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!

Model Local Open Government Directive

In December, Kevin Curry, Alissa Black, Scott Primeau, and I began working on a model open government directive while at Citycamp Colorado.  After a flurry of work over the last month, we, with the help of a few dozen additional open government advocates, are able to bring you the model directive for local government.  This directive will help municipalities and state governments bring about open government in their communities.

As we state in the comments to the directive’s introduction:

The model Local Open Government Directive is intended to be an executive initiated order or directive to the local government under the executive’s legal authority.  An executive leader, such as a mayor, should use this model to adopt a directive for the city to help institutionalize open government principles within the city government.  This model may be tailored to meet the needs of the particular locality.


We modified, tailored, and improved the Federal open government directive for local government.  I encourage you to share this model directive with leaders in your communities and to lend support to our global open government efforts.  In partnership with OpenPlans, we are hosting the directive at  In the next couple of days, you will find multiple versions of the directive to fit your needs for sharing the directive with others.

In addition, our friends at the Sunlight Foundation have created a site where you can sign up to show your support for this effort.  Please sign up at

Finally, over the next few weeks and months, we intend to continue to create supporting materials and to draft model open government legislation to help institutionalize open government at all levels.  Together we can make transparency, participation, and collaboration possible in our governments.  If you are interested in getting more involved, please join the Open Government Initiative group.  

In addition to Kevin, Alissa, and Scott, I’d like to particularly thank Philip Ashlock, Nicole Aro, and Sean Hudson.  I am forgetting a number of people, but thanks to everyone that participated in the Open Government Initiative group.

Why CityCamp?

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.

CityCamp One Year Later

Today and tomorrow, January 23 & 24, mark one year since the first CityCamp in Chicago, Illinois.  As is customary, it’s time to take time to reflect on what has transpired in the year since that fateful weekend.

Here’s a little CityCamp “By the Numbers”:


The number of cities that have held a CityCamp


Roughly the number of people who attended CityCamps last year.  (About twice as many registered, which means they at least visited our pages.)


The combined number of members in CityCamp forum at e-democracy and group at GovLoop. (956 Facebook fans.)


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