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.

Gov 2.0, News, Public Participation

Let’s Do It San Francisco – Next Steps

The Let’s Do It movement is inherently grassroots and requires a massive volunteer effort. Since I publicly floated the idea on Thursday, the response has been positive, with support from the director of the SF Neighborhood Empowerment Network, line-level SF city employees, Craig Newmark, and, very importantly, Ben Berkowitz of SeeClickFix (a Web, phone and mobile app that allows citizens to track and report blight and municipal infrastructure issues), just to name a few. Ben and his co-founders are going to be in town in mid-April, and it makes sense to have an initial volunteer team meeting at that time.

The volunteers who kicked of Let’s Do It in Estonia started with a team of 20 that grew to more than 600, with 40,000 taking part in the culminating day of action. My first goal is to have at least 20 of us at an initial meeting mid-month.

To clean graffiti, we’re looking at a couple big issues. Some of the worst of it is on state-owned and private property. That means getting permissions from the property owners to remove it. And we’ll need ladders, not just paint and paint supplies. I think the permission part is pretty easily dealt with as we create an opt-in for property owners, who will greatly benefit from this effort (they are legally responsible for removing graffiti on their property). We need muralists on board for hot spots, a trash transport plan, and, as we pick up steam, there may be opportunity to address other blight as well.

There already are commercial paint matching apps, and we’ll want to work to tie them into the mapping system as well as seek partnerships with paint companies that can provide mobile paint matching services for the day of action.

Alissa has pointed out that we can tap SF’s 311 system to identify outstanding complaints before the day of action (thinking about at September or October for the date).

I’ve created a Twitter account and hashtag for LetsDoItSF, and we should also agree on an open shared space for online collaboration: Google docs, Wave, GovLoop, here?


To get more insight on what we’re diving into, check out the Let’s Do it World action manual. What we are doing here will not only dramatically improve blight in San Francisco and show the power of collective civic action, it is also critical infrastructure building in one of the world’s most earthquake-prone regions.

The technologies for pulling this off have only advanced since 2008 and Estonia. Let’s do it!

~ Adriel Hampton