given the organic enthusiasm for CityCamp that emerged in 2010 this might seem like an academic question to readers of this blog. But even dedicated CityCamp organizers wonder about the limits of what we can achieve. In this reflective time that marks a year since the first CityCamp, it make sense to consider this question more deeply than perhaps we’ve allowed ourselves thus far.
We’ve always claimed that local is where citizens connect most directly and often with government. Community organizations, too, play key roles in what happens where we live. Most people, even those unfamiliar with terms like “Gov 2.0,” recognize that the Web has a powerful ability to transform the way we conduct and interact with governments and within communities. Given the speed at which transformations tend to occur on the Web, it’s only reasonable to assume that people everywhere are struggling to keep pace. It does not seem far fetched, either, to assume that the range and diversity of interactions, and therefore need and opportunity, are greatest at the local level.
CityCamp deals directly in this space.
But, what are these so-called “needs” and “opportunities” and what can an “unconference” and “online-community” possibly do to address them?
Cities are not very smart. Experts are usually needed to extract even the most basic information about cities. Given all of the resources available to us, it’s shocking that we, all of us, can’t access answers to basic questions about our cities. It’s not at all shocking, however, that answering basic questions about any city is not simple. People, processes, and technology all intervene. Negotiation of each of these elements individually is not trivial.
Our ignorance about our cities costs us money, wastes our time, and makes us unhappy. We need our cities to be smarter. Smarter cities save money. Smarter cities create opportunities. Smarter cities are safer.
To understand how we can achieve smarter cities we need to sit down to the table, both proverbially and literally.
We should promote conversations between citizens, communities, and governments across multiple media. We should use the Web as a platform to unlock information from artificial containers and open new channels. We should foster connections that lead to novel collaborations. We should educate ourselves about our surroundings so that we can manage them more effectively.
We can’t achieve any of this without communicating, hacking, collaborating, and participating. This is why I urge you to thinking about what Gov 2.0 needs and opportunities exist where you live and what you can do to address them. CityCamp is a vehicle for Gov 2.0 at the local level. Depending on where you live CityCamp can be about direction, orientation, training, implementation, or whatever you think fits with the goals of CityCamp.