Summit Preview: Civic Innovation + Data

Get a sneak peak of the events, speakers, and themes in the Civic Innovation + Data track of the 2021 Code for America Summit
“Civic innovation and data track deep dive” is written in white font on a purple background next to a picture of someone with arms raised wearing a Code for America jacket

Code for America’s 2021 Summit is happening May 12-13 with pre-Summit workshops on May 11. This year, our speakers will lead sessions in four tracks: Design + Delivery, Civic Innovation + Data, Operations + Management, and Technology + Policy. In this preview, we’ll be focusing on Civic Innovation + Data. This track will help you learn how new (and not-so-new) technology helps government connect with people, why learning from lived experience is at the forefront of innovation, and what you need to know around data governance, data strategy, ethics, and privacy. To find out more, we spoke with track lead Tyrek Shepard, a member of the National Advisory Council for the Code for America Brigade Network, and content committee co-chairs Arlene Corbin Lewis and Ryan Ko, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer and Chief of Staff at Code for America, respectively.

Help us get everyone on the same page. What does Code for America mean when it says “Civic Innovation + Data”?

Over a decade ago, Code for America was founded on the belief that government can work for the people, by the people, in the digital age. Core to this belief is the idea that innovation in government comes not only from technologists but from all parts of government. Indeed, many creative breakthroughs happen across the government space, at all levels and in all agencies.

Innovation does not just mean cutting-edge technology. Rather, innovation simply means taking the initiative to come up with creative solutions to improve how government serves people. This could mean creating new channels of collaboration across departments—such as sharing data or integrating decision-making between agencies. This could also mean transforming a compliance-oriented process into an outcomes-based one, or figuring out ways to present information to the public in an accessible and easily digestible way. At our core, we believe that innovation can come from anyone and anywhere, and this track highlights that.

What makes this track particularly relevant right now?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to react in new ways to meet the needs of impacted people. It has forced a reconsideration of what equity truly means in government service delivery. Simultaneously, a global reckoning around racism in public systems and services shined a spotlight on questions that have been raised for decades (if not centuries) but left largely unaddressed. We saw the transition of a US presidential administration be met with a violent reaction from supporters of the outgoing president. All of these issues and many more crosswinds have sparked a renewed interest in how civic innovation can drive government to provide more equitable and just outcomes. In the coming weeks, months, and years, governments will be challenged to move fast, react effectively to crises, collaborate, communicate transparently with the public, and transform how their work gets done… all things that we’d consider innovation.

Who would benefit from attending sessions in this track, and what unique value does this track add to attendees’ Summit experience?

We hope that anyone interested in creative problem solving across government attends sessions in this track. This track is not just for technologists at the cutting edge of research and development—it’s for anyone interested in being a change agent who pushes government to better serve all people.

Want to see more of the Civic Innovation + Data track? Check out all our session descriptions here or browse through a sample of sessions in this track below:

  • Data by the People, For the People: How Transit Agencies are Using Data for Equity
  • Open Data and COVID-19: Applying Science and Technology to Build Greater Health Equity
  • Using Google to Lift Up Accurate, Relevant, Up-to-Date Information: Best Practices for Governments
  • Data-Informed Product Management: Creating a COVID-19 Dashboard to Help Enhance Digital Service Delivery

Hear from speakers in government, non-profits, and the private sector, like: Tiasia O’Brien, the founder of Seam Social Labs; Kristen Honey, Chief Data Scientist and Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Kevin Hoffman, Digital Services Expert at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs / U.S. Digital Service. These speakers and many more are eager to engage with you!

Still haven’t signed up for Summit yet? Don’t worry! Tickets for the 2021 Code for America Summit are on sale through May 13, with tickets for pre-Summit workshops available until May 4. Register for Summit and workshops today.

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