Next week Gareth and I will be heading to Tunis to attend the 8th edition of RightsCon. RightsCon is the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age, so we’re thrilled to be hosting a session at the conference about digital Access to Information platforms with our awesome friends at MuckRock.
If you’ll also be there we’d love to talk to you about your campaigns or investigations and how using access to information platforms could help.
As Jen said in her recent blog post, we’ll be spending time this year developing our software platform Alaveteli Pro so more people across the world have access to its digital tools that help with the sending and management of information requests.
We’d love to get feedback on this work and would love to meet organisations who are interested in setting up Alaveteli Pro instances, in order to make access to information easier for citizens in their countries. We’re also very keen to talk to individuals and organisations who are interested in collaborating on cross-border public-interest investigations and campaigns using FOI-generated data.
We’d also love to talk to RightsCon attendees who might be interested in attending our AlaveteliCon event in Oslo on 23 and 24 September, where activists, journalists, technologists and campaigners from across the world will come together to discuss Freedom of Information technologies for creating public-interest investigations and campaigns.
And of course, our Call for Proposals is currently open for our TICTeC Local conference so it’d be great to chat to people interested in presenting their work using digital innovations to help local communities and/or public authorities to foster citizen engagement, drive efficiency, and combat social and environmental problems.
We’re delighted to be hosting the third AlaveteliCon, our Freedom of Information (FOI) technologies conference, on 23 and 24 September 2019 in Oslo, Norway.
A few days ahead of International Right to Know Day (28 September), AlaveteliCon will bring together activists, journalists, technologists and campaigners from across the world who use Freedom of Information laws, data and technologies to create public-interest investigations and campaigns.
This time we’ll be including a focus on catalysing collaborations on cross-border European public interest investigations and campaigns, in order to strengthen the use of FOI across the region. This focus is in part due to our latest Transparency project, funded by Adessium Foundation. This Transparency project seeks to enable journalists, campaigners and citizens in Europe to make greater and more effective use of their right to access information, in particular to generate public interest stories and campaigns that hold power to account.
Here are some of the other things AlaveteliCon attendees will get up to this time:
- Exchanging insights and ideas on how to run and improve open-source Freedom of Information platforms such as WhatDoTheyKnow, MuckRock and FragDenStaat
- Hearing how journalists and campaigners around the world have used FOI to power high-profile investigations and campaigns
- Making connections with journalists and campaigners who would like to collaborate on cross-border investigations that hold governments to account
- Learning about data sources available on FOI platforms around the world, waiting to be analysed and turned into public-interest stories
- Hearing tips from FOI activists on getting governments to release information in their countries including going to court
- Contributing to the further development of mySociety’s open-source FOI toolkit for journalists, Alaveteli Pro, which helps journalists and campaigners to manage their FOI investigations
- Connecting to a global network of FOI experts and advocates
- Working together to plan potential joint activities to celebrate International Right to Know Day on 28th September 2019
Apply to attend
As spaces at AlaveteliCon are limited, we’re asking those wishing to come to fill out this application form to tell us what unique perspective they can bring that’s relevant to the above conference themes/topics.
Are you a journalist or campaigner who uses FOI for investigations/campaigns? Do you want to collaborate on FOI-generated investigations? Or interested in setting up an FOI platform in your country? Or want to learn how to use FOI to its fullest potential? Or interested in any of the above topics? If so, then please submit your application by 2nd September at the very latest.
We’ll let you know if you’ve been allocated a place by Friday 6th September at the latest. However, we will endeavour to reply to you sooner than this.
AlaveteliCon is free to attend, but delegates will be required to arrange their own travel, accommodation and costs in Oslo.
Following on from the success of our first TICTeC Local conference in Manchester last year, we’re delighted to be hosting the second TICTeC Local on 1st November 2019.
Thanks to support from London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, we’re thrilled to be hosting TICTeC Local 2019 at London City Hall, home to the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
TICTeC Local is part of mySociety’s global The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference (TICTeC) series, which has been examining Civic Tech at the local, national and global levels since 2015. TICTeC Local narrows the lens, focusing on where and how Civic Tech connects with and impacts local communities and local government.
What are the digital innovations that are helping local communities and local government to foster citizen engagement, drive efficiency, and combat social and environmental problems? Join us at City Hall this November to find out.
Call for Papers now open
If you’d like to give a presentation or run a workshop at TICTeC Local 2019, please submit your proposals now. You have until Friday 6th September 2019.
We encourage presentation submissions to focus on specific digital innovations that are helping local communities and/or public authorities to foster citizen engagement/participation, drive efficiency, and combat social and environmental problems.
We welcome examples from across the UK and from around the world, but the focus must be the local level.
We will prioritise submissions that focus on the specific impacts of these digital innovations, rather than those that simply showcase new tools that are as yet untested.
Workshop proposals should be relevant to the conference theme. Submit your proposal now.
Registration is now open. Tickets are free for the public sector. Early bird tickets provide a significant discount, so it’s well worth registering before early bird ticket sales end on 13th September 2019.
mySociety is a charity and relies on sponsorship and ticket sales to make events like TICTeC Local happen. If you’re interested in hearing about sponsorship opportunities at TICTeC Local or our global TICTeC events then please get in touch to discuss further.
We look forward to seeing you in London in November! Meanwhile, if you’d like to see what TICTeC Local is all about, you can browse all the resources from last year’s conference.
A couple of weeks ago we hosted the fifth edition of our research conference The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference (TICTeC) in Paris, in association with the OECD at their beautiful conference centre.
It was the biggest TICTeC event yet – we were thrilled to bring together 200 leaders in the field from 29 countries to take stock of the civic technology research landscape and to discuss what works and what doesn’t when it comes to using technology for social good.
76 speakers from 14 countries covered topics such as: fighting ‘platform populists’; investing in the future of civic tech; learning from setbacks; the impacts of civic tech in Latin America; civic tech’s role as a response to the ‘gilets jaunes’; the opportunities and limitations of participatory budgeting; empowering women through civic tech; working with governments on civic tech; and the state of open data across the world. And many, many more.
Thank you to everyone involved for sharing your experiences and research.
If you weren’t able to attend (or indeed if you’d like to experience it all again), do check out the TICTeC 2019 web page to see videos of key conference sessions, photos, and slides where available.
As a taster, here’s an overview of the whole event… in just two minutes:
Thank you again to Google, Luminate, OECD and the MacArthur Foundation for supporting TICTeC. We’ll keep you all posted on next year’s event over on the research mailing list and on the TICTeC Google Group.
Our recent TICTeC event in Paris was hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, OECD.
Reflecting on Civic Tech and the role of the OECD, their Director of Public Affairs and Communications Anthony Gooch contributes this post.
Acronyms tend to hold a certain degree of mystery, and yet we use them all the time in policy making. On 19 March, I welcomed a new acronym to the OECD: TICTeC, aka “The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference”. It was my first TICTeC, but the fifth annual edition, bringing together more than 200 participants from civil society, academia, business and government from around the world – all of them working hard to find solutions that marry technological capacity with civic engagement and participatory practices.
Our intention in hosting TICTeC was two-fold: to demystify each other’s acronyms and to draw on both of our convening powers to explore new opportunities for collective action.
As an international organisation, the OECD is a partner for civil society and the people behind movements and organisations. We know that policy is not made in a vacuum and its impacts are not limited to one part of society alone. To ensure that we deliver on our mission of “Better Policies for Better Lives”, we must help governments to respond to the needs of their citizens. This also involves evolving our thinking about the route to collective intelligence and where technology plays a role. Our vocation goes beyond the provision of cold, dry facts – we are in the business of improving people’s lives.
In the past decade, Civic Tech has shifted from a fringe movement of hackers and coders to a more mainstream term – importantly, used by policy makers and shapers. Three years ago, the OECD didn’t really use the term “Civic Tech”. Organisations such as ours are not known for our speed and reactivity, but it is now part of our vocabulary.
In 2016 I read an article by Catherine Vincent in Le Monde: Civic Tech: Is it going to save politics?. It said: “By connecting a wide number of citizens, Civic Tech allows them to access information, creates a space for dialogue and sharing opinions, essentially harnessing collective intelligence ensuring better citizen participation in democracy”. Could these elements help the OECD to maintain its relevance and credibility in a rapidly changing societal context?
We’ve seen the values of Civic Tech – transparency, accountability, participation, citizen engagement – as a compass for helping us navigate and improve our engagement with people. It has also taught us lessons about how to achieve greater impact. Even more importantly, it exposed us to a community of people behind the technological solutions, who are challenging their own assumptions and working on concrete projects.
What have we learned from them?
- The real potential of these technologies has yet to be realised;
- Offline engagement strategies – meeting people where they are – are equally, if not more important for the adoption and the quality of impact of Civic Tech;
- Open source – decentralised, collaborative peer production of software – is vital for shared tools, but the digital divide isn’t simply erased by Civic Tech;
- We need to be constantly evaluating our assumptions.
We’ve continued to witness manifestations of Civic Tech in government practice over the years. Our colleagues at the OECD have examined the role of GovTech, participatory budgeting, open government data and local level efforts in our reports and we’re sharing this experience further and further. The TICTeC community provides a different and complementary vantage point and a host of potential avenues for collaboration.
At TICTeC 2019, we shared a number OECD of initiatives that focused on:
- Quantifying intra-urban inequalities in subjective well-being;
- More inclusive public services design and delivery;
- Citizen engagement around people’s quality of life via the OECD Better Life Index and where to go next.
OECD was not just there to present, but to harness the collective intelligence of the Civic Tech community. What struck me during TICTeC was the focus on seeking to measure the real impact of Civic Tech and understanding its limitations. We tend to attach much hope to technologies that strive to help us navigate misinformation, political processes and systems, and public services. After more than decade, Civic Tech as a field is maturing and facing the challenges of greater public expectations and its own sustainability.
The OECD is committed to serving people from all parts of the globe, and we strive to bring the wealth of experience, views and ideas to bear on policy making. This is something that crystalises at our annual OECD Forum, including more voices to help us address the world’s pressing challenges in an open, dynamic and creative space. Since 2017 and continuing with the 20th edition on 20-21 May “World in EMotion”, it is an opportunity to get Civic Tech organisations and actors into the OECD bloodstream – channeling and transmitting this interest and enthusiasm to our colleagues and stakeholders.
For the third year, we will be hosting the Civic Innovation Hub, showcasing Civic Tech and social innovations that strive for better outcomes. Presenters will discuss how their projects are having an impact on what matters in people’s daily lives – from education to environment, community to jobs – and touching on opportunities and challenges for making positive change. We will also shed light on the tensions happening in on- and off-line spaces in terms of inclusiveness, accountability and efficiency.
Whether we use technology because we want to revitalise the relationship citizens have with their cities, their communities or their representatives and governments, we understand it is the vehicle, but not the destination. We must continue to share our visions, our successes and our failures, and seek opportunities to collaborate. We are excited to continue working together to achieve greater impact.
Anthony Gooch, OECD
Every year, our Impacts of Civic Technology conference TICTeC increases, in both size and ambition.
The event in Paris last week — the fifth annual TICTeC — was a total sell-out despite having a larger capacity than in previous years. At times the schedule featured an unprecedented four simultaneous tracks, giving delegates more to choose from but also perhaps, making those decisions a little more difficult.
And while we’ve naturally always striven to be as diverse and inclusive as possible, it was also the first TICTeC where female speakers outnumbered male ones. There were 76 speakers from 14 different countries. Of these, 39 were women. Delegates came from 29 nations around the world (frustratingly, as always, some of our speakers had their visas turned down, which is not only disappointing in terms of the event’s overall diversity, but also means we don’t get to hear the view from those particular corners of the world).
Thanks are due
Thanks to our hosts the OECD, we were able to enjoy state of the art conference rooms, and spaces within a château that came complete with their own chandeliers. Within these gilded walls we heard from a diverse range of speakers, engaged in debates and found commonalities across our work in Civic Tech.
It’s always so gratifying to hear directly from the practitioners, academics and funders who can share their real-world experiences: thank you so much to everyone who spoke or ran a session.
