Camping in San Francisco? Reset Joins Pitches In with Gov 2.0 Crowd at City Camp

By: Patrick Stelmach

What do you get when you bring together technology experts, government leaders, policy wonks and concerned citizens, who all want to make San Francisco work better?  A boatload of creative, innovative ideas to transform San Francisco into a true Government 2.0 city.

Hosted by Gov 2.0 thought leader, Adriel Hampton, CityCampSF was an "unconference" held at SF Department of Technology this past Saturday to brainstorm and initiate solutions to solve San Francisco's biggest issues. Rather than passively listening to keynote speakers and spiffy presentations like traditional conferences, this unconference was all participant-driven. CityCampers hastily threw out dozens of ideas for apps, policies and projects: establishing legislative priorities for Gov 2.0, releasing real-time data on pollution, creating a wiki of politicians’ platforms, and combining city data and crowdsourcing opportunities in a map, like a real-life SimCity, to name just a few. We split ourselves into breakout groups to figure out how to make these ideas a reality. I joined the conversations about crowdfunding and digital divide.

Detroit Crowdfunded a RoboCop Statue – The Sky’s the Limit for SF

One of the many great new web 2.0 tools and platforms discussed at City Camp was the crowdfunding model, which is gaining traction in these tough times. One crowdfunding success we discussed was the recent crowd-driven public art in the City of Detroit. What started as a quip by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, turned into an all-out internet frenzy: using groundbreaking online tools, a group of dedicated Detroiters raised $50,000 in under 2 months to build a tribute to RoboCop. This is a micro-local use of the crowdfunding model (think Groupon). They asked people to donate any amount: $1 to $313 (Detroit’s area code), and if they didn’t reach the tipping point, no one loses sleep. The RoboFans succeeded and now Detroit will have a statue to rival Philly’s Rocky.

What if San Francisco crowdfunded a statue of Harvey Milk for Harvey Milk Plaza? That would be awesome, but what if we extrapolated this example into something bigger? Would you pitch in $30 for a safe bike lane system or a city-wide wifi network? The possibilities are endless, when a group of committed, savvy citizens come together with a great idea. With every SFGov department facing budget cuts and every new project facing endless red tape, this citizen-powered idea could transform our city and engage communities on a new level. City Hall: step aside.

Bridging the Digital Divide with Classes and Phones

Digital inclusion is much more than just giving computers to those who don’t have them. Universal Internet Access is an important step, but many people don’t even know how to use the Internet. CityCampSF highlighted community resources, like the Tenderloin Technology Lab, that need our strongest support. The Lab is a computer resource center offering classes for everything from using a mouse to designing websites. Most importantly, these organizations help low-income and homeless individuals search and apply for jobs they otherwise would never have been able to find. Gov 2.0 apps and websites are nifty, but bringing everyone into the digital economy is imperative.

There is enormous Gov 2.0 potential with cell phones – after all, some reports show that more and more San Franciscans have one. For instance, text4baby is a free texting service that sends women health tips about caring for their babies every week during pregnancy. For women without adequate health care access and resources, this small thing can make a dramatic impact on their health and their child's life. What if there was a free texting service to help you stay connected to what’s going on at City Hall? You could get text alerts about upcoming SFGov board/commission meetings, votes, and your Supervisor’s contact info. Considering the ubiquity of mobile technology, we could do a lot more to provide meaningful services to make people safer, healthier, and more informed.

SFFire App: Saving Lives and Taking Volunteers

One incredible project is SFFire. It’s a new Smartphone app that maps the location of the nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED) during sudden cardiac arrest and links the victim with rescue volunteers. The San Francisco Fire Department stopped by to talk about the monumental importance of the SFFire initiative. Noting that SF’s cardiac arrest survival rate is a shocking 10%, “this will literally save lives.”

There is a tremendous need for more AEDs in public spaces. Gyms are one area where people are most likely to go into cardiac arrest, but many don’t provide them. The SFFire team needs volunteers to reach out to these public places to get AEDs installed, and also to verify the location of existing AEDs. Throughout the CityCampSF unconference, volunteers worked on developing a second app for this endeavor.

Going Beyond One Meeting of Gov 2.0 Nerds

This event wasn't about fighting city government – it was about opening it up, going around it and making it more useful in people’s lives. CityCampSF empowers and connects people who want positive change with people who have the skills and knowledge to build the tools to make it happen.

During CityCampSF participants submitting their ideas on Twitter with the hashtag #SoSidea and #sfSOS. Starting this weekend, the ideas will become real, actionable solutions through a series of “hackathons”. The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) is launching the Summer of Smart initiative, and over the course of three Urban Innovation Weekends, coders, artists, city employees, teachers, journalists, urbanists and business professionals will be developing solutions to address pressing urban issues. As a San Franciscan, not from the technology or government arenas, just passionate about improving my city, I was incredibly inspired by CityCampSF and the promising innovations to come out of Summer of Smart.

Patrick Stelmach is a Government 2.0 advocate and a future field organizer for the GreenCorps Class of 2012. You can follow him on Twitter at @SFMayorTracker. 


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Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137