1. Unlocking civic tech impact: join us as we showcase and reflect on TICTeC Labs

    Join us on Thursday 16th March 2023 for our online event Unlocking civic tech impact: reflections on TICTeC Labs.

    Over the last 18 months, we’ve run a programme of Civic Tech activities and events: TICTeC Labs. With thanks to financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy, TICTeC Labs has discussed some of the biggest challenges facing the global civic tech/digital democracy sector. Across six themes, we’ve:

    • hosted Civic Tech Surgeries – discussing challenges, existing research and experience, and identifying gaps and needs
    • set up Action Lab working groups to take forward ideas generated in the Surgeries and commission work to meet some of these needs
    • and funded subgrant projects to produce work to contribute to meeting these challenges.

    Hear about the work produced by the subgrant projects and how these have met the needs we identified. Members of the mySociety team, Steering Group and Action Labs will also reflect on how this experimental format worked – the successes and the challenges – and which aspects of it we’ll take forward into future TICTeC activities. There will be opportunities to ask questions about the outputs and the programme as a whole. The session will run from 14:00 to 16:00 GMT and we’d love you to join us live if you can (a recording will also be available shortly afterwards)!

    Book your free place to join us on 16th March.

  2. Learn how to find good quality data

    Data is at the core of everything we do at mySociety, and the better quality it is, the easier our work becomes — so the latest output from TICTeC Labs is particularly welcome. We would love everyone to know exactly what constitutes good quality data!

    And, thanks to the members of the Action Lab #3 working group, now they can. They awarded a contract to the Canadian civic tech group Open North, to devise a course on Data Quality. This course is free to everyone, and we know it’ll be of huge benefit to the international civic tech community.

    Available online in English and French (and hopefully with more languages to follow), the course provides users with a practical introduction to the topic, discussing key concepts and setting practical exercises.

    Quality information for civic tech success

    This output was the end result of our third TICTeC Labs Civic Surgery, which took place back in March 2022. That saw participants discussing the theme: ‘Accessing quality information for civic tech success: how can we overcome barriers to accessing good data and documentation?’ — it was within this session that the concept of a training course first arose.

    This course uses Open North’s existing learning platform to provide training which covers:

    • Understanding the importance of data quality
    • Understanding the key terms when engaging with data
    • Knowing how and where to find good quality data
    • Recognising the barriers to accessing data and documentation
    • Knowing how to evaluate the quality of a dataset

    Collaborating with the Action Lab members throughout the process of planning and building the course, Open North have created an online educational resource that is suitable for a wide range of audiences. It provides a starting point for those already working with data, or those at the beginning of their journey. 

    Take the course

    You can find out more, and take the course by signing up to Open North’s Training Center and then looking for Data Quality (D103), with the French version at La qualité des données (D103F). In fact, once your account is activated you can take any of their free courses, so take a look around and you might find some more resources to try, as well.

  3. Accessibility ABCs – a practical toolkit for the global civic tech community

    A starting point for making civic tech more accessible

    Commissioned by the TICTeC Labs programme, Technoloxia in Tunisia have created a practical accessibility toolkit for the global civic tech community.

    At our second Civic Tech Surgery in February 2022, we discussed ensuring that civic tech is accessible – how can we lead and popularise best practice? The subsequent Action Lab working group agreed to commission the creation of a toolkit or resource to support civic tech practitioners in making their work more accessible.

    The subgrant was awarded to Technoloxia to create a beginners’ guide to accessibility. Technloxia are a training provider who specialise in digital accessibility for different audiences including civil society organisations and tech practitioners. The team working on this project included people with disabilities and trained practitioners, who worked with a focus group of users with different accessibility needs to review the material and provide feedback.

    With this guide, Technoloxia look to provide a simple primer and introduce the subject while staying practical and action-oriented. This guide is in no way exhaustive but is a starting point for a larger conversation.

    Step-by-step guides to better accessibility

    The guide starts by explaining basic concepts and principles and then presents best practices by examining case studies. After each case study, the guide highlights a few potential challenges and how best to deal with these. It provides you with questions to ask to check whether your work is accessible, and always centres the people using the services, reminding us that accessibility goes beyond ‘technical accessibility’ to the ways in which we communicate and interact around our work.

    An accessible accessibility guide

    The guide is freely available on our website, to download as a PDF and as an audio file to increase the accessibility of the information itself. Please do download it and/ or pass it on to any other contacts who might find it useful: this guide will have most impact when it is widely used.

