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Captains of Change

Yesterday I was in the Eisenhower Executive Center at The White House to honor women and men from across the country who have demonstrated leadership and vision in open government and civic hacking.

President Obama and his administration have long promoted the ideals of open government to the point of mantra: transparent, accountable, and collaborative. It is quite a new thing for our Chief Executive’s Office to recognize something with the word “hacking” in it. Readers of this blog and the good folks at White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) know that civic hacking has nothing to do with breaking into computers to steal data and everything to do with using ingenuity and creativity to pursue innovation in government and civil society.

So, on July 23, 2013 OSTP hosted White House Champions of Change for Open Government and Civic Hacking. It was a half day event to hear about the work of local innovators and share experiences with people from around the U.S. and abroad. Most of the participants, by show of hands, had participated in the first National Day of Civic Hacking held on June 1.

Code for America was a lead organizer for National Day of Civic Hacking and Code for America Brigades organized a third of 90+ events held. That’s why I was especially thrilled to see multiple members of the Code for America family among the honorees. They included:

Steve Spiker

OpenOakland Co-Captain Steve Spiker was honored for “helping guide government technology decisions and civic engagement in the East Bay.” Spike talked about the importance of creating safe spaces where the citizens and government of Oakland can innovate around civic engagement.

Christopher Whitaker

Chicago Brigade Captain Christopher Whitaker was lauded from afar when the Senior Advisor to the US CTO Brian Forde read a quote about Christopher from Chicago CTO John Tolva during a panel discussion. Christopher talked about the value of being in a city where open government and civic hacking have holistic support: executive leadership, a strong volunteer corp, citizens voicing pain points  and non-tech groups sharing knowledge on problems – all working together toward making Chicago better for everyone.

Rob Davis

Former CfA Intern and Miami Brigade Member Rob Davis was notably the youngest honoree. Rob specifically pointed out that recent college grads have little in the way of civic education or preparation for engaging in civic life. Rob is determined to see out and share that education through open government rather than wait for someone to show him the way.

Caitria O’Neill

Recovers.org CEO and CfA Accelerator Alumni Caitria O’Neill talked about the decision of becoming a for-profit company vs. a non-profit organization. As a non-profit, she would have had to compete for funding against the people she was trying to help. As a for-profit company she can reach scale that local government and community organizations can’t achieve on their own.

There were also a number of new members of the Brigade community in attendance, which was exciting to see. Congratulations to all of you—you’re civic hacking heros!

For more information on the White House event, check out this Storify.