Thank you also to the MacArthur Foundation for providing travel grants to some attendees.
Relive the highlights
Doubtless everyone will have come away with their own set of memorable moments, but for now you can watch the three sessions that we live- streamed, which are still available to view on YouTube:
Keynote Alessandra Orofino opened the conference with a truly inspiring presentation about tackling ‘platform politicians’ of the far right, something she’s had plenty of practice with through Nossas, the organisation she founded in Latin America. Sounding a very welcome note of optimism, Alessandra assured us that “the next generation will save democracy if we let them”. You can watch the whole session on YouTube and we highly recommend that you do: we knew it had been a hit when even the cameraman was moved.
Yearly condensed shot of inspiration just started! #TICTeC keynote speech describing positive reinforcement methodologies for activism and participation. Full of hope! Thanks to Alessandra Orofino – @Meu_Rio #Nossas pic.twitter.com/n9PjnOkX1a
— Matthieu Bosquet (@cognithive) March 19, 2019
In the French Context session, we were given a great overview of France’s very timely hopes for Civic Tech, including participatory budgeting and citizen decision-making. Deputy Mayor of Paris Pauline Véron, Paula Forteza MP and Tatiana de Feraudy from Decider ensemble spoke very convincingly about how the time is ripe for more collaborative, open democracy: as Paula noted, when she first invited us to bring TICTeC to Paris, none of us had any idea that it would be such a timely event — but with the rise of the gilets jaunes and the Grand Débat National put in place by Macron as a way for everyone to have their say in decisions around four major areas including Democracy and Citizenship, it could hardly have been more relevant. See the whole conversation here.
Our day two keynote was James Anderson from Bloomberg Philanthropies, who ran through several examples of local governments grasping the reins and making innovative, imaginative decisions against a ‘crisis of legitimacy that is unprecedented within our generation’. He also reminded us of the ‘huge power in calling out a status quo that isn’t giving us the results we want’; there was lots lots more to interest anyone who’s wondering how we can solve the democratic issues of our time; catch it all by watching the livestream of the session here.
The Civic team at Facebook have been guests at every TICTeC since the 2016 event in Barcelona: they’re always keen to report on the ways in which they are using the platform’s enormous reach in order to increase democratic engagement; and because it helps complete a rounded picture of the Civic Tech world, we welcome the opportunity to hear from a tech giant. This year, Director of Product Management Samidh Chakrabarti, Data Scientist Monica Lee and Product Manager Antonia Woodford detailed the tools, systems and increased staffing they put in place to counteract abuse and disinformation during the US midterm elections. At Facebook’s request, this session was not videoed, but it was much tweeted.
— James Cronin (@jamescronin) March 20, 2019
Also unforgettable was the reception we were given at the French National Assembly: thanks very much to Paula Forteza and her team for hosting us there and giving us this special opportunity to see inside France’s ‘lower house’, where Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, gave TICTeC attendees a fulsome welcome and outlined their vision for Civic Tech in the tricky political climate that France is currently facing. He echoed Paula’s words from her earlier presentation at TICTeC, saying that while previously they were delighted if a few thousand citizens took part in their consultations, they are now overwhelmed by the take-up of millions who want to have their voices heard. Digital democracy is certainly having its moment.
After a day discussing how tech can help democracy, Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s Secretary of State for digital affairs, tells a room full of activists and tech people: “We are at a new moment. People expect to be listened to. And maybe there are new ways to listen to them.” #TICTeC pic.twitter.com/7XF6SjsW0I
— Hazel Sheffield (@hazelsheffield) March 19, 2019
We’ll be adding videos of several more sessions as soon as they’ve been edited, as well as photos and slides from as many presentations as possible. There are several ways to make sure you’re informed when they’re ready to view: watch our Twitter stream, sign up to our newsletter, or just check the TICTeC website for the latest updates. If it’s just the videos that you’re interested in, you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel.
As we speak, several excitable members of the mySociety team are on their way to TICTeC 2019 via the channel tunnel. We’re so looking forward to catching up with the Civic Tech community and hearing all about the research you’ve conducted since last year.
