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A Victory for a More User-Centered California

Have you heard of the Little Hoover Commission? It’s a 50-year-old bipartisan commission of the California State Legislature that focuses on better government and has a track record as a champion of the public good. I had never heard of the Commission until this past January, when an out-of-the-blue email asked me to testify to a Commission meeting in Sacramento. They were embarking on a study of Californians’ interactions with state government and the staff’s initial research had led them to reach out to me as someone with informed opinions on the topic.

I prepared written testimony and spent 40 minutes answering questions from the commissioners on January 22. In the course of this year, people at Code for America introduced the Commission staff to contacts all over the civic tech community as their research into all kinds of citizen experiences continued. And of course, the Commission worked with many more people outside the CfA network as well. The Commission’s final report to the legislature, A Customer-Centric Upgrade for California Government, was released on October 22. I’ve rarely been more proud to have contributed to an effort.

While we focus a lot of effort on code and the very front-end of government interaction at Code for America (surprise!), changing institutional practices also requires this kind of deliberative work and repeated delivery of recommendations in formats officials are comfortable with. The report is a 60+ page PDF, and it contains within it nearly everything you’d recognize if you’re a devotee of the U.K. GDS Design Principles, Civic Design Camp, or Code for America’s practices. So please, check the report out, talk about it, send it to officials in your state—and think about what you can do to help efforts like this where you are.