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. Reflections on TICTeC Labs: did we unlock civic tech impact?

    If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you’ll have seen a series of new projects rolling out over the past few couple of months: these are the concrete outcomes of the TICTeC Labs programme. You can access them all here.

    TICTeC Labs was a new and, in retrospect, quite bold project for mySociety, involving many moving parts, the generous participation of people from a huge variety of organisations, and with collaborators in several different countries — and crucially, support from the National Endowment for Democracy.

    Last week, in a final wrap-up event, we looked back on the programme as a whole, with presentations from our subgrantees and reflections from the steering group. If you’d like to watch for yourself, you can do so on YouTube, and there’s a transcript here (automatically generated, so be prepared for some typos etc).

    The process

    Each TICTeC Surgery began with a question and ended up with a finished product or service several months later. At any one time, the six projects would be at various overlapping stages, from the initial discussions, to the Action Lab deciding what and whom to commission, to the work being undertaken and finally launched.

     

    The TICTeC Labs process - each of six topics leading to an output, via a working group

    Click to see at a larger size

     

    Despite this complexity, and thanks to the hard work of so many, each project was completed on time. Each one is a solution to an identified issue within the global civic tech community. And the benefits don’t stop there: everything is open source, and can be accessed, used or replicated by any group that may need them.

    Outputs

    The wrap-up event began with presentations from the groups who had created these final outputs:

    People Powered, on showcasing public-private civic tech success stories. Pam Bailey spoke about the importance of placing a human interest strand at the centre of the stories we tell. The output for this Surgery was a set of case studies highlighting notable examples of such projects.

    Technoloxia, on a toolkit to help the global civic tech community fix common accessibility challenges. Yosr Jouni described the challenge of making a topic like accessibility both fun and indeed accessible in itself. The output here was an online, illustrated guide that’s available to all.

    Open North, on data governance and quality. Christian Medina described how they used the international scope of the Labs to ensure that their offering was relevant to everyone, not just the global north. The resulting online course is in French and English and free for anyone to access.

    Fundación Multitudes, on storytelling and reach. Stephani Paliza also shared thoughts on how they ensured their output would be relevant to communities anywhere in the world. Their offering was in the form of training for civic tech organisations across several continents, equipping them with effective tools to get stories about their projects and successes into mainstream channels.

    The Demography Project, on driving impactful societal change. Richard Muraya described some crucial outputs around water in Kenya: educating, monitoring, and ensuring better water quality during a critical period for the country. The President of Kenya even attended their event for World Wetlands Day. You can see more about their several digital outputs here.

    Policy Lab Africa, on civic tech in hostile environments. Charles Ikem described how, in just two months, they were able to map a huge amount of data showing where polling stations — often just unremarkable addresses in rural areas — were located, and launch an app for reporting electoral violence in time for Nigeria’s presidential elections.

    Reflections

    mySociety’s Chief Executive Louise Crow and Steering Group members Isabel Hou and Matt Stempeck discussed to what extent the programme had met its aims to ‘strengthen civic tech networks and the exchange of ideas’, and ‘develop new initiatives and collaborations that expand the civic tech evidence base, address issues and challenges facing the sector, and enhance the effectiveness and potential impact of civic tech projects.

    Matt encapsulated our thoughts neatly when he said: “The value of the unexpected community that was built in this process was important — so the direct, formal partnerships; but also, seeing who’s doing what, the diverse approaches to similar challenges, while at the same time finding that community.

    “People really liked the ability to have repeat engagement on the theme and the ability to keep working on things over time rather than one off events.”

    Finally, a Q&A allowed audience members to add their thoughts. This is a programme that’s been all about knowledge-sharing, and it’s notable that this spirit also persisted in our conversation: already, participants were talking about more translations of some of the assets, and invitations to speak at planned global conferences.

    Everything we learned during the TICTeC Labs process will be very useful as we consider the next phase of TICTeC and what form its offerings will take as we go forward. This event allowed us to take a step back and understand our progress, learnings, and lessons for future programmes.

  4. Amplifying our successes beyond the civic tech community

    Fundación Multitudes have created and delivered training for civic tech organisations in how to get stories about their projects and successes into the mainstream media. Funded by our fourth TICTeC Labs subgrant, the initial training took place from December 2022 to February 2023, with ten participants from Indonesia, Macedonia and the Philippines. 

