What’s New in Civic Tech: National Day of Civic Hacking

Plus, Apolitical is hosting a five-week writing boot camp online for public servants, a new LAInnovates program is working to connect seniors with available housing, and more.

hackathon participant
Shutterstock/Leonel Calara
National Day of Civic Hacking is set this year for Saturday, Sept. 12, marking the eighth annual nationwide celebration of all things civic tech.

The day is essentially organized by Code for America (CfA), the nation’s leading civic tech organization, and as CfA notes on the National Day of Civic Hacking website, it “brings together civic leaders, public servants, designers, coders and engaged citizens to partner with local government and community groups to tackle some of our toughest challenges.”

As all of that implies, it is a day to practice and rally around the work of civic technologists, with participants coming from inside and outside of local governments. This year’s theme for the National Day of Civic Hacking is creating ways of helping those who most need support from the social safety net during the COVID-19 crisis. The day, however, is also open to folks who want to work on solving other issues in their communities as well.

While CfA has picked the day and is promoting it at the national level, many of the events that make up the National Day of Civic Hacking take place within communities in cities across the country, hosted by the 90 members of the CfA Brigade Network.

For interested parties who do not have a group that belongs to the brigade network in their communities, the National Day of Civic Hacking website also has a free toolkit that organizers can use to create their own events. Finally, the impact of the work done last year around the day can be found on this 2019 retrospective webpage. 

Apolitical Hosts Five-Week Online Writing Boot Camp for Public Servants

Registration opened this week for a free five-week writing boot camp for public servants, which is being hosted by Apolitical, which is a global learning platform for people who work in government.

Public servants — as any who have done the job surely know — must do quite a bit of writing, including policy briefs, frequent emails, and occasional articles. This online boot camp seeks to enhance participants’ ability to do that over the course of five weeks, doing so with what the program’s website
describes as “bite-sized” email lessons. These lessons will be sent once a week, and the length of each one is roughly 10 minutes. In addition, there will also be related articles, quizzes and interactive worksheets.

Subject matter for the lessons includes persuasive arguments, concise briefings, powerful articles, memorable social media posts, and effective emails. Registration for this program runs from now until Sept. 25 on the boot camp’s webpage. 

New LAInnovates Program Connects Seniors with Available Housing

Los Angeles has a new online innovation initiative called The LA ADU Accelerator Program, and the goal is to ultimately help senior residents obtain housing that they can afford.

The way this program does that is by connecting seniors who apply to accessory dwelling units, which are essentially smaller dwellings on the property of larger houses, often set in backyards. The program’s website has a description. 

“The City of Los Angeles wants to ensure all Angelenos have affordable, safe and decent housing. To keep our city inclusive and help create a healthy and stable future for all, we started the LA ADU Accelerator Program,” developers wrote. “The LA ADU Accelerator Program pairs older adults with homeowners willing to provide a stable home by offering their accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as affordable rentals. In exchange, homeowners receive benefits such as qualified tenant referrals, tenant case management, and stable rental payments.”

The city also estimates that if just 10 percent of its homeowners added accessory dwelling units, the housing density in Los Angeles would increase by half in relatively short order, making the most of the space of a city that has long been built outward rather than upward, like its counterparts on the East Coast.

More information about participating, as well as an application, is currently available on the program’s website.

Check Out This 19th Amendment Centennial Story Map

Finally, this past week marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which affirmed that the right to vote could not be denied based on gender, and to commemorate the occasion, a group in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood created a story map to visualize the history.

The map centers on the contributions that people in that area of New York made to the women’s suffrage movement. The story map has the exact locations of where those contributions were made, along with quite a bit of info about each of them.

The group who built the map — dubbed the 19th Amendment Centennial Story Map — is Village Preservation.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine