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Looking for Better Camping Info? Ideation Nation Winner Can Help

Ideation Nation awards $5,000 to competition finalist Alyssa Ravasio of San Francisco to build her new campsite and recreation website, Hipcamp.

by / December 4, 2013
Alyssa Ravasio, winner of the Ideation Nation civic technology contest. Alyssa Ravasio

Today, after hours of brainstorming and six weeks of idea submissions, Ideation Nation has announced its civic technology idea winner.

A panel of civic judges narrowed the initial applicant pool to 25, and a community vote determined the ultimate victor, Alyssa Ravasio of San Francisco. Sponsored by Code for America and MindMixer, the competition was created to spur ideas in civic technology. Ideation Nation awarded Ravasio $5,000 to develop her idea for a national website for campsite and outdoor recreation resources. Ravasio will also receive mentorship and a MindMixer website to generate community support.

The winnings and support package will be key, Rasavio said, as she intends to create a recreation site that will publish camping and park information from national, state and regional sites. Though it is a significant amount of data to coordinate, Ravasio is undaunted and eager to begin the 2014 project that will supplement her beta site Hipcamp, created for her home state of California.

Rasavio, who has a background in civic technology, recently earned a B.A. in digital democracy from the University of California Los Angeles and is well-versed in programming and Web development.

Government Technology talked to Ravasio about the competition and her plans for the project going forward.

How did you come up with the idea?

I actually had the idea for Hipcamp back in January of 2013. It was New Year’s Day and I’d been camping the day before. The process for finding the campsite had just been a total mess. The state park campsites are on one site, the national campsites are on another, counties in another, it was just a whole huge process … and when I actually arrived at the campground, I found out that even though I’d read so much about this place, I hadn’t learned that it was home to a huge surf break — and I’m a surfer and hadn’t brought my board. I was pretty frustrated and I thought, "There should be a website for people who like the outdoors who are looking to camp and backpack and get out there."

What do you see as the value of civic brainstorming?

I think having a dedicated space to discuss civic innovation is a huge service to present to the public. On the MindMixer contest, everyone was there because they wanted to improve their government and that is a really exciting community to be a part of, because everyone is on the same page, thinking in new ways.

How will you use the funding and mentorship for your project?

The next year will be about going deeper into the content we do have and bringing in the community features. Right now I’m the only developer on the project, and that’s going to change quickly. And secondly, it's about going to more places and expanding it to other states. I think rolling it out in stages is probably the right approach. It’s going to require making a contact at each state park and state government and asking them for their support, and hopefully getting the community engaged in helping to upload photos and leave reviews.

What are some of the task and challenges ahead?

A lot of this (park) data is in the databases of private companies so it’s going to be a lot of work to get that out. And then I think opening that data up and building a tech platform that really serves as a community hub is the next step. For this, it’s going to be about inspiring the community and citizens to help us edit this data and make sure it’s right and let everyone know about what you can do at a park. I’d like to make it a private-public partnership in a way that we build a great resource for people to go to.

What’s been the feedback you’ve received about the project?

We’ve been at REI over the past few months doing surveys and every (REI) customer we’ve talked to has been like "Yeah, we need this. This is great." So it’s going to be about figuring out where other people are feeling this way — and judging by the MindMixer challenge, it appears a lot of people are interested.

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Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.

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