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#CfASummit Day 2 from the Main Stage

#CfASummit continued today with main stage talks that dove into why the work of 21st century government matters. We learned the deep and lasting impact of using data to help make our communities healthier, safer, more just, and equitable.

Drew Bird Photo | Visual Storyteller

The Takeaways:

This work matters to our communities. We aren’t just opening and using data for the sake of data—it’s to serve people, to deliver better services, and to empower people.

The Talks:

Throughout the morning, speakers continuously had to pause for applause. Today’s recap is of the moments that resonated with the audience, that rippled across social media, and that made people look to their left and right and nod in agreement.

William Lightbourne, the Director of California Department of Social Services, opened the morning in conversation with Jake Solomon on what Social Services in California is currently doing and where it’s going.

He noted that government needs to move from a culture of eligibility to a culture of coverage.

He also said, “Do whatever you need by any means possible to help people.”

And, “Government needs to be flexible and interactive…We can’t outsource the work.”

Peter Levin, Founder and CEO of Amida Technology Solutions, spoke about creating safe secure access to health records through Blue Button. Blue button is the “open sesame button that will open the door to a whole new level of care,” he quoted.

Stacy Lindau, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago and Founder of NowPow, LLC spoke about prescribing community services to residents in Chicago.

She spoke passionately about disparities in health care— “there’s a mortality rate that is shameful in some of the richest cities in the world,” Stacy said.

“We need to see the unvisible. The unvisible is what we choose not to see because we choose not to look down there. We have biases and prejudices. To engineer solutions to injustices we need to see the unvisible.”

Danny Avula, Deputy Director of Richmond City Health Department, spoke about how poverty has pervasive impacts on the health and well-being of people. The parts of the city that have the highest rates of disease have the highest rate of poverty. To help solve this problem, the 2015 CfA Richmond Fellows built a tool to help facilitate community health screening. “While CfA built an elegant and useful tool,” Danny said, “that’s not it. They leveraged technology to start the process of systems change.” 

The Government Talent Pipeline

Hillary Hartley, Deputy Executive Director of 18F, started with a warm shout out to government employees. As she said, “Everybody on stage, everyone in my organization, we couldn’t be doing this work without you.” People want to do this work, she noted. “The pipeline is there. The people are there.”

Former CfA fellow Maksim Pecherskiy, who is now the Chief Data Officer of the City of San Diego spoke about his process getting a position in government.

As Maksim said, “A city culture where the mayor hired a guy who asked him for coffee and whose laptop flipped him off is definitely a culture that appeals to technologists.”

Ariel Kennan, Director of Innovation and Design at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations spoke about her experience in civic tech and civic design. “If I fix a design of one small thing,” she said, “I’m likely improving lives of thousands of New Yorkers.”

Daro Mott, Director of Quality & Performance of Louisville Metro Government, talked about how to develop great people to create awesome solutions.

Maggie King, Program Director for Computational Analysis and Public Policy (CAPP), University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy said, “We know the opportunity in civic tech is huge. But policy education hasn’t evolved to meet our needs.” She noted that we need to put public policy and computer science on equal footing so that neither is an afterthought to the other.

Airbnb and the City

Tim O’Reilly, Founder of O’Reilly Media and Next:Economy, spoke to Brian Chesky, Co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, about AirBnb and impact on city economies. As Brian said, AirBnb and cities both want the best for their users and their residents.

Deepening Impact in Safety and Justice

Jenny Montoya-Tansey, the Director of Safety and Justice at CfA, spoke about how we’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in safety and justice. As she said, “Many of our public servants are working to create a justice system that works for the people by the people in the 21st century, and Code for America is here to lend a hand.”

Though as Jenny noted, tech isn’t the solution to change the justice system. We need leadership collaboration, policy change, and collaboration from others.

Tiffany Andrews of the 2015 CfA Indiana Fellowship team discussed fighting institutional barriers in order to address rooted problems. “How can we use the power of data as a tool of transparency and accountability?” Tiffany asked.

And as Tiffany reminded us, open criminal justice data is not the end goal, it’s just the first step on the path to reform.

Brenton Garrick, Community Engagement Sergeant of the Vallejo Police Department, and Jazmyn Latimer, CfA 2015 Vallejo Fellow, told the story of connection between the Vallejo Police Department and City residents. The crowd reacted enthusiastically to seeing Jazmyn and Brenton sharing the stage to talk about community engagement and building trust.

Towards a Smarter Justice System: Safely Reducing Incarceration

Lynn Overmann, Senior Policy Advisor to the US Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, started the challenge discussion on safely reducing incarceration.

“We’ve built a system that cycles through some of our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” she said, “but we believe that this can be changed.”

Paul Figueroa, Assistant Police Chief of the City of Oakland, spoke about the commitment Oakland Police Department has to keeping people alive and free. “We’re working on technology to analyze data in order to look at our jobs,” he said. “We can use data to improve law enforcement moving forward.”

Gary Wilson, Division Chief of the City of Denver, spoke about Sheriffs’ roles in law enforcement and what Denver is doing with technology to lower recidivism. “We need to have the right technology to know who’s coming into our jails and why they’re in our jails and what we can do to keep them from returning,” he said. “We can’t arrest our way out of social problems in our cities.”

Lenore Anderson, the Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice, talked about the move from “tough on crime” to “smart on crime.” As she said, “We need data in order to make sense of being smart on crime.”

Lenore emphasized building a coalitional movement to help those most in need. Her conclusion: We need to be committed to being data driven, committed to transparency, and committed to bringing the community into conversation.

Overall, the dedication and hard work of the speakers and those in attendance at the Summit was acknowledged throughout the morning. Everyone seemed to agree that this main stage brought to the surface our mutual commitment to transforming government and lives through technology, transparency, and user-centered service delivery.

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2015 Code for America Summit. We’ve had a blast and we’ll continue tomorrow with excellent closing talks to leave you reenergized and recommitted to 21st century government.