A beginner’s guide to civic tech

Here’s some advice we’ve gathered over time and with the input of several folks within the global civic tech community to help those who are just starting out in the field

Lorin Camargo
Code for All
Published in
9 min readMay 27, 2020

Why now?

In September of 2017, after a devastating earthquake shook multiple states in México, its national civic tech community saw a huge influx of volunteers who wanted to help with efforts to improve disaster response.

Today, we’ve seen a similar influx of volunteers — this time at the global scale — from folks interested in contributing to civic tech’s response to COVID-19.

It’s exciting to see so many new faces around the community, and to (digitally) meet so many new people who are interested in improving both their local community and communities around the world at a time when we’re all facing such similar struggles.

This article is meant to be both a helpful guide for those jumping into the civic tech realm, as well as a warm welcome to all who are joining (whether it be due to COVID-19 or any other reason that you find yourself here).

So let’s get started.

What exactly is civic tech?

Whenever I meet someone new and the question ‘what do you do?’ comes up, I always go through a quick race in my head to decide how exactly I’m going to explain civic tech this time around.

I haven’t met anyone so far who knows what civic tech is that isn’t already in the field.

As a community, we’ve spent a lot of time simply trying to define it. I’ll do my best now to explain what civic tech is all about:

Civic tech, in short, is technology that positively impacts society — but that’s not the whole story.

It’s about creating civic innovation tools (tools that help make more democratic, transparent and people centered governments), but it isn’t only about the tools themselves — it’s about the process through which these tools are