Community briefs and cluefulness

Last week I attended the City of Toronto’s Data, eh? event, billed as “part celebration and part moving forward.” A major intent was to connect those working with data inside and outside of the City; it was great to see the diversity of people in the room.

…and yet, it was a frustrating experience. There were many calls for more data standardization, for the City to develop apps internally “as an example for others,” etc. This, to me, reflected the cluelessness of the developer community to how government works. Their job is to run a city, not to make it easier for you to build an iOS app.

Further, I’d suggest that the developer community is clued out to community needs. Rocket Radar is super-swell, but there might be even cooler — or more valuable — things that can be done with open civic data.

We see this gap — between developers and regular humans — in a whole lot of places (app stores). The solution, as with many things, is to get different kinds of people to talk to each other. Since that’s astoundingly difficult, it’s fair to look for other options.

Creative Currency is an initiative in San Francisco that’s tackling this directly:

Creative Currency represents a new model for building and sustaining innovative, impactful, community-driven projects. It will bring together leading developers and designers with national experts in social finance, local currencies, crowdfunding, sharing platforms, and other leaders of the new economy to envision, prototype, and deploy innovative solutions that rethink and reexamine our systems of exchange from the ground up. Projects will focus on the Mid-Market region of San Francisco and will be informed by an in-depth community assessment preceding our 3 day Collaboration Weekend launch on April 27th-29th. Projects will continue development over a 6 month time period with opportunities for $15,000 in seed funding, presenting at an open forum Demo Day in mid-July, and showcasing at SOCAP12 in San Francisco on October 1-4th.

Compellingly, they’ve released a “community brief” — a detailed-yet-concise description of what’s going on in the neighbourhood, problems, needs, assets, and making some suggestions about possible opportunities. While I find the format more formal that necessary, it’s a fabulously readable document, providing a (presumably) balanced perspective to bring those unfamiliar with the neighbourhood up to speed.

Community briefs might be an excellent first step towards helping keen developers understand where their skills could be put to valuable use.

(Producing them is surely expensive, yes.)

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