1. TICTeC 2024: Call for proposals and registration now open

    TICTeC, our Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, will be returning for its 7th edition on 12th and 13th June 2024, in London and online. We’re delighted to announce that the call for proposals and registration for TICTeC 2024 are now open.

    TICTeC is all about sharing research, knowledge and experiences to examine and improve the impacts of civic technology, in order to strengthen democracy, public participation, transparency, and accountability across the world.

    Call for Proposals: open until 22nd March 2024

    Core themes

    After twenty years of mySociety, and approaching ten years of TICTeC – we want to think about what is needed now to match the big challenges of the next twenty years. 

    As well as examining the impact that civic technology is having upon societies around the world, the big question we want to answer through TICTeC is:

    What is needed to make civic tech on a global scale more successful and impactful, to tackle global problems around democracy and climate change?

    Through TICTeC 2024 and 2025, and our new Communities of Practice – we are going to break down this question, and work through for ourselves, and with our partners, what is needed to deliver on the radical goals of the civic technology movement. 

    This breaks down into two sub questions that we want to explore. What is the role of civic tech in:

    • safeguarding and advancing democracy/transparency where it is under threat?
    • enabling the effective and democratic change needed to meet the challenge of climate change?

    For this year’s TICTeC we encourage proposals that contribute to discussion around these two thematic questions, as well as to the overarching conference theme. Potential topic areas may include:

    • Access to Information/Freedom of Information
    • Monitoring parliaments/legislatures
    • Climate change/climate action
    • Tools for citizen participation
    • AI and Democracy
    • Civic tech as part of civil society
    • Crowdsourcing and volunteers
    • Impacts of big tech/tech giants
    • Fact checking
    • Technical infrastructure/cybersecurity

    You can propose 20 minute presentations and ideas for longer workshops.

    We encourage presentation submissions to focus on the specific impacts of technologies, rather than showcase new tools that are as yet untested. A tool doesn’t have to have mass usage to be worth talking about – we’re also interested in qualitative stories on the impacts of technology, their impacts on official processes, and how users have used platforms to campaign for change. We’re also interested in stories about obstacles and barriers to having impact. 

    Workshop proposals should be relevant to the conference themes. Technology does not have to be new, and we welcome retrospectives on long running projects. 

    The deadline for applications is the 22nd March 2024. Those selected for inclusion in the conference programme will be notified no later than 5th April 2024.

    Presenters will be required to register for the conference by 19th April in order to confirm their slot (the registration fee will be waived for individuals presenting). 

    Submit your proposals via this application form by 22nd March 2024 at the latest. 

    Register now

    Registration for TICTeC 2024 is now open and is essential in order to attend. TICTeC has sold out in previous years – so make sure you get tickets early. Early bird tickets provide a significant discount, so it’s well worth registering before early bird ticket sales end on 20th April 2024.

    Attending TICTeC 2024 in-person will allow attendees access to all conference sessions, including main plenary sessions, presentation/Q&A sessions, workshops, networking sessions, lunches and drinks reception. Attending online will allow remote attendees access to all main plenary sessions and some breakout presentation/Q&A sessions.

    The TICTeC 2024 Eventbrite page contains further information about the conference, as well as FAQs, but do let us know if you have any questions by emailing tictec@mysociety.org.


    In the following months, we will be publishing full details of proceedings as they are announced over on the TICTeC website. If you’d like to hear of TICTeC 2024 updates first, please sign up for email updates.

    And in the meantime, if you’d like to see what TICTeC is all about, you can browse all the resources from previous TICTeC events over on the TICTeC Knowledge Hub.

    We look forward to welcoming you to TICTeC 2024!

     

  2. Save the date: Our TICTeC conference is back! Join us in London for TICTeC 2024

    We’re very excited to announce that for the first time since 2019, we’ll be hosting an in-person (with virtual attendance options) TICTeC in June 2024.  TICTeC is our Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, which we’ve held in many locations across the world since 2015. This time we’ll be hosting it in London on 12th and 13th June 2024.

