SF developers, public servants pitch their civic tents at CityCampSF

CityCampSF 2011 photo by Ryan Resella

Photo by Ryan Resella

If there’s one lesson that’s inherent to CityCampSF, it’s that crowdsourcing will save the world.

The second CityCamp San Francisco was hosted at the city’s Office of Technology, and featured projects that heavily favored using the community residents to make their block, neighborhood or city better. My takeaway? While the state of California may have proven that direct democracy doesn’t work, the city of San Francisco has shown that giving the power to the people may be the best way to save it.

Here are two examples:

SF Fire App

This is perhaps the best example of how people can help people. The app allows CPR-trained volunteers to get smartphone notifications of cardiac arrest patients who may be near them.

Developers used CityCampSF to work together and create another app to map Automated External Defibrillator (AED) locations. This technology is critical to help save lives, San Francisco City Attorney (and mayoral candidate) Dennis Herrera said, and that information was not readily known before.

Real World Sim City

One of the things I tweeted during the Real World Sim City presentation was “It’s amazing what can be crowdsourced — learning about billboards, gov’t apps, even a Robocop statue in Michigan!” For some reason a spam account picked up on that and commented, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” which unknowingly played right into the ethos of the project. One of the ideas Loveland Technologies Creative Director Jerry Paffendorf talked about was ‘Inchvesting,’ or paying a dollar per inch for vacant lots in downtown Detroit. Sure, you can’t do a lot with an inch, he said, but it gets people involved and invested in their neighborhoods, and good things come from that. You’ve probably heard of another venture Paffendorf had a hand in – the 10-foot bronze statue of Robocop enough people thought was a good idea that they donated $50,000 to make it happen on Kickstarter.

The whole experience was symbolic of the Internet, he said. “Take something that’s really serious, but put some kind of art experience on top. If you want to clean up the park, put a little Robocop on top of it.”

There were so many excellent panels and so little time. There were people coding in the atrium, talking in the hallways and exchanging ideas and business cards in every corner. SF Director of Public Works Ed Reiskin said he applauded events like this, calling them the “next step forward in civic engagement.”

“You ask, ‘how can we empower people,’ how do we take the information the government has and make it work better, make it more useful, more accessible, in ways that we in government didn’t imagine,” Reiskin said. “When you work in an organization you don’t question some of the basic assumptions of why you do what you do. Coming in from the outside, having tech savviness, but also just being citizens, you make sure the government works for you, and that’s tremendously powerful and helpful.”

To learn more about check out #citycampsf on Twitter and the CityCampSF Flickr group.

Videos

CityCampSF founder, NationBuilder Chief Organizer and Gov 2.0 Host Adriel Hampton on CityCampSF:

CityCamp founder Kevin Curry on how CityCamp San Francisco fits in and stands out:

SF Director of Innovation Jay Nath on the value of a city innovation officer:

Tropo’s Mark Headd discusses the impact of hackathons on the open government movement and how developers can get involved:

SF City Attorney and 2011 Mayoral Candidate Dennis Herrera on the role of meetups in civic engagement:

2011 SF Mayoral Candidate Joanna Rees on the role of meetups in civic engagement:

About Jessica Pearce

Jessica Pearce is new to San Francisco, arriving fresh off the boat from teaching English in China for six months. Before moving to Nanjing, she earned her Masters in Applied Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C., where she interned at the Sunlight Foundation, the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Washington Independent. Jessica served as a journalist in the U.S. Navy for six and a half years, with tours in Keflavik, Iceland and Great Lakes, IL. Connect with her via Twitter, LinkedIn or email!

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