Our interest was piqued recently by a report released by the Knight Foundation presenting the first mapping of “civic tech” businesses and investments here in the United States. We know that many NCDD members work in or are interested in the high-tech end of public engagement, so we wanted to share some snippets from a great article about the report that we found on the tech blog, GigaOm (you can find the original article here), and to let you know that you have a chance to give your feedback on the report.
So what is “civic tech”, you might ask? Well, it’s not so hard to understand:
Jon Sotsky, the foundation’s director, described civic tech as “technology that’s spurring civic engagement, improving cities and making government more effective.” The field includes a range of private and public organizations, from groups the Knight Foundation and its data analytics and visualization partner Quid designate as “P2P local sharing” (Airbnb) to “community organizing” (Change.org) to “data access and transparency” (Open Data Institute).
And as many of us know, civic tech has been on the rise in recent years, taking on different shapes and being used in many different ways. It is a growing sector, which is why the Knight Foundation set out to map it in the first place:
You might not have heard of “civic tech,” but chances are it has affected your community and its influence will only increase over time. According to a Knight Foundation report released today — the first to track civic tech businesses and investments — the sector has raised $430 million in investments in the past two years and civic tech company launches are increasing 24 percent annually.
The report generated quite a bit of interesting data, and that’s why it came along with a nifty visualization tool:
Users can explore civic tech through a bubble treemap data visualization, sorting by themes, communities and companies. Investments are color-coded as either private investments or public grants and the size of the bubbles depends on the size of investments. As you explore each section, you can see the investment types and amounts as well as several other data points, all of which can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet.
Visualizations of this type can be crowded by the number of nodes they include, but the Knight Foundation does a good job showing the structure of the civic tech field as a whole. Indeed, the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit geared at benefiting media and the arts, is using the information to make its own investment decisions. The intention is that everyone can get a better view of the field, including new startups trying to find their way in the space.
We agree that it is important for all of us to gain a better understanding of this emerging field, so we highly encourage you to check out the Knight Foundation’s report and the visualization tool. But we especially wanted NCDD members to know that the Knight Foundation is looking for feedback on civic tech initiatives or funders that they may have missed in their report:
As with any sector that is measured for the first time, Sotsky admits it is incomplete, which is why they’ve included feedback links for people to add missing civic tech businesses and investments. The intention of the list is to “get a conversation started” so that next year’s civic tech data directory will be more robust.
So if you are connected with a civic tech initiative, funder, or group that you don’t see in the report, you’re invited to email Knight Foundation director Jon Sotsky at [email protected] with suggestions of what may have been missing from this year’s report. We hope that next year’s report will be bigger, better, and more informed by the NCDD community of practitioners!