Hacking Civic Engagement Through Design

It all started with a tweet:

@sf311 GG Park sprinklers on full blast this AM; ground already soaked & mud starting from heavy fog – very wasteful, anything you can do?

Earlier this year, in September, CfA’s Cyd Harrell gave a talk at TEDx Sacramento on hacking civic engagement through design. During her talk she recalls her journey to civic engagement, civic design, and eventually to working here at Code for America. It all started with that tweet (and a foggy San Francisco summer morning). After firing off the 138 characters (and receiving a response), Cyd realized that she, together with the City of San Francisco, could make the city a better place. Truth be told, the talk is her beautifully articulated “Why I’m Coding for America” story.

But more than that, Cyd’s talk makes the case for why good design is essential to the civic space — from discussing why government websites (the purveyors of information to residents) can and should actually serve residents to how the botched design of the butterfly ballot affected a national election. In the talk she also unveils her own three civic design principles (building on to the gov.uk design principles).

Cyd’s design principles:

  • Respect: anything that is designed and produced by a government for its citizens should respect a citizen’s time, respect a citizen’s dignity as a human, and respect a citizen’s abilities.
  • Participation: it isn’t enough to allow it, you must absolutely invite the full participation of everyone who is eligible to participate.
  • Unity: express that in our democracy citizens and government are fundamentally on the same side.

Watch Cyd’s talk:

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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