    Put that in your diaries now: we’d love for you to join us.

    We’ll be sharing how you can register for TICTeC 2024 and our Call for Proposals in January, so if you’d like to be informed first then do sign up for updates

    What is TICTeC and why do we host it?

    TICTeC stands for the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, and started back in 2015 as an annual conference, but is now also a programme of year-round activities through our TICTeC Communities and TICTeC Labs projects.  

    TICTeC is all about sharing research, knowledge and experiences to examine and improve the impacts of civic technology, in order to strengthen democracy, public participation, transparency, and accountability across the world.

    The TICTeC conference brings together those from across the world who build, research, use and fund civic technology to talk openly and honestly about its impacts and how to improve them. At previous TICTeC conferences, between 150-250 people have gathered from more than 35 countries. 

    After twenty years of mySociety, and with TICTeC’s 10th anniversary coming up in 2025 – we want to reflect on the civic tech movement and what’s been learned. Does the idea of civic tech still make sense? How does it need to change to meet the democracy and climate challenges of the next few decades? We want TICTeC to be a place attendees can have detailed and meaningful conversations about its past, and where we want to go from here. 

    Why London?

    It’s always tricky to choose a location for TICTeC. Here’s why we’ve chosen London this time: 

    • mySociety is a charity and TICTeC is run solely by our staff members, who are all based in the UK. We want to spend our conference budget on helping others attend rather than on our own travel to the conference location, so hosting on home turf will allow us to do this. 
    • As TICTeC brings together people from 35+ countries worldwide, London is an incredible international hub and accessible by all modes of public transport. Attendees being able to travel sustainably to TICTeC is really important to us, and of course the environment. Those from Europe can use the Eurostar to arrive sustainably by train to London St Pancras, which is a mere 15 minute walk away from our venue; those who can’t travel by train can arrive into one of London’s 6 major airports; and London is the most well connected city by public transport to other UK places for our UK attendees.
    • Through our connections with the London & Partners agency and domestic authorities, and being a UK based organisation ourselves, we are hoping to be able to provide more robust visa support to TICTeC delegates, improving on previous TICTeC conferences. 

    Stay tuned

    As mentioned above, we will shortly share more information on TICTeC 2024’s themes, our open Call for Proposals and how to register, but in the meantime, please do save the date and get in touch if you have any questions!

    Image: Vladislav Zolotov

  3. TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #3: Accessing quality information

    You’re invited

    Join us next Thursday 24th March for our next Civic Tech Surgery, as part of our TICTeC Labs programme.

    The ability to access good quality data and information is pivotal to the success of many civic tech projects, but still remains one of the biggest challenges facing the global civic tech sector.

    Therefore, we’re hosting a Surgery on the topic, to bring together civic tech practitioners and researchers from around the world to discuss these challenges, as well as solutions and ideas to tackle them.

    We’ll hear perspectives from:

    There will also be ample opportunity for attendees to provide their feedback on issues they have faced, and their solutions and ideas – so come along ready to contribute!

    Your insights

    Ahead of the event, please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic over on this Padlet board, whether you can attend the Surgery or not.

    These will then be discussed at the Surgery, and then by the subsequent TICTeC Action Lab (aka working group) that will ultimately commission a project to help tackle one or more of the identified common challenges around accessing quality information for civic tech projects.

    About TICTeC Labs

    TICTeC Civic Tech Surgeries are part of mySociety’s TICTeC Labs programme, which aims to address the biggest issues facing the civic tech/digital democracy sector, and enhance the effectiveness and potential impact of civic tech projects. This programme is made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for Democracy.

    Who are Civic Tech Surgeries for?

    Anyone interested in the use and effectiveness of digital tools to enhance public participation, democracy, transparency and accountability.

    We think the event will be of particular interest to civic tech practitioners and researchers, elected government representatives, civil servants, technology companies, funders and software developers, but anyone interested is welcome to attend.