Whether it’s your first time at TICTeC or you’re returning, we know there will be much to enjoy. We’re especially eager to hear the view from France’s Civic Tech movement. Speakers will include our hosts at OECD; MP Paula Forteza; Secretary of State for the Digital Sector Mounir Majoubi; and Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris.
We’ve shouted a lot about our two keynotes, Alessandra Orofino of Nossas and James Anderson of Bloomberg Philanthropies: if you need a refresher on their inspirational backgrounds, follow those links to read the relevant posts. But there is plenty more to engage you, too.
This year we’ve noted strong themes coming through in the selected sessions, including the potential for Civic Tech to tackle political polarisation, fake news and civil unrest; women in Civic Tech; and the impacts/practicalities of participatory budgeting, among many, many other strands. You can see the full rundown via our Twitter feed, which we’ve been using to trail every session over the last couple of weeks.
If you’re now kicking yourself because you can’t make it, do watch out for our live streaming of key presentations. You’ll be able to see these on YouTube. If you’re a YouTube user, you can visit the links listed below now, and click the ‘set reminder’ grey button so that you’ll receive a nudge to watch:
Or if you’re more habitually on Facebook, we’ve also listed ‘events’: follow these to make sure you receive a reminder before we go live (they’ll remind you to go to the YouTube link, where the actual streaming will be taking place):
- Keynote, Alessandra Orofino, 10:30 – 11:15 am Tues 19 March. YouTube stream here. Facebook event here.
- The French context (Tatiana de Feraudy, Paula Forteza MP, Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris), 16:30 – 17:45 Tues 19 March. YouTube stream here. Facebook event here.
- Keynote 2, James Anderson, 12:15 – 13:00 Weds 20 March. YouTube stream here. Facebook event here.
No need to fret if you can’t make the livestreams, either. As always, we’ll also be posting permanent videos of all the main presentations, along with slides and photos as soon as we can after the event.
And for now, on y va!
We’ve just shared the schedule for our Impacts of Civic Technology conference, TICTeC, and in all honesty? We’re excited.
It’s almost complete, but we’ll be adding a few more details of additional sessions once they’re confirmed. We’re also expecting a number of side events to spring up, too. Yes, that’s right, TICTeC has grown a fringe!
TICTeC has been growing in momentum since its beginnings in 2014. This year, once again, thanks to a higher number of submissions than ever — and the increasing quality of those submissions — you’ll experience an unsurpassed line-up of speakers, each with deep insights into the field.
Tickets are going faster than ever before: more than half of them are sold already, and and we expect to sell out well before the event, so don’t delay if you’re hoping to join us in Paris: register now.
Each day will kick off with an inspiring presentation from a standout practitioner that has brought significant change through Civic Tech projects.
On day one Alessandra Orofino, founder of Nossas, will speak about her project to empower citizens throughout Latin America; day two begins with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson explaining how a global network of mayors are sharing technologies to improve cities worldwide.
As always, TICTeC examines projects from across the Civic Tech field; but each year, certain themes emerge that reflect the current preoccupations of society more broadly.
The French experience
Thanks to generous support from the OECD, our venue is the beautiful OECD Headquarters & Conference Centre in Paris. It’s fitting that, during the two days, we’ll hear a lot from those making a difference in the French context.
Speakers include Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris and member of the Socialiste party; Paula Forteza, MP with En Marche! and Tatiana de Feraudy from Décider ensemble.
They’ll be not only giving us a good overview of Civic Tech in France, but also looking at how digital democracy might be the key to the issues raised by the Gilets Jaunes uprising.
The wisdom of crowds
As concepts such as Participatory Budgeting reach maturity, we can now stand back and assess what works well and what doesn’t, when you turn to the citizenry for decision-making.
Theo Bass from Nesta in the UK will examine online deliberation tools; Benjamin Snow from Germany’s Civocracy will give an honest look at what you can do when citizen consultation tools launch with a sizzle rather than a bang. Thanks to Reboot‘s Panthea Lee and Gil Pradeau from the University of Westminster, we’ll get a look at Participatory Budgeting in both the US and France.
Extremism, and its spread via digital means, are of course of huge concern across many different countries.
