Civic Hacking: Pathways for Participation

May 2, 2014
A Facebook banner that reads: National Day of Civic Hacking: To improve our communities and the governments that serve them. Join us May 31st - June 1st, 2014

The National Day of Civic Hacking is actually a weekend. An awe-inspiring two days of collaborative work where coders, designers, writers, innovative thinkers, and data geeks get together to solve problems and build things for their communities.

For the community, this is a fantastic opportunity to get live, hands-on experience talking with and working next to people in a real-time hacking environment.

If you’re thinking about running a competition around data sets or have an idea you want to float to developers, you can do it here first and see what feedback and traction you get, before committing to a full-fledged prize competition.

So, of course, we’re getting in on this too. Thanks to the organizers at, there’s an easy to peruse list of ways you and your agency can get involved.

  1. Express Yourself. Talk, write or tweet about open data and civic hacking.
    • Have your CTO, CIO or collaboration lead write about the value of civic hacking and supporting the event.
    • Write a blog for
    • Join the hashtagged discussion #hackforchange on Twitter.
  2. Listen & Learn. Listen to the community to get a feel for the questions they are asking and what they are talking about.
  3. Attend & Represent. Go to an event and experience it for yourself! We also have several people who are pioneering this work in the federal space who would be happy to reflect with you about how this could be applied to your agency.
    • We anticipate four DC-area events: An Arlington event for the National Science Foundation, an innovation event around the 2020 Census, a local hackathon in DC and Transparency Camp. If you want to join any of these events to observe or participate, contact hello [at]
    • Many local leads across the country have asked for federal support. We’d love to have representatives from your agency visit events anywhere possible.
  4. Give a Little. Offer a dataset, challenge or code to use at the event. What you get in return could be priceless.
    • Data: The organizers are always looking for interesting open data sets to build great applications around.
    • Challenges: Many agencies provide challenges for the community to work on at National Day. This year, we are specifically encouraging inter-agency challenge collaborations where possible.
    • Code: If your agency has open source software projects that the community can work on/contribute to, organizers would love to pull them in.
  5. Host an Event. A program office can host a themed local event focused on your agency content.
    • Both years, the National Science Foundation has held an event at its northern Virginia headquarters focused on its science priorities. The Census Bureau will be hosting an event in DC to source innovative ideas for the 2020 Census.
    • Organizers are happy to connect you to the local civic hacking community if you would like to collaborate for an agency event.

Along with our colleagues Jeanne Holm (Evangelist, and Brian Forde (Senior Advisor to U.S. CTO for Mobile & Data Innovation), we are encouraging and supporting federal agency participation. We’d love to have you bring ideas and content, learn by doing, and get valuable insight on what people are interested in doing with your agency.

Still need more evidence and encouragement? Read Forde’s article about the event and results from previous years.

Comment here, email challenge [at], or contact with your ideas or questions. We look forward to seeing you next month!


National Day of Civic Hacking is an international event that will take place May 31 – June 1, 2014, in cities around the world. The event will bring together citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs together to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to improve our communities and the governments that serve them. Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community.