To frame the conversation, we asked our audience – TPG members of various disciplines and backgrounds – to share their definition of the term “civic hacking.” Responses included:
“Using publicly available data and resources to help build products for everyone.”
“Using public data to tell a story or share information.”
“DIY technology fixes by community members for community issues.”
“Using data or tools that are publicly available to make something new / better.”
“A process of reimagining to generate tools / solutions built on existing available infrastructure.”
Then we heard from Luke, whose background in civic technology spans over two decades. “It’s really just working and thinking outside the lines of the traditional roles of bureaucracy,” he said. “Ideally, it’s working with open data that’s easily accessible, using open source where possible, and working collaboratively with government officials in a very constructive way.”
Father/son coding adventures
After sharing the story of how they started coding together during the pandemic, Luke and Elias demonstrated the work that is available to explore on usa.govfresh.com. The site has tools and visualizations built on APIs, RSS, or static data from federal agencies like National Archives, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Census Bureau, Food and Drug Administration, National Park Service, and NASA.
Luke also shared ideas for building a better open data ecosystem and how everyone can use civic hacking as a way to inspire future generations to get excited about government and technology.
More about Luke and Elias
Luke Fretwell is the co-founder of ProudCity, a platform that supports local government digital services. He is the maintainer of GovFresh, where he writes about democracy and technology. He served as product designer for California’s Alpha team, a short-term innovation project by the State of California to re-imagine CA.gov that served as the precursor to what is now the Office of Data and Innovation. A civic hacker at heart, projects he’s worked on include GovPress, CityCamp, and currently Proudly Serving, an open playbook to help local government agencies build people-centered digital services.
Show your work at TPG Demo Day
The Demo Day series allows our members and the larger civic tech community to share ground-breaking work and lessons learned. Demo Days inspire new ideas and deeper connections for TPG members. We regularly feature:
Public servants working deep within government to improve processes and outcomes
People working with vulnerable and underserved communities
Staff “on the ground” who are doing critical (but not always highly visible) work
TPG members of various disciplines, backgrounds, and levels of experience
For future Demo Days – we welcome your input! If you would like to showcase your work or nominate someone to present at a TPG Demo Day, ping us in TPG Slack: #tpg-committee or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Melinda Burgess, TPG Community Leads Committee, 2023