    At our fourth Civic Tech Surgery, we discussed storytelling and reach — the challenges of amplifying our successes beyond the civic tech community —identifying that communications can be difficult for civic tech organisations. Organisations are often small, work is complex and full of jargon, and communications are sometimes seen as a luxury or an afterthought. One impactful solution suggested was training, and the Action Lab commissioned Fundación Multitudes to create this eight-week course. 

    The organisations joining the training wanted to:

    • develop attractive campaigns for their organisations
    • meet and share experiences with other organisations
    • learn about storytelling tools and strategies

    Their needs were met by modules on:

    • Media mapping and media tracking
    • Press kit and media management
    • How do we elaborate our discourse, editorial line and expressions on contingency?
    • Design of a micro action plan for a specific programme or campaign

    Participants really valued the opportunity to share experiences and learn how other organisations had met the challenges of sharing their stories. They are continuing to engage with the programme via a mailing list which connects them so they can exchange information, share experiences and build partnerships, plus a follow-up newsletter with relevant information on storytelling and reach, grant opportunities and success stories.

    Fundación Multitudes plan to continue to develop and deliver this training – view the course content here (PDF). 

  5. Maai Makwa: civic tech for water monitoring, education and conservation

    Maai Makwa is an open source, open data and public domain project from The Demography Project, Kenya, and it’s the outcome of our fifth TICTeC subgrant.

    Our fifth Civic Tech Surgery discussed the question of how the civic tech community can learn from, and contribute to, climate action, to drive impactful societal change. The subsequent working group commissioned The Democracy Project to establish Maai Makwa (indigenous Kikuyu language for My Water): a water quality and quantity monitoring project integrated with practical civic education to empower individuals, households and communities in Kenya to participate in freshwater conservation and sustainable water resource exploitation. 

    Kenya is classified as a chronically water-stressed country by the United Nations. Population growth, growing agricultural water use, frequent droughts and mains supply disruptions all increase the difficulties of accessing and preserving water.

    Through this project, the Demography Project have developed:

    • An interactive Water Cost Calculator to enable Kenyans to understand the full cost of water services from all 81 water companies in the country
    • A compilation of national and local water laws and regulations
    • In-person forums in vulnerable communities to help them understand water rights and contribute to water conservation
    • A real-time Water Distribution calendar
    • Collaborations with higher education institutions, recruiting eight student climate champions who conducted field research on water supplies in their regions and authored stories on their findings
    • The deployment of low-cost, compact, modern meteorological kits and water monitoring devices to communities 

    The project was showcased at World Wetlands Day celebrations, and collaborations with local youth groups recognised by a visit from the President of Kenya, Dr William Ruto.

    As a result of this work the Demography Project have entered into fourteen partnership/ membership agreements with local and global organisations working in freshwater conservation and youth networking. They continue to develop the project, with plans in progress to translate the content and tools into local languages. 

    We’re impressed by this extensive set of outcomes and we hope that it will help bring about solutions for the water issues of the region.

    To find out more about Maai Mawka:

  6. TICTeC Labs output: the Election Violence Tracker

    Our sixth TICTeC Labs surgery has enabled the creation of a new open source tool for Nigeria and beyond: the Election Violence Tracker (EVT). 

    The TICTeC subgrant allowed PolicyLab Africa to launch this project, an open-source reporting tool that enables citizens to document and report violent incidents during Nigeria’s elections. The idea is to empower people to independently create, confirm, and track violent incidents in real time during the election season — and more importantly, provide a lasting data resource for journalists, election observers, activists and civil society.

    As discovered during the initial TICTeC surgery, the global civic tech community often faces challenges from working in hostile environments. These range from government resistance to operating in conflict and post-conflict societies. After that initial discussion focused on ways in which organisations can thrive in challenging contexts, the subsequent Action Lab agreed to commission a piece of work which repurposed existing software to benefit civic tech organisations working in hostile environments.

    EVT uses the Independent Electoral Commission’s polling unit location data to track and map locations of electoral violence in Nigeria; and OpenStreetMap to geolocate each polling unit address and enable user identification to verify report locations. Reports, which can include photos or videos, are visualised on a map and the data collected is openly available for download and export.

    The tool has already seen use. During the Nigerian elections on 25 February, 59 cases of violence were reported via the EVT. The tool will be deployed again for the State and Governorship elections in March. PolicyLab Africa plan to continue to make improvements and hope to expand deployment to other countries to make more data available on electoral violence across Africa.

    All code and documentation is open and available on the PolicyLab Africa GitHub repository for other organisations to use and adapt. 

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.