Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

The Pickle Post Cont’d


As noted, I’ve been away. Here’s a quick update on some of the pickles I’ve had in my jar. They’re all wrapping up now, which means more snark is en route.

The Teaching Pickle

I’ve been teaching a class at Georgetown this spring on Technology, Transparency and Accountable Government Under Trump. It’s a mixed grad/undergrad seminar offered at the School of Foreign Service program on Science, Technology and Foreign Affairs. It’s a lot of fun.

The first half of the class has focused on international theory and practice on how technology can be leveraged for increased government transparency and accountability. The Second half looks at how this resonates in the current US political context. Students do work on testing conceptual frameworks for T/TA, and have a final paper or project that evaluates or proposes using tech to address a contemporary accountability problem in the US.

Thinking through these issues together with the students has been a real pleasure. They’ve brought a lot of insights to the way I think about these issues and helped me spot bad habits in my strategic thinking. Thanks too to @corizarek, @jonathanfox707, @SLarrick, @kaitlinbdevine, @digiphile, and Joe Foti at the OGP for being so generous with their time when asked to come and speak with the class, sharing insights and reality checks.

You can see the syllabus here, or email me if you’d like to know more about the class and how it went.

The Evidence Mapping Pickle

My last snark post was extra snarky, looking at the question of why no one is using the civic tech evidence base to design civic tech interventions. We don’t really know if that’s true, but I’m continuing to ask the question. With the generous research support from Lara at the Beeck Center, I’ve also been trying to figure out what’s in that amorphous body of stuff that sometimes gets referred to as “the evidence base.” You can read about the original idea of how to map the evidence base here, and see some notes on the methodology that’s been developed here. I’ll revert with information on the process and outcomes as the effort wraps up in the next couple of months.

The State of Open Data Pickle

There’s a big fat stocktaking afoot. The State of Open Data is a far-reaching, collaborative assessment of how the open data movement has developed over the last ten years. There’s lots of opportunities to give input across on key challenges, domain issues or stakeholder groups. I’m contributing the chapter on civil society.

The Open Contracting Pickle

I’ve been advising the HIVOS transparency and accountability on research strategies and designs for a while, and for the last six months, much of this has focused on a collaborative effort to measure the outcomes of open contracting, using multi-methods and across several countries. It’s been a long process of coordinating unfunded work to develop a research design that meets rigorous standards and organizational strategic needs, but it’s been fun. We’re moving to pilot now so I’ll be less engaged. You can read about the effort and how to get involved here (pt 1).

The Data For Social Good Pickle

I’ve been lucky to get involved with some of the work that the Beeck Center is doing to support data for social good work in US government. Most notably, Hollie Russon Gilman has been convening chief data and information officers from across federal, state and municipal government agencies for a series of conversations on challenges and strategies for leveraging data for social good.

This has involved a series of dinner conversations (see here, here, and here). It’s been fascinating to learn about the institutional and practical obstacles faced by data entrepreneurs inside government, and how they compose strategies to tackle them. The challenges to building institutional cultures aren’t that dissimilar to those facing NGOs, and there’s a lot of opportunity for mutual learning, also in the case of responsible data.

These meetings concluded last week at an event organized in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Opening Governance, and the project will be releasing a CDO Playbook, outlining strategies for civil servants advancing data for good in government projects and processes, where I’ll be contributing a chapter. More soon.

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Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech