Do you want to know more about who’s behind your elected officials? Are you looking for ways to connect neighborhoods around a particular issue? Do you have an idea—any idea—to make the city work better for its citizens? Or do you have the tech skills to bring those ideas to reality?
Now’s your chance. Code for Philly’s second civic hacking Launchpad—a month long sprint to solve some of Philly’s biggest data and technology shortcomings—starts Friday night as part of Philly Tech Week. And the civic-minded tech organization is inviting everyone to get involved.
“The best ideas come from those closest to the subject area or issue,” says Sophia Ezomoghene, communications co-lead at Code for Philly. “We welcome and value participants from all professions, not just the tech community.”
Code for Philly boasts a simple mission: to use tech and data as a mode of civic engagement. Through programs like weekly Meetups and “hackathons,” Code for Philly works to bring together the coders, designers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and curious citizens who at the end of the day have one thing in common—they’re all Philadelphians.
The five-year-old organization utilizes volunteers to help with the coding on projects—often suggested by non-coders—like the litter cleanup platform Not in Philly and the cancer genome database Cognoma; people can pitch their own ideas in Code for Philly’s forum online, some of which might be introduced at Launchpad as well.
Friday’s kick-off at City Hall is a “Brainstorming Night,” where participants can submit project ideas broadly around the theme of fixing outdated democratic systems, mingle with other innovators, and hear from Councilmember Helen Gym. On Saturday, the real work begins. Participants will form teams and spend the day in introductory workshops covering themes like “Team Forming, Expectations, and Role Setting” and “Idea & Opportunity Discovery.”
Throughout the month of May, groups will have the opportunity to attend four more workshops to dive into their projects and connect with members of the Office of Innovation Management’s Innovation Consulting team, and with other experts in different fields. This will all lead up to the “Demo Night” on May 22, where teams will present progress on their projects.
Last year, the kickoff event had 80 people in attendance, including more than 30 city workers—like Mayor Kenney’s chief of staff Jane Slusser and Chief Administrative Officer Christine Derenick-Lopez. They split into seven teams working on projects that merged the world of tech and democracy.
“Events such as Civic Engagement Launchpad remind us that everyone has a voice and can work towards change,” Ezomoghene says. “We are residents of a great city filled with people of varying backgrounds, talent and skills.”
Friday, April 27, 6 pm-8 pm, Free, City Hall, Caucus Room, 1401 JFK Boulevard
Saturday, April 28, All Day, $25 registration, City of Philadelphia Municipal Innovation Lab, 1401 JFK Boulevard, 16th Floor.Photo via Code for Philly