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    TICTeC Labs is our hands-on programme for fixing some of the prevalent problems in civic tech, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. Each TICTeC Lab begins with a public discussion – Civic Tech Surgery – on a topic affecting the civic tech community, followed by an Action Lab, a working group who meet to discuss the challenges and commission some work to help provide solutions. To find out more about the TICTeC Labs programme and the work being produced following the series of Civic Tech Surgeries, see the TICTeC website or sign up for email updates.

  4. How can civic tech work effectively with public and private institutions?

    The first TICTeC Labs subgrant project provides practical examples

    How has civic tech helped protect the health of a small rural community in Chile, engaged citizens in decisions about their local areas in China, improved the electricity supply to a village in Kyrgyzstan and assisted people with visual impairments to take part in participatory budgeting in Argentina?

    This month sees the first output from our TICTeC Labs subgrants.

    TICTeC Labs is our hands-on programme for fixing some of the prevalent problems in civic tech, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. Each TICTeC Lab begins with a public discussion – Civic Tech Surgery – on a topic affecting the civic tech community, followed by an Action Lab, a working group who meet to discuss the challenges and commission some work to help provide solutions. 

    Tackling the challenges

    At the first Civic Tech Surgery, in October 2021, the challenges of public-private civic tech projects, as well as possible solutions to tackle them, were discussed by Aline Muylaert of CitizenLab, Amanda Clarke of Carleton University, Gabriella Razzano of OpenUp in South Africa and Ebtihaj Khan from Code for Pakistan, with valuable input from our Surgery attendees. 

    Action Lab #1 then convened to decide what would help the global civic tech community to work more effectively with public and private institutions. They 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, aiming to promote the benefits of civic tech and inspire and motivate government actors to start similar civic tech projects in their contexts. 

    Showcasing successful projects

    The Action Lab #1 subgrant was awarded to People Powered, who approached the organisations who were highly rated on their digital participation platform to provide examples where their work has resulted in clear improvements and benefits for governments, institutions, and communities.

    The case studies all include key lessons learned and recommendations on how to use digital platforms effectively:

    To find out more about the TICTeC Labs programme and the work being produced following the series of Civic Tech Surgeries, see the TICTeC website or sign up for email updates.

  5. Call for proposals: resources to help train organisations/ the public in accessing good quality data

    In one sentence

    TICTeC Action Lab #3 is looking for an individual, organisation or joint team to produce resources to help train organisations/ the public in how to access and use good quality data.

    About TICTeC Action Lab #3

    As part of the TICTeC Labs programme, mySociety convened the TICTeC Action Lab #3 working group in order to take ideas raised at Civic Tech Surgery #3 forward, and decide together what piece of work would be useful to commission to help the global civic tech community to overcome common barriers to accessing quality information.

    TICTeC Action Lab #3 is comprised of 7 individuals from across the world, who between them have many years of experience working on civic tech. You can read more about Action Lab #3 members here.

    About this project

    We are looking for resources that can be used to train civic tech practitioners or the public to help them engage with data and with the authorities supplying that data. We recognise that there is value to the civic tech community in training organisational staff and also in better informing the public about accessing data. The proposal could include some initial training sessions, if these can be delivered within the timescale and budget, but the priority is to produce resources which can continue to be used by organisations to increase their knowledge/deliver training.

    This could include:

    • resources that explain the value of open data standards rather than just advocating for open data standards in of themselves
    • training for organisations on engaging with authorities
    • resources for NGOs and organisations on how to engage with authorities
    • signposting to resources for educating the public
    • collating or signposting to existing resources with guidance on how to use these

    These are suggestions and we do not expect any one proposal to cover all of these areas. We are open to different formats for the resource and we welcome innovative ideas about how to deliver the content.

    They are open to different formats for the resource – it doesn’t necessarily need to be a website or guide, and we welcome innovative ideas about how to deliver the content. 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.

    There is up to $3760 USD (inclusive of taxes) available for this work.

    Your application

    If you’re interested in producing this piece of work, then please fill in this application form – the deadline for applications is the end of Thursday 28th July 2022. Applications will be reviewed by the TICTeC Labs team at mySociety, the TICTeC Labs Steering Group and the Action Lab #3 group. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application no later than 24th August 2022. 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.

  6. TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #4: Storytelling and reach

    Civic Tech Surgery 4 header

    Take part

    Join us this Thursday, 12th May for our next Civic Tech Surgery to discuss the challenges of amplifying civic tech projects and their successes beyond the civic tech community, as well as solutions. Making sure more people know about civic tech projects and their successes remains one of the biggest challenges facing the sector.

    We’re delighted that we’ll be hearing from:

    Our speakers will discuss their experiences of telling the stories of Civic Tech projects and there will also be ample opportunity for attendees to provide their feedback on issues they have faced, and their solutions and ideas. You can 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 events 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, sign up to our mailing list.