Conversations in civic tech

In Dec 2014, I left my job down the street at a fast growing startup to work at Boston’s City Hall. I was drawn to the deep bench of talent here, and the opportunity to enter the public sector in the midst of a post-healthcare.gov civic tech renaissance.

Like so many institutions, government is learning about what it means to be digital. How do we engage citizens and make services available online? How do we realign people and processes to support digital tools? How do we alter procurement rules to buy the right technology? How do we change budgeting and hiring processes to sustain the transformation?

A welcome surprise when I moved to the public sector was the realization that I wasn’t in this alone. Cities don’t compete with each other the way companies in the private sector do, so there is a fantastic opportunity for collaboration that I haven’t found anywhere else.

Government has seen a welcome groundswell of tech talent in the last few years. And with that has come a new generation of people trying new things (for government) and sharing what they’re learning. Knowing that Boston was in need of a website overhaul, I voraciously studied up on redesigns happening around the country — from Oakland to Philly. I’ve spent the last year putting their lessons into practice, learning a few lessons of our own, and sharing the process along the way.

Despite the sharing, there’s still a lot that gets said over phone calls — typically the back stories or opinions. I’ve had really great conversations with folks from Boise to Austin talking about team structure, options for open source licenses, and beyond. Here in Boston, we’ve uncovered handy tricks, made some mistakes, and still have a lot left to tackle. I’ve decided to start writing down those conversations in hopes that sharing (from Boston and from others) will make us all a little smarter.

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