    Register to attend

    The Civic Tech Surgery will be held virtually on Zoom. You need to register to attend by signing up on this Eventbrite page.

    To hear of future TICTeC events and initiatives first, do sign up to our mailing list.

  4. Call for proposals: Showcasing public-private civic tech success stories

    In one sentence

    TICTeC Action Lab #1 is looking for an individual, organisation or joint team to produce a piece of work to showcase examples of where civic tech interventions have resulted in tangible improvements and benefits for governments/public institutions and their citizens.

    About TICTeC Action Lab #1

    As part of the TICTeC Labs programme, mySociety convened the TICTeC Action Lab #1 working group in order to take ideas raised at Civic Tech Surgery #1 forward, and decide together what piece of work would be useful to commission to help civic tech organisations around the world to work more effectively with governments/public institutions.

    The TICTeC Labs programme is looking at six key dilemmas facing civic tech. The first of those challenges was how civic tech organisations can work effectively with public and private institutions. Our Civic Tech Surgery #1 discussed some of the challenges and suggested some ways forward. Our Action Lab #1 considered those ideas and decided on a piece of work that could be commissioned to help solve some of the problems raised.

    TICTeC Action Lab #1 is comprised of 6 individuals from across the world, who between them have many years of experience working on civic tech and/or the issues that surround the effectiveness of civic tech. You can read more about Action Lab #1 members here.

    About this project

    TICTeC Action Lab #1 members agreed to commission a piece of work that showcases examples of where civic tech interventions have resulted in tangible improvements and benefits for governments/public institutions and their citizens.

    The Action Lab believes highlighting successful examples will help civic tech organisations across the world to work more effectively with governments, as it will help them to promote the benefits of civic tech and inspire and motivate government actors, as well as themselves, to start similar civic tech projects in their contexts.

    Therefore, the primary target audience for this work are public institutions across the world, as well as civic tech organisations themselves who want to be inspired. The work should include:

    • Examples of civic tech organisations working with public institutions (e.g. local governments/councils; national governments; government departments/agencies etc) on civic tech/digital democracy projects that have resulted in tangible improvements for the public institutions and their citizens. By ‘civic tech organisations’, we mean organisations that focus on informing citizens, connecting them with each other and getting them to engage with their governments in order to work together for the public good.
    • Examples from multiple countries, ensuring that examples from both the Global South and the Global North are represented.
    • Specific details on how the civic tech/digital democracy projects were set up and why; what the challenges were; what the tangible improvements were; and any other details that would be helpful for other civic tech organisations and public institutions who may like to replicate the examples in their contexts.

    There is $2500 USD (inclusive of taxes) available for this work. We are open to what form this piece of work takes – e.g. it could be a set of case studies; interviews; visualisations/images; a literature review; a graphic novel even! Above all, we want the work to be as accessible as possible to ensure it can be easily used in practice. We ask applicants to let us know what approach they will take in their application.

    It may be helpful for applicants to look back at schedules from previous TICTeC events to find examples of presentations that discuss how civic tech projects have led to tangible improvements.

    How to apply

    If you’re interested in producing this piece of work, then please fill in this application form by 28th March 2022. Applications will be reviewed by the TICTeC Labs team at mySociety and the TICTeC Labs Steering Group. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application no later than 15th April. The work will then need to be completed within 8 weeks of the successful applicant being appointed.

    What happens after the project

    We intend to publish the work you produce, credited to you, on the TICTeC and mySociety website, licensed under a Creative Commons licence. We may make some light edits (beyond proofreading) before we publish. You will be free to make publicly available your own version should you wish to, and any other material based on the research you conducted. The project will then be disseminated by TICTeC Action Lab members, the TICTeC Labs Steering group, and the TICTeC community to ensure it’s used as much as possible.

    mySociety will convene a ‘report back’ event at the end of the TICTeC Labs programme to discuss how the programme went and the work commissioned by the programme and its participants. Authors of commissioned work will be invited to attend to present their work.

    Any questions?

    Please send any queries or questions to tictec@mysociety.org.

