Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Public Participation

Thinking Global, Acting Local: Let’s Do It SF!

City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s Office today launched an initiative very dear to my heart, Let’s Do It SF! The anti-blight campaign brings together resources from City departments including DPW, 311 and SF Environment, as well as mobile and Web geo-tagged incident reporting from SeeClickFix and Open311, and the inspiration of an incredible campaign to clean up illegal dumping in 100 countries across the world in 2012.

The Let’s Do It SF! initiative is true Gov 2.0 in action – cross-departmental collaboration, utilizing open data principles to bring in free private sector resources, and an agile social media-fueled engagement plan. Open311, an API pioneered by the SF Department of Technology and 311 in cooperation with NY non-profit OpenPlans, enables commercial apps like SeeClickFix (it features free Web widgets and is free to download for smart phone) to integrate directly with the City’s service request ticketing system. Several apps have used Open311 to better serve San Francisco residents, and 311 also uses Facebook to take requests.

The City Attorney’s Office will be kicking off a training program for folks who live and work in San Francisco and want to learn how access 311 services and leverage mobile apps like SeeClickFix to help fight illegal dumping and graffiti vandalism. You can sign up for updates on the training program here.

“Let’s Do It!” began in 2008 in Estonia, where a small, committed group of organizers inspired 50,000 volunteers to clean their entire country in a single day. They are now planning an ambitious worldwide cleanup for 2012 (check out my podcast with Let’s Do It World organizer Irmelin Hiie here). You can sign up to help with that effort here.

City employees discuss logistics for Saturday's Earth Day cleanup in District 6.

At home, the City Attorney’s Office and Let’s Do It SF! volunteers will be participating this Saturday in DPW’s Clean Team event to clean and green District 6. Sign up here to join us.

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Gov 2.0, News, Public Participation

Third Thursdays SF with TransportationCamp

Friends of OpenSF packed into mid-Market’s Mavelous last night, kicking off discussion and networking around transit-oriented innovation, tech, good government and healthy cities. The event was Third Thursdays SF, a monthly tech and civics meetup organized by OpenSF, CityCampSF, GovFresh and Gov 2.0 Radio (my “networked government” Web radio show).

City workers, local developers and progressive activists were greeted by Frank Hebbert from OpenPlans, who opened the night with a short film by Streetfilms recapping the TransportationCamp unconference held in New York earlier this month. TransportationCamp is in SF this weekend at Public Works.

More photos of March’s Third Thursdays event here.

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Public Participation

Can BetterMeans Mean Better Government?

Working in the public sector can be challenging, especially during those times when the strict hierarchy of government dictates priorities, timelines and tasks. Unfortunately, without rejiggering the machinations of government, this top down approach will not change anytime soon. Of course, that hasn’t stopped all of us in the Government 2.0 movement from hoping and dreaming that we can begin to change the lumbering institutions at the local level all the way up to the federal. As this blog can attest, that change has begun, but incrementally. So maybe we do need to think beyond web technologies and open data to question the social structures which make change in government so difficult.

Look no further than BetterMeans, a radical open enterprise governance model masquerading as a slick new project management tool.

Citing Web 2.0 examples of collaborative decision making such as Wikipedia and open source software, BetterMeans, itself an “Open Enterprise” project, aims to let other organizations “use the same decision-making rules, and self-organizing principles behind open source to run your project.” Make no mistake, this software aims to fundamentally change how we work in groups and, in the process, so much more:

To change our world, we need a new agreement of how we work together. How we make decisions. How we decide on who gets to work on what. And who gets paid what.

Now that’s change we can believe in.

The software itself is a neat mix of project management and social capital platform that opens up the doors to the decision-making process for a given project or set of projects. Users contribute ideas to the projects which hold their interest in an open and transparent way. Users themselves are ranked by others that have worked with them on previous projects so that everyone is kept accountable. This collaborative approach then helps the group rank options for how to proceed based on the experience and insight of the entire group instead of relying solely on direction from management. Definitely check out the video above, you’ll see how well thought out this platform really is.

So, getting back to government. What is our tolerance for really incorporating the ideas of every member of a team? What would happen if our departments were more democratic in sourcing ideas and setting priorities? Or what if our elected officials were required to balance their agendas alongside those of rank and file public employees, or the general public at large? It might be pie in the sky, but I’m guessing that we’d garner more than a few great ideas, while engaging and inspiring a whole swath of disinterested civil servants. Just a thought.

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Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation

OpenSF Relaunch; ‘Third Thursdays SF’

We’re excited about a fresh new look for OpenSF, a team blog dedicated to innovation, collaboration and transparency in San Francisco government. OpenSF was originally launched by Jay Nath, director of innovation in the City’s Department of Technology, and his team members were the primary contributors. For about a year, I’ve been writing regularly for OpenSF, highlighting social media projects by the City Attorney’s Office and sharing news from the San Francisco Gov 2.0 community and from other City departments.

Today, we’re got a great new look thanks to the volunteer efforts of GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell, we’ve got an OpenSF Twitter account, and were adding new contributers from the City family. OpenSF is an informal place to share about our projects and thoughts and to dialog with San Francisco residents and the global Gov 2.0, Open Government and Open Data communities.

We’re also excited to announce a new monthly networking event for anyone interested in topics of tech and good governance. Called ‘Third Thursdays,’ the meetup is also supported by CityCampSF, Gov 2.0 Radio and GovFresh. You can join Third Thursdays on Facebook here, and find out about the latest events. Also, click here to hear Jay and I discuss OpenSF, Third Thursday and more on Gov 2.0 Radio.

Thanks for reading, and welcome to the new OpenSF!

Photo: Brett Husbands of Firmstep at Daly’s Dive (Buck Tavern), the venue for Third Thursdays SF.

