2015 In Review: Much Progress and Many Thanks

OpenReferral_Logo_GreenAs we wrap up 2015, I’ve taken a moment to review our progress over the course of the year. It’s been a long journey with lots of moving pieces, and I’m so inspired by the many people who are playing roles of all kinds in this collective effort to reimagine a safety net for the 21st century. I’ve summarized these developments in this “2015 Year In Review” report.

View the report (or download as a PDF) here.

Over the course of upcoming posts, I’ll unpack the components of this report in greater detail.

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noun_250373_ccIn the meantime, I want to use the final moments of 2015 to give thanks to (some of!) the many people who have made this work possible over the past year.

First of all, I want to thank Jack Madans, Rebecca Coelius, and Preston Rhea — all formerly of Code for America — for their savvy assessments of the challenges and opportunities in this field. Likewise, I’m deeply grateful to CfA’s visionary founder, Jen Pahlka, without whose encouragement this project would never have made it as far as it has. With CfA’s support, we catalyzed this project from a vision into a community of practice.

Thanks as well to the Ohana team for their sharp technical acumen, especially Moncef Belyamani for his work on the Ohana codebase and Sophia Parafina for driving the development of HSDS.

Abiding thanks to Clive Jones, of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems, who is not only a treasure trove of domain knowledge, but is also an all-around exemplary citizen.

I’m also grateful to Hailey Pate, whose practical field-tested insights helped shape HSDS into what it is, and whose critical analysis has helped set the frame for what it can become. And thanks to Nivedita Chopra, a volunteer who built us a validator for HSDS which seems likely to become an essential tool in our kit.

Neil McKechnie of iCarol, Declan Frye of Purple Binder, IV Ashton and Jeff Hogue of LegalServer, and Devin Balkind of Sarapis and Sahana have brought invaluable perspectives of software vendors to our table, and they are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with their implementations of interoperable technologies.

Andrew Benson of Ontario 211 and the crew at Switchboard of Miami have shown great foresight in thinking through how open approaches might transform the 2-1-1 model.

I deeply appreciate the insights of Andrew Nicklin, formerly of open government programs New York City and New York state, now at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Government Excellence. His clear thinking about the value of civic data standards is virtually unparalleled in the field.

Michael Lenczner of PoweredByData has been a great champion and incisive thought partner. In part due to Mike’s tireless advocacy, Canada is a leader in the world of open data.

Many thanks to civic hacker community organizers around the country — especially Justin Grimes, Leah Bannon and Matt Bailey of Code for DC, Steve Spiker of Open Oakland, Noel Hidalgo of BetaNYC, Rebekah Monson and Ernie Hsiung of Code for Miami, Adam Martin of Code for Durham, and Jesse Biroscak of Code for San Francisco, among others — for being so scrappy, clever, and fun. April Steed has led Code for San Francisco brigade through an impressive volunteer project; thanks as well to Scott Mauvais at Microsoft’s Technology and Civic Innovation program for supporting that project.

On a personal note, I’m deeply indebted to the support of a set of invaluable mentors: Christine Prefontaine of Facilitating Change, Eugene Kim of Faster Than 20, Allen Gunn of Aspiration, Phil Ashlock of Open311, Brian Behlendorf, and David Haiman and Marta Vizueta of Movement Matters.

Wise friends have offered indispensable counsel, couches, and other comforts, including Alex Denny and Sandy Stonesifer in DC, and Blaise DiPersia, Vinny Eng, Mark Pike, Sean Leow and Soleio in San Francisco Bay.

It’s been wonderful to work with the folks at Civic Hall — where Micah Sifry, Andrew Rasiej, Erin Simpson, Elizabeth Stewart, Jenn Shaw, Heidi Sieck, Bryan Sivak have each brought vision and life to this project. So exciting to watch a vibrant community emerging there in real time.

I’ve also had the privilege of engaging with some of the sharpest tech-for-good forces around, including the API Evangelist (Kin Lane), Open Tech Strategies (Karl Fogel, Dan Schulz and James Vasile), Open Data Services Coop (Tim Davies and Stephen Flower), Anh Bhui of Benetech, and Dan X O’Neill of the Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Some of the best researchers in the field of civic technology — including Virginia Eubanks of SUNY (and author of the terrific Digital Dead End), Alison Powell at the London School of Economics, Lucy Bernholz at Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab, and Margaret Hagan at Stanford Law School, and Andrew Russell of Stevens Institute of Technology (and author of the also-terrific Open Standards in the Digital Age) — have helped me see the transformative potential for praxis in this field.

Finally, I’m perpetually thankful for the staff at Bread for the City, with whom my own work on this problem began, and where the best demonstrations of the importance of this work can already be seen. Bread for the City is a community of people who’ve dedicated their lives to addressing the effects of poverty and rectifying its causes — and their perspective is precisely that which should start and remain front-and-center in conversations about the potential for technology to help change society for the better.

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