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What’s New in Civic Tech: STiR Labs Names Inaugural Cohort

Plus, Philadelphia names the recipients for its 2020 Innovation Grants program, the Seattle Channel wins a prestigious award for excellence in government broadcasting, and the National Day of Civic Hacking is here.

by / September 10, 2020

STiR Labs, which is a new program that essentially integrates an academic component into the existing Startup in Residence program, has announced the government participants for its inaugural cohort. 

Joining STiR Labs for its first year will be Austin, Texas; Coral Gables, Fla.; Costa Mesa, Calif.; Detroit; Long Beach, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Mobile, Ala.; Pittsburgh; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Jose, Calif.; San Leandro, Calif.; Santa Fe, N.M.; and West Sacramento, Calif. Other entities participating include the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

STiR Labs seeks to do for university-government partnerships what its older sibling has done for university startup partnerships, serving as a bridge that makes them happen. Armed with an NSF EAGER Grant, the program’s first year will see its participants tackling critical community issues such as transportation, urban planning, housing affordability, AI-empowered decision processes, economic recovery and entrepreneurship. 

Other components of the program involve advancing research, increasing the diversity of researchers who work with communities, finding new sources of funding for research and promoting integrative research. The program also boasts advisors who are leading academics and senior government officials with experience in the arena. 

This marks the latest growth stage for STiR overall, which began life as a program limited to just San Francisco before becoming regional and then international. Not only that, but STiR has also sparked other similar programs that seek to emulate its results and methodology, bridging gaps between startup expertise and government employees in their own communities. 

Philadelphia Names Innovation Grant Recipients for 2020

Philadelphia has named the recipients for its 2020 Innovation Grants, which were aimed at fast-tracking work related to COVID-19.

Philadelphia’s Innovation Management group partnered with the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia to fast-track this Innovation Fund grant cycle, which was designed to be an internal opportunity for pilots and concepts that bolster city services amid the pandemic. A total of six projects were chosen for seed funding that ranged from $6,455 to $7,500.

The six grantees were as follows: Licenses & Inspections for online customer support integration; the Department of Prisons for its outdoor refrigeration unit for the Philadelphia Orchard Project; the Office of Immigrant Affairs for its multilingual voter guides; the Office of Domestic Violence Strategies for its marketing and floor decals for the domestic violence hotline; the Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services for its youth resource bags; and the Office of Emergency Management for its pop-up spraygrounds and summer cooling stations.

The winning submissions were chosen, evaluated and recommended by the city’s Innovation Advisory Group, which is made up of city employees from across departments. The actual funding for the grants is provided by the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia, which takes it from its annual operating budget. Final decisions are made by Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Fund Board.

This is all part of an existing program that was fast-tracked to support governmental pivoting in a time that has essentially demanded rapid change to essential government processes of all kinds.

Seattle Channel Wins Prestigious Government Excellence Award

The Seattle Channel, which is a local gov TV channel that that city has long used to foster better civic engagement, recently won a prestigious overall excellence award for government programming from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA).

This is just the latest accolade in a long chain of them for The Seattle Channel, which has captured this same award 10 times from the NATOA since 2007. In addition to the top honor this year, the station captured 20 other government programming awards. These categories included election coverage, ethnic experience, public health and arts and entertainment.

“Seattle Channel is a cornerstone of civic engagement. From City Hall to Seattle’s culturally diverse communities to its dynamic creative scene, Seattle Channel builds understanding and helps residents connect to their city – an especially important public service during times of change and crisis,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan in a statement. “We’re so fortunate to have an award-winning resource like the channel. I congratulate the team for this recognition and its continued dedication to excellence in local programming.” 

National Day of Civic Hacking Set for This Weekend

Finally, as we’ve reported before, this Saturday, Sept. 12, marks the National Day of Civic Hacking, which this year is set to focus on helping to bolster social safety net services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Day of Civic Hacking is largely a decentralized event, with various activities set to be hosted by civic tech groups in communities. Code for America (CfA), the nation’s preeminent civic tech organization, is the originator of the day, and you can find more information about the National Day of Civic Hacking on CfA’s website.

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Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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