  5. Standing with Ukraine

    Alongside many others, we are appalled to see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting bloodshed, destruction and assaults on democracy and freedom. We unequivocally condemn this unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

    Since 2014, we have worked with partners in Ukraine who use our Alaveteli software for the country’s Access to Truth website, where tens of thousands of people have requested information from public bodies. The site was originally started by the Ukrainian NGO Centre of United Actions, in collaboration with the Pravda online news site. In 2017, Centre of United Actions passed the site over to their partner NGO “Human Rights Platform”. 

    These organisations’ work on transparency and helping citizens to access vital information has been an inspiration to us and many others around the world. Most recently, the Access to Truth site has been used by citizens to find out locations of bomb shelters, a sobering example of transparency laws in practice now being made use of in people’s day to day experience. 

    We are deeply concerned for the welfare of those we have worked with in Ukraine, as well as users of the Access to Truth platform. We stand in solidarity with them, and stand ready to help wherever we can. 

    We hope Ukraine’s fight for its own country will be successful and they’ll rise again as a prosperous democratic nation.

  6. How can the global civic tech community fix common accessibility challenges?

    Would you like to join TICTeC Action Lab #2, collaborating with others around the world to discuss this question, and to commission a solution to  benefit everyone who uses civic tech? 

    As part of the TICTeC Labs programme, we recently convened a Civic Tech Surgery that brought together a group of around 100 civic tech practitioners and researchers from across the world to discuss common challenges in ensuring the tech we make is accessible, and the possible solutions.

    You can find resources from this online event here, including minutes, a summary blog post, contributions from attendees, and the full recording.

    Now the second part of the TICTeC Labs process kicks in, as we convene an Action Lab, a working group to decide on what to commission as a solution to the issues raised at the Civic Tech Surgery.

    The aim is to provide a practical solution that will help organisations running civic tech projects to make their projects more accessible for everyone.

    Some of the ideas that arose from the Surgery were: gathering and sharing existing guidance on accessibility best practice and sharing with community; creating policy templates for civic tech organisations; and compiling a database of for-hire or volunteer software developers with experience in making sites and tools accessible. There were many more ideas, and it’s up to Action Lab #2 members to decide which would be most useful —  and practical to commission — using a dedicated $2,500 USD grant.

    Apply now

    Applications to join this Action Lab are now open, and we would like to invite those interested in being part of this project to apply. Your job will be to decide exactly which piece of work to commission with the available funding.

    To be considered as part of the Action Lab, please fill in this form by the end of 4 March 2022. You can find further details here.

  7. TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #2: Accessibility and inclusivity

    You’re invited

    Join us on Thursday 3rd February for our next Civic Tech Surgery, as part of our TICTeC Labs programme.

    We’ll discuss the challenges of ensuring civic tech tools are accessible and inclusive, as well as solutions and ideas to tackle them. The Surgery will also feature reflections from civic tech researchers, to give perspectives on existing research, evidence gaps or research ideas on the topic that might help to tackle common challenges.

    We’ll hear perspectives from:

    There will also be ample opportunity for attendees to provide feedback on issues they’ve faced, along with solutions and ideas. We look forward to connecting civic tech practitioners and researchers from around the world again!

    Your insights

    Ahead of the event, please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic over on this Padlet board, whether you can attend the Surgery or not. These will then be discussed at the Surgery, and then by the subsequent TICTeC Action Lab (aka working group) that will ultimately commission a project to help tackle one or more of the identified challenges around civic tech accessibility.

    About TICTeC Labs

    TICTeC Civic Tech Surgeries are part of mySociety’s TICTeC Labs programme, which aims to address the biggest issues facing the civic tech/digital democracy sector, and enhance the effectiveness and potential impact of civic tech projects. This programme is made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for Democracy.

    Who are Civic Tech Surgeries for?

    Anyone interested in the use and effectiveness of digital tools to enhance public participation, democracy, transparency and accountability.

