Blogging for America

What’s Next for Civic Commons

For the past few months, Civic Commons has been led by Nick Grossman, formerly of OpenPlans, who was one of the originators of the project and a key driver of it throughout its history. This month, Nick is going to move on, to work on some issues very close to the hearts of every Civic Commons supporter: protecting innovation on the Internet. More to come on that from Nick later, but suffice it to say, we’re very happy for him, and I know we will all benefit from his talents applied in this critical area.

But what does this mean for Civic Commons? For the past year, we have incubated Civic Commons as a separate organization reporting to Code for America’s board, and during that time, the team has a number hypotheses about how best to promote open innovation in government. They have advanced open standards, helped open source civic technology, and promoted the reuse of those applications. Most recently, the Civic Commons team delivered an excellent product in the form of the Marketplace. This online directory of “what’s working, where” in civic technology has the potential to facilitate much faster innovation in this space. While the Marketplace is brand new and needs cultivation, community and support to thrive, we believe that it holds the promise of becoming a valuable and disruptive tool for governments.

With Nick’s transition, the Code for America board felt it best for the Civic Commons activities to officially become part of Code for America, and to focus the organization’s efforts on the Marketplace. For the time being, the project will move under Abhi Nemani, Code for America’s Director of Strategy and Communication, and he’s currently in the process of hiring a full-time community manager, charged with outreach to those who can help populate and benefit from the site, welcoming contributors and users, troubleshooting, and generally making this piece of the web into a real community. Alan Palazzolo, a 2011 CfA Fellow, is onboard as well to continue to work on the site, so that it can evolve to meet the needs of the users. One deliverable of this new team will be a product called the Engagement Commons, funded by the Knight Foundation, to take a close look at what tools are proving most useful for engaging citizens. The team will also begin convening the Steering Committee of city CIOs, with an eye towards better understanding the needs of cities, and finding new ways to serve their needs in the coming year.

Of course, the Marketplace and Engagement Commons are just pieces of the broader open innovation agenda. This means that for the other Civic Commons-related activities — including work on various standards and technical consulting to help government entities open source their software — we will turn to the already active, passionate community for leadership. Fortunately, the other Civic Commons team members are transitioning into roles well suited for just that. Philip Ashlock, Open311’s de facto community manager, will continue his active work on the increasingly important standard with OpenPlans. Karl Fogel, who masterfully coached teams through the open sourcing of both the Federal IT Dashboard and San Francisco’s Enterprise Addressing System, will move on work with the Open Internet Tools Project and expand his private consulting practice in open technology strategies. We are grateful to Phil and Karl — along with the entire OpenPlans team — for their contributions to Civic Commons and civic technology innovation generally.

As the Marketplace evolves, and as we learn more about the emerging space, we look forward to continuing to evolve Civic Commons, and we hope you will both help us and join us as we do.

Code for America Labs, Inc is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization. Content is licensed through Creative Commons.