On Civic Hacking Sustainability


The Thrill of Victory!  And the Agony of Defeat!

NYCDataWell didn’t make the semi-finals cut.​

I’d be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed, ​ but we knew there was no guarantee, and perhaps, the risk we took by going with such an unconventional design was just too big a leap.

Regardless, we’re very proud of our work and still look forward to the future of the Reinvented Payphone! Inasmuch as we’d like to have had a chance to to share NYCDataWell ​with the community, even just for a few minutes during Demo Day, we also look forward to seeing what ideas our fellow futurists/designers/civic hackers and urbanists have come up with.

But reflecting on the past three months, I just wanted to put out an idea for the community’s consideration.​

Having won at two BigApps – the Large Organization Award in 2011, and the Grand Prize in 2012, I’d like to think we know a thing or two about App Challenges.

And one thing that’s been bothering me, even before this setback, is that though we’re very grateful about our wins, is what happened to all the other great ideas that didn’t make the cut?​  And having now experienced both the “thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat,” I would like to offer my observations.

As for previous BigApps entrants, I actually tried tracking most of them, and save for the top applications, a lot of the submissions have been abandoned.​

What of all the creative energy, the long nights and upwelling of civic duty expressed through technology?  Some of those ideas and prototypes were good and powerful ones that should be pursued.  And if I may say so myself – including concepts we put forward in NYCDataWell.

Should those ideas and prototypes just fade into obscurity?  What about the spirit of civic duty of these civic hackers?  Will they be forever dampened and they will now hesitate to get involved again?​

​I’m not asking for whole-scale social promotion and giving everybody trophies.  But perhaps, the community should think of setting up a Civic Exchange where some of these ideas can be investigated further in more detail. Top ideas should still get plaudits and recognition, but perhaps, making it less of a competition, but rather an exchange of ideas where both teams and ideas can cross-pollinate in coopetition.

For instance, apart from the 15 that made the semi-finals, it would be nice to see the 110+ other submissions that didn’t. A gallery of submissions ala BigApps, perhaps?

Through such a gallery, the City can glean feedback not only from the ReinventPayphone community, but the citizenry at large. Feedback that should prove very valuable when they craft the actual RFP for the actual payphone contract later this year.

Perhaps, even the vendors who do bid on the payphone contract, apart from complying with RFP requirements, can also tap the genius of the ReinventPayphone crowd that invested thousands of manhours in creating their ideas…​


​Cross-posted from http://nycdatawell.com/process-blog/2013/3/on-civic-hacking-sustainability


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