    We think the event will be of particular interest to civic tech practitioners and researchers, elected government representatives, civil servants, technology companies, funders and software developers, but anyone interested is welcome to attend.

    Register to attend

    The Civic Tech Surgery will be held virtually on Zoom. You need to register to attend by signing up on this Eventbrite page.

    We look forward to seeing you there! To hear of future TICTeC events and initiatives first, do sign up to our mailing list.

     

  8. We know it’s not perfect, but we’re carbon offsetting: here’s why

    Back in December 2020, we blogged about how we track mySociety’s carbon footprint in order to understand our impact and to monitor whether climate policies we’ve implemented are having the desired effect of reducing our emissions. 

    In that blog post, we said: ‘having learned of disturbing failings in even the most-recommended [carbon] offsetting services, we are researching where we might be able to make direct payments to mitigate the carbon we produce’. As you can tell from the title of this blog post, we’ve now settled on a different approach, for the time being at least!

    After many discussions within our Climate Action Group, we’ve decided for now to purchase carbon offsets from atmosfair.

    This blog post aims to explain why we’ve made the decision (for now) to offset all mySociety’s carbon emissions, and how we’re doing it. This is part of our policy of talking openly about our climate actions, in the hope that these types of conversations become more normal and widespread in our sector and beyond — and that we can all learn from each other.

    Doing something is better than doing nothing

    It’s important to emphasise that our main priority is to reduce mySociety’s carbon footprint, and as you can see over on our Environmental Policy, we’ve set in place various strategies to do this. However, it’s undeniable that our work still produces carbon emissions, and by its very nature, no matter how much we succeed in minimising them, inevitably will continue to do so at some degree.

    We don’t want to shrug and say that there’s nothing we can do about these emissions, and we want to emphasise that carbon has a cost, so mySociety’s Climate Action Group (a internal policy group comprising around six staff members) has been (and still is!) on a bit of a learning journey about what to do.

    We spent quite a bit of time discussing the pros and cons of offsetting as a concept, and exploring other avenues we could take — more about which, below — and it was beginning to feel like we were letting perfect be the enemy of any progress whatsoever.

    Enter atmosfair

    So when atmosfair was recommended to us as “historically the most responsible and environmentally conscious provider of offset credits” — their projects are verified by both the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and Gold Standard — we decided to offset with them for now, while still actively exploring other options. 

    According to atmosfair, the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations requires considerably more from carbon-offsetting projects than the Gold Standard, including written consent to the project from the government of the host country, liable auditors, on-site audits of each individual project, and recurring audits of each project by an elected body of representatives with equal rights from industrialised and developing countries (the CDM Executive Board). 

    This additional level of scrutiny on their projects resolved some of the doubts we’d had around offsetting, giving us that extra confidence to purchase from them. Nonetheless, as we’ve previously said we know this is not a perfect solution and we will review our decision on offsetting every year at a minimum, as well as continually keeping an eye out for news articles and innovations in the area. 

    When we come to review our decision to offset next year, we will take into account whether companies include representatives from the Global South on their board or executive team.

    We think this representation is important when implementing offsetting projects directly in the region, as is the practice of many offsetting companies. We have written to atmosfair to ask them if they are considering diversifying their board and/or executive team, and we’re keen to learn about Global South-led carbon offsetting/removal organisations we could support in future. 

    The winding path to our decision

    Over the last year, we considered a few different options for mitigating the carbon our activities produce, including: donating to high impact projects for climate change action; paying for trees to be planted; investing in local community energy organisations in the UK; and purchasing carbon offsets from non-profit certified providers. 

    What we’ve realised about mitigating carbon is that there really isn’t a ‘perfect’ solution and every idea/scheme seems to have its controversies or counterarguments that, if you’re not climate change experts, are pretty difficult to assess and view comparatively. However, as a group we felt that trying to do something to mitigate our carbon is still better than doing nothing.

