With economic woes besieging local governments, among the last things cities are inclined to spend money on is sending employees to distant conferences. But the organizers of CityCamp are looking to help municipal public servants get to Chicago later this month by awarding $500 scholarships to four innovative city IT project leaders.

CityCamp, a so-called unconference hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation, takes place in the Windy City over the weekend of Jan. 23-24. An unconference is a relatively new description of an event that eschews high admission fees and industry-sponsored keynotes and sessions. Instead, unconferences are user-generated affairs that revolve largely around workshops and networking.

"The point of CityCamp is to get a dialogue going between city officials, people working in city government, and the civic hacker community or the transparency community or journalists or whoever is interested and get them all talking to each other," said Jennifer Pahlka, one of the creators of CityCamp and a director at Code for America, an organization that aims to leverage Web 2.0 technology to help cities out from economic turmoil.

CityCamp is the brainchild of Pahlka; Kevin Curry, chief scientist and co-founder of Bridgeborn, a Virginia Beach, Va., IT solutions company specializing in Extract, Transform, Load and Visualize (ETL-V) technology; and Pam Broviak, city engineer/assistant director of Public Works of Geneva, Ill. Having met at various government 2.0 and transparency conferences, the trio felt that local government IT was getting lost in the discussion.

"It was at a transparency camp at Google where a bunch of us with similar interests realized all this focus on the federal government is good, but what's really missing and where government really intersects people's lives on a daily basis, and especially where technology may intersect their lives, is locally," Curry said. After suggesting via Twitter that they develop an unconference for local government IT, CityCamp was born.

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Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.