We’ll hear from the USA’s National Democratic Institute on how Civic Tech might tackle political polarisation; and from the UK’s Full Fact on how machine learning can simplify the factchecker’s job. Marko Skoric from Hong Kong will examine whether blocking, filtering and unfriending on social media actually adds to division.
This very current concern is sure to be in evidence right across many of the other sessions, too.
The urban experience
Taking a cue from James’ keynote, we’ll see many examinations of Civic Tech in the city, from Jose Alberto Gomez of Mexico on better mobile apps for fault reporting; to analyses of Civic Tech in diverse urban areas from the Centre for Conflict and Participation Studies in Italy. And our hosts OECD will be presenting the concept of an urban barometer.
Impactful Civic Tech projects
Luminate are one of several participants in a panel which examines Civic Tech in Latin America for a wider understanding of applicable insights. Jasmina Haynes from Integrity Action in the UK will present the Nepalse experience on how to check whether grants are doing everything the funders hoped they would. And several more sessions will have an emphasis on ensuring initiatives are impactful.
With three to four tracks running each day, there’s plenty to choose from — including a look at the issues that arise in long-running Civic Tech projects, by mySociety’s own developer Matthew Somerville — so make sure to have a browse through the schedule for a full picture of what to expect.
And then, we can’t stress this enough: book your ticket, or you might be too late.
When you realise that borrowing ideas is not a sign of weakness, but as Bloomberg Philanthropies‘ James Anderson puts it ‘a badge of honour’, you can really maximise the benefits for cities — and their citizens — around the world.
That’s the thinking behind the Government Innovation programs James heads up: despite the diversity of the world’s cities, it’s undeniable that they are facing many of the same problems, from climate change to low civic participation, from pollution to health issues.
If a scheme in one city is driving forward sustainability, growth or efficiency, why expect others to reinvent the wheel hundreds of times? It makes perfect sense to pass on the findings about what works and what doesn’t to other cities facing similar issues.
Among other initiatives, James is responsible for forging a global network of mayors in 290 cities across 25 countries, to share knowledge and technology around areas as diverse as bike-sharing schemes, measures against childhood obesity and urban sprawl, tackling corruption, encouraging recycling, and many many more.
You can tap into Bloomberg Philanthropies’ vision and James’ own hands-on experience by coming to our conference on the impacts of civic technology, TICTeC. James is the second of our keynote speakers (see Alessandro Orofino, our other keynote here), and we know that he’ll be offering inspirational and tangible takeaways from a perspective that’s highly relevant for our times.
Make sure you don’t miss out: book your ticket to TICTeC now.
Need a bit of inspiration in these turbulent political times? You’ll get it in spades from ‘urban activist’ Alessandra Orofino, the first of our confirmed keynote speakers for TICTeC 2019.
Founder of Meu Rio (My Rio), Alessandra hasn’t just brought about change herself; she first gave 160,000 residents in her native city of Rio de Janeiro the power to do it for themselves, with an array of digital tools that facilitate campaigns, civic engagement and participation, and then went on to found the even more ambitious Nossas to unroll similar initiatives across several other Brazilian cities.
Each calls itself a network of inclusion for a more democratic, inclusive and sustainable city, allowing people to organise around causes and places they care about. The vast majority of its members are in their twenties — as is Alessandra herself.
At mySociety, we talk a lot about giving people the tools they need to be active citizens, and Nossas is a shining example of what you can achieve on that front. Stacy Donahue of Luminate — the philanthropic organisation supporting technology that empowers people and institutions to build just and fair societies — thinks so too, calling Alessandra an inspiring role model amongst investees.
Meu Rio saw early successes such as preventing a school from being replaced by a carpark for the World Cup; and the introduction of a new missing persons system for the police, to deal with a chronic lack of information around a major issue for the city. Now, similar breakthroughs are being made on a regular basis by its sister organisations under the Nossas banner.
If this can be done for cities as large and diverse as Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Porto Alegre and São Paulo, then why not everywhere? Book your ticket for TICTeC now, and learn what it will take to empower citizens in your own locality — directly from one who has done it herself.