    • When it came to donating to high impact projects for climate change action, we learned that even organisations like the NewClimate Institute are still figuring out which projects are the most beneficial to support, and we haven’t felt confident enough in their efficacy to support projects that are still very new. 
    • As for paying for trees to be planted, we’d heard from a few sources that it’s not as effective as other offsetting projects, and takes longer for benefits to arise. 
    • We loved the idea of investing in local community energy projects in the UK, but as a charity ourselves there are strict legal requirements we must meet when investing charity money, and as a small organisation we don’t currently have the resources to administer that without letting other aspects of our work suffer. 
    • We had initially decided last year to offset by purchasing credits directly from Gold Standard, but after hearing from investigative journalists at the Dataharvest conference that Gold Standard projects are potentially not reviewed as well as they could be, we decided to have a rethink.

    So atmosfair it is for now – which, along with all the safeguards mentioned above, also has the additional appeal of being a nonprofit, like us.

    To reiterate, just because we’ve chosen to offset in this way for now, doesn’t mean we will do so forever. On that note, we’re really keen to hear from others about if/how they are mitigating their carbon emissions, so please do get in touch if you have any thoughts you’d like to share.  The latest idea we’ve heard of is carbon budgeting, and if you know anything about it we would love to chat.

    Image: DFID (CC by-nc-nd/2.0)

     

  9. Applications to join our first TICTeC Action Lab are now open

    As part of our new TICTeC Labs programme, last week we convened a Civic Tech Surgery that brought together a group of 100+ civic tech practitioners and researchers from across the world to discuss common challenges of working with governments and public authorities on digital projects to enhance public participation, transparency and accountability, as well as possible solutions to these.

    You can find resources from this Civic Tech Surgery here, including minutes, a summary of inputs, a Padlet of contributions, and the full recording.

    To carry on the Surgery’s momentum, we are now convening an Action Lab (aka working group) of up to 6 individuals, who will work together to commission a piece of work that will be useful to tackle the issues raised in the above Civic Tech Surgery, to answer this question:

    What would help the global civic tech community to work more effectively with public and private institutions?

    We’re pleased to say that applications to join this Action Lab are now open, and we would like to invite those interested in working with others to tackle the above to apply.

    You can apply to join the group by filling in this form by the end of 24 November 2021, and you can find further details about the Action Lab here.

    Funding will be available to those who apply to work on the piece of work identified by the Action Lab.

    The TICTeC Labs programme is made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for Democracy.

  10. TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #1: Public-private collaborations

    As outlined in this blog post, as part of our brand new TICTeC Labs programme, we’ll be hosting a series of Civic Tech Surgeries to diagnose, dissect and address Civic Tech dilemmas to unlock impact.

    I’m delighted to share details of our first Civic Tech Surgery. It will be held online on 28th October 14.00 – 16.00 GMT+1, and the topic is: Public-private collaborations: how can civic tech work effectively with public and private institutions?

    During the Surgery, we will hear about the challenges of working on private-public civic tech projects from practitioners from across the world, as well as their solutions and ideas to tackle these. There will be ample opportunity for attendees to also provide their feedback on issues they have faced, and their solutions and ideas.

    The Surgery will also feature reflections from civic tech researchers, to give perspectives on any existing evidence or research ideas on the topic that might be beneficial, that can then be elaborated on in subsequent TICTeC Action Labs.

    After not being able to meet as a global community in-person since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re really excited to again facilitate the exchange of relevant and timely research, lessons learnt, successes, failures, ideas and code amongst the civic tech sector globally, so ultimately, civic tech tools are more effective.

    Who are Civic Tech Surgeries for?

    Anyone interested in the use and effectiveness of digital tools to enhance public participation, democracy, transparency and accountability.

    We think the event will be of particular interest to civic tech practitioners and researchers, elected government representatives, civil servants, technology companies, funders and software developers.

    Register to attend

    The Civic Tech Surgery will be held virtually on Zoom. You need to register to attend by signing up on this Eventbrite page.

    We look forward to seeing you there! To hear of future TICTeC events and initiatives first, do consider signing up to our mailing list.