In just a few weeks, our inaugural class of fellows will be coming together in San Francisco for the first time. These are folks from all kinds of different backgrounds and strengths, who will be spending a year putting their heads together to find creative solutions to civic problems. This is an exciting but challenging task – and we want to make sure they are ready for it with the best possible foundation and tools. That’s why we need your help to put together the Code for America Book List, a set of thought-provoking books to challenge, inspire and inform our fellows’ work throughout the year. Submit your recommendations here.
The emergence of Gov 2.0 is still fairly new, but there have been a lot of great books published in this space between government and technology. Our ideal list will go beyond just strictly Gov 2.0 works, however; it will include works on design, technology, culture, government, and leadership – the areas our fellows will need to be thinking hard and creatively about in order to succeed. We want to build a library the fellows will find useful on a daily basis as they tackle their projects, and inspiring as they think about their careers long-term.
This idea draws its inspiration from the TED Conference’s Book Club, which features works meant to inspire their diverse group of attendees for a more interesting discussion. We share this goal, but our needs only begin with good conversation. Our fellows will come together with varying experiences, perspectives, and talents, but they’ll have to work on the common challenge of making government more efficient and open. They’ll have to find innovative and light-weight solutions to tough problems. They’ll have to collaborate amongst themselves and with stakeholders in multiple organizations across multiple sectors. And in their projects and long after, they’ll have to lead.
We already have in hand, courtesy of O’Reilly Media, copies of Open Government for each fellow. This fantastic compendium, edited by Laurel Ruma and Daniel Lathrop, is required reading for anyone wanting to understand this movement. Another book I’d personally place on the list is Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, which explains in refreshing and surprising ways what’s changed that makes a certain kind of civic engagement possible now. The fact that the term Gov 2.0 appears nowhere in it makes it no less relevant. Anyone hoping to make technology-mediated collective efforts actually work should read this, so it goes on our list. We’d also consider classics like Edward Tufte’s Visual Display of Quantitative Information, for its practical value in helping the fellows communicate their work.
We’re interested in the topics and thinkers that should be lunchroom conversation if we’re to succeed. Our fellows will read these books before and during orientation to provide a shared touchpoint to launch discussion and collaboration, and form a common ground upon which they can begin building their work. It’s our hope that they will be able to return to these key references for support and inspiration as they carry out their projects.
We want your help developing this list. What books have you found enlightening, inspiring, and thought-provoking? What do you think should be required reading for people working in the Gov 2.0 field? Now’s your chance to tell us.
Add your recommendations and thoughts here and help shape the Code for America fellows program.
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