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Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Public Participation

Open Gov Summit Planning in SF


I headed over to Granicus’ SoMa offices last night to join in a local planning meeting for an SF Bay Area open government summit. Eight of us discussed a local event as part of a U.S.-wide series of municipal-level summits to organize around and promote themes of transparency, participation and collaboration in government.

In the spirited discussion, organizers discussed aims for the May event, such as:

  • Telling stories of why transparency, participation and collaboration matter for local government and community;
  • Highlight best practices from local governments;
  • Create greater awareness of the open government principles;
  • Foster better inter-governmental cooperation.

Based on the discussion around this summit, I suspect that CityCampSF, a loosely organized group that put on an unconference last October, will sharpen its focus to promote informal meetups around civic innovation and organization of volunteers and stakeholders around technical solutions for improving government engagement and efficiency.

One of the goals of OpenSF is to encourage more city workers to engage around Gov 2.0 principles of working directly with volunteers and community stakeholders to create agile solutions, and to increase two-way communication through social media.

Find our more about how to get involved in planning the opengov summit in the Bay Area, or in your community, at the OpenGov Playbook wiki.

Also, learn more about Gov 2.0 and the modern definition of Open Government on this collaborative Google document.

Adriel Hampton

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Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation

Code for America Open House

After work today, I ducked into Code for America’s open house in SoMa, joining a vibrant tech crowd including CfA founder Jennifer Pahlka, Craig Newmark, SF Environment’s Lawrence Grodeska, Tim O’Reilly and many more. CfA is a non-profit organization that pairs teams of civic hackers with host cities to match Web 2.0 solutions with community challenges.

Four teams leave Saturday for a month with their host cities of DC, Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia, and the CfA fellows took time to answer questions about their mission.

Learn more about Code for America on its site. Check out more Code for America photos here.

Adriel Hampton

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Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation

Open Source App Links Volunteers, Heart Attack Victims

Fire Department App – PSA from Fire Department on Vimeo.

Imagine, you’re in the middle of a weekly team meeting when your iPhone vibrates. You stand up and calmly tell your coworkers, “There’s been a heart attack in the first floor gym. I’m CPR trained. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Similar scenarios may soon by playing out all over the country thanks to groundbreaking use of the location-aware features of modern smartphones and access to emergency dispatch information from local fire departments. In the San Francisco East Bay, it could be happening in a matter of days, as the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District rolls out its new ‘Fire Department’ app for iPhone, which launches publicly today.

I felt the world change
A couple weeks back, I found myself in Chief Richard Price’s office with my friend Joe Hackman, eyes glistening with tears as we watched a PSA video for the application (read Joe’s thoughts on what the new app means to our SF East Bay community). In the video, a 72-year-old man collapses at the lumber store; across the parking lot, a young man in an electronics store gets an alert “CPR needed” – his phone gives him an address and map of where to go, and shares the location of the nearest automated external defibrillator. Sitting in that office, seeing an app that puts real life-saving information at the fingertips of any willing and trained volunteer, I felt the world change.

The creators of this application have moved beyond the real‐time Web to the right time Web. – Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media

Chief Price and his staff first conceived of this application more than a year ago, after an incident in which they were having lunch and learned on their radios that a man was having a heart attack just steps away. Heart attack-induced brain death begins in just minutes, and fire department staff simply cannot arrive fast enough to save most people – but any army of CPR-trained volunteers can. And while they have had to be in exactly the right place to respond, the new app will dramatically extend the ability of everyday citizens to save lives.

Price told me that he has just 43 firefighters on duty during the day, but in his suburban district of 170,000 people, 10 percent have CPR training. “You can see the significance,” he said. Area residents will see the app PSA in local movie theaters beginning this weekend.

Price and his staff developed the iPhone application in partnership with the Center for Applied Informatics at Northern Kentucky University. Over the coming weeks and months, he will work with the International Association of Fire Chiefs and developers at Workday to bring the free application to Android and other mobile platforms, and to spur widescale adoption.
Map on iPhone Showing Victim's Location and Nearest AED

“The value of this application is far too important to society to not ambitiously share it with other communities around the globe,” Price said.

In the San Ramon Valley alone, community members who download the new app could help respond to as many as 100 calls a year. Across the U.S., nearly 300,000 people die each year of cardiac arrest.

“I think in the big picture, what we recognize is that of the people who have sudden cardiac arrest, less than one in three get CPR,” said heart surgeon Junaid Khan, president of the American Heart Association’s East Bay board. “Without CPR, a person really has very little chance of survival. For the first time, a smart phone application can actually help save a life.”

‘You can get there faster’
Dr. Khan and Chief Price also talked about the added benefit of creating more responders. Historically, even CPR-trained individuals sometimes balk in the face of crisis, but now self-identified volunteers within 500 yards of a heart attack in a public place will receive push notifications, increasing the likelihood of two or more responders, who can encourage one another and even take turns administering CPR.

“I think this is really a perfect marriage of technology with a government service and volunteers who want to participate,” said Kahn. “Every minute lost dramatically decreases your chance of survival. Literally every minute counts.”

I asked Kahn about the medical savings associated with early response in terms of less long-term damage. He said more data is needed for such an epidemiological study. “If you get the patient to the hospital before significant damage, the chance that they would successfully recover obviously increases. This app would let you know. You can more likely get there faster than the fire department.”

CPR in Progress

To learn about CPR and AED training in your area, visit the AHA’s website.

For more information on the new application and an electronic press kit, visit the SRFPD’s website.

To download the SRVFPD’s app now, visit ‘Fire Department’ in the iTunes store.

Chief Price will be a guest on Gov 2.0 Radio on the evening of February 6, 2011, to discuss this new technology.

– Adriel Hampton

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