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Member of Week – Kevin Curry & CityCamp Story

I’m a big fan of Kevin Curry and the whole CityCamp movement….so thought I would reach out and hear a little a bit about the history of CityCamp and where it is going.

1 – What is CityCamp?

is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations.

Our tag line is “Gov 2.0 goes local.”

2 – Tell us the history behind it. Why was it created? What happened in 2009?

The idea started with a tweet.

But there was a story behind it. In 2009 I went to Sunlight Foundation’s first Transparency Camp. It blew me away. One of the first people I connected most with was Dmitry Kachaev from D.C. OCTO Labs and we talked a lot about using the Web as a platform at the municipal level.

About a month later I went to iStrategy Labs’ & MixtMedia’s Gov 2.0 Camp. It was just as exciting and there I started to hear other people speak up for municipal Gov 2.0 and it really resonated with me. It was also at Gov 2.0 Camp where I met Gina Blaber from O’Reilly and Jennifer Pahlka who was with TechWeb at the time.

A few months later I went to Transparency Camp West at Google in Mt. View. Dmitry was there and so were Jen & Gina. All we could talk about was local. Jay Nath and Kelly Pretzer from San Francisco were also there and shared what was happening in SF. I convinced Dmitry to host a session about what D.C. had done. About 30 people participated, which was about a third of everyone at the event.

We all left TCamp West fired up about municipal Gov 2.0. When I got home I sent out a Tweet: “We should do a City Camp.” Jen retweeted it and added that she would help if I would lead it.

So that’s what we did. Jen & I started planning in October of 2009. About a month into it Benjamin de la Pena from Rockefeller Foundation stepped in and offered to fund the event. The three of us talked on the phone at least every week to work out the logistics.

The inaugural CityCamp was held in Chicago Jan 23-24, 2010. It was success far beyond our expectations. People came from all over the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. CityCamp Chicago was the “gathering of the tribe.” CityCamp was created out of a shared recognition that local is where most people come into contact with government on a daily basis.

3 – 2010/11 is a great year for CityCamp as it grows internationally. Tell us the 2011 plan

We’re still trying to figure out the plan but we don’t let that slow down the momentum. After CityCamp Chicago Jen & I told the audience that it was up to them to keep the movement going. Jen was getting ready to launch Code for America and I had to get back to my “day job” at Bridgeborn. We left Chicago with no plans.

But the online community at the e-democracy forum kept going, more people were joining the GovLoop group, and people were continuing to use the #CityCamp hashtag on Twitter. Peter Corbett did a CityCamp in D.C. because he is a rock star like that. Eventually people started asking me when the next CityCamp would happen or how to help them start a camp in their city. Frankly, I ignored it for a while until I realized how I could respond.

With the help of many friends and in no small part the hard work of Luke Fretwell at GovFresh we launched a CityCamp “open source brand” and world tour. We organized all of the online tools through a WordPress theme hosted at citycamp.govfresh.com, created a pattern and Start-a-Camp guide and put everything in the Creative Commons. Then we connected with partners in cities where we knew there is strong community for local Gov 2.0. Dominic Campbell from FutureGov has been on a mission to start a camp in London, UK.

Now there are camps scheduled in London, San Francisco, the “Front Range” cities of Colorado, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Guatemala City. Boston is online and working on a date. Seattle is not far behind. Phoenix & Tuscon are on the horizon There might be others I’ve forgotten. It’s getting hard to keep up. In 2011 I’d be happy if there was a camp a month. I didn’t even expect to get started again until 2011. But there are going to be at least 4 camps before 2010 closes. People are excited and don’t want to wait.

4 – How do people learn more? Get involved?

Visit the “About” and “Start-A-Camp” pages at http://citycamp.govfresh.com for information. There are wiki pages that start at http://barcamp.org/CityCamp. Join the e-democracy forum and introduce yourself. Join the GovLoop group.

5 – There’s a whole group of great people helping make CityCamp happen. Any shout-outs?

There are so many people behind this. I want to name them all and I hope I don’t forget anyone. Jen and Benjamin, I already mentioned. Steve Clift from e-democracy was the first person to call me. He set up and manages our forum. He was also a huge help running the inaugural. No one would have been fed in Chicago if it wasn’t for Ki Rubin. Andy Graham is the Studio Manager at UIC Innovation Center in Chicago. It is a great space and Andy was wonderful. Joe Ambrosino made the original CityCamp logo. You, Steve Ressler, had the awesome idea of holding a contest for most innovative municipal project. That helped us offer travel stipends to get 4 local gov reps to the inaugural.

Many folks at O’Reilly have been super supportive: Tim O’Reilly, Laurel Ruma, Sara Winge, & Gina Blaber. They’ve helped me work out the language of our terms and donated the citycamp.com domain name. Tim came to Chicago and brought San Francisco CIO Chris Vein. That was a real treat. Luke Fretwell from GovFresh has donated many hours to create the brand and stand up our Web presence. I rely on him heavily. He also spent a good deal of time during and after Chicago editing videos. Ed Davis from e-dem recorded most of those videos. I get great advice from Peter Corbett. I’m grateful to everyone who led a session in Chicago.

Thank you to all of these sponsors: http://barcamp.org/CityCampSponsors And there are some great Friends of CityCamp who are always helping: Code of America, E-Democracy, FutureGov, GovFresh, GovLoop, Hablo Centro, Open Plans, O’Reilly Media, and Sunlight Foundation. Finally, I couldn’t do this without the support of my colleagues at Bridgeborn who let me have the time I need when I need it to work on CityCamp and my wife and daughter who have generously shared some of our weekends together so I can go to CityCamps.

6 – What’s been the most surprising thing since you first had the idea of CityCamp? Favorite stories?

I used to be surprised by how responsive people have been, in the leap of faith taken by those who came to the first event with barely a notion of what to expect. I’m not so surprised anymore because I’ve realized how many people are out there who want to take an active role in civic engagement and, as Tim O’Reilly says, “work on stuff that matters.” I don’t know about a favorite story, but there’s one favorite moment that comes to mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuHViONcb00
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