We’re bringing together governments and universities to share skills and ideas for the future of state and local government
In late 2017, some of our local government folks in Austin began discussing ideas for a new type of conference.
We wanted to build on the magic that happens when we’re able to meet with folks doing similar work in other cities and across different levels of government, in learning how other governments address similar problems and being able to build on already-existing programs and policies. But we noticed how we often struggle to justify stepping away from work for the week of travel and attendance that most national conferences require.
We were also frustrated with the way that many conferences — both local and national — give a significant proportion of stage time to sponsors and the specific solutions they’re selling, as well as “success stories” that don’t tell us the real-talk about what didn’t work, what they wish they would have done instead, and what kept their teams up at night. We were curious about how we could convene folks in government from across the region in spaces where we can speak broadly about our challenges and have honest conversations about different methods and approaches for how we might address them.
How to fund a conference
We were curious about how we could organize a conference designed by governments, for governments, and prototyped a “Design, Technology, and Innovation Summit” open to state and local governments across Central Texas, charging just $100 per attendee.
The summit was only open to folks who currently work for a government or academic institution, which we emphasized to support a culture of openness and honesty among participants, creating spaces for conversation about how we work and how we need to change, with candid awareness of potential conflicts of interest. We hosted our summit at Austin’s New Central Library on February 22nd, 2018.
We had attendees from across the City of Austin, Travis County, Capital Metro, the City of San Antonio, Texas Health & Human Services, Austin Independent School District, Austin Community College, and the University of Texas, and we hosted workshops on behavioral science, service design, open source frameworks, and new approaches to recruiting and hiring for design and technology talent. On the mainstage, we had speakers from the New America Foundation, the White House, and the City of Austin’s still-emerging Office of Design & Delivery. It was a success, and many of our attendees asked us about organizing similar events in the future.
On October 1st and 2nd, we’re organizing the next iteration of this concept, which we’re calling the Civic Futures Summit. We’ll have a day of workshops on Tuesday, October 1st, an afternoon of mainstage sessions on Wednesday, October 2nd, and the Civic Futures Awards on Wednesday evening to recognize our colleagues across Central Texas who are shaping the future of state and local government.
We’ll be finalizing our lineup over the next few weeks, and are excited to include Indy Johar, co-founder of Project 00 and Dark Matter Labs, Jen Sukis, who teaches how to design for AI at the University of Texas, Mari Nakano, Director of Service Design Studio in NYC’s Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, David Yokum, founding Director of The Policy Lab and The Lab @ DC, and members of Austin’s new Office of Design & Delivery, which is setting a new model for delivering services in local government. Check out our full lineup at civicfutures.io/schedule
If you work for a government or university in Central Texas, or if you’re from further out in the US or internationally and want to add to the conversation, you should join us in October.
Registration is open now and may sell out quickly, so move fast! You can get tickets at civicfutures.io, and we’re excited to see you in Austin.