What Makes a Good Summit Session Proposal?

We’re getting close to the deadline for proposing a breakout session or lightning talk for the 2020 Code for America Summit (11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, October 18, if you’re counting). The content we showcase at Summit is curated by and for our community, and that means we want to hear from you.

We’re looking for submissions from anyone and everyone whose work touches government technology and civic innovation. No matter your occupation or professional level, if you’re improving people’s lives through technology and government you can contribute to the Summit experience. It’s a chance for you to inspire your peers, share your knowledge, and increase the visibility of your work. For more of an idea of what we’re looking for, head to the Summit website, which has some helpful tips and guidelines for proposals.

Want to contribute to Summit? Submit your proposal today.

In case you need more of a helping hand, here are some great submissions we loved from last year’s Summit. They’re not representative of everything we’re looking for across our four tracks, but they’re great examples of good titles and clear descriptions. Sometimes it’s easier to get started writing when you have inspiration, instead of staring at a blank form…

Some of our favorite sessions from Summit 2019

Delivery + Design

Cracking the Toughest Digital Form Design Problems

In the civic tech world we are constantly designing digital forms, and we do this well with simple, reusable patterns that allow us to build form experiences in just a few hours. Despite this, there are some form scenarios that are challenging to design for. How can users easily enter five consecutive years of their travel history—without gaps and overlaps? How should we capture occupational history, while being sensitive to periods of un- or under-employment? How can we be sensitive to users who need to document the death of their child? We’ve come across these scenarios and more designing federal forms for immigrants via U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and for veterans via the Department of Veterans Affairs. This workshop will introduce these and other complex scenarios, and then break participants into groups to work together to design solutions to some tough form design problems.

A Service Blueprint for Successful User-Centered Digital Delivery

Service blueprinting is a powerful tool for user-centered digital delivery. It is a living artifact that describes how a service is provided to end users—and the various actors and processes involved. It aligns cross-disciplinary teams by establishing a shared vocabulary and understanding. It surfaces critical moments, breakdowns, and inefficiencies, and empowers teams to identify ideas and opportunities to deliver better services and meet user needs. Attendees will leave this talk with the tools to run their own interactive service blueprinting sessions within their own organizations.

Civic Innovation + Data

Making a Smart City About People and Outcomes—Not Just the Tech

Cities are booming with interest in how we might use data, automation, and increased connectivity to improve services. But as we are seeing across the globe, bleeding-edge technology alone won’t fix problems, and can actually make problems worse. Solving problems means that we need to understand those problems and the potential unintended consequences of tech—before we talk about how sensors, algorithms, and big data might help. This session will discuss learnings from Austin, Baltimore, and other cities on how government can up its game in partnerships, policy and practices, and civic trust to go beyond the hype of the “smart city” and put residents at the center, particularly with regard to data collection.

Bias in Datasets & Fairness in Machine Learning

We hear a lot these days about biases in algorithms. At the core of these biases is the data which are fed into algorithms. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can’t happen without some initial data to be considered by an algorithm. This session will have a demonstration of how radically different conclusions and insights can be drawn from similar datasets with the same algorithm applied to them. To tackle these complexities, computer scientists create formal definitions of fairness in machine learning. But what if instead of just automating decision-making, we used machine learning to make institutional decisions more just in the first place? In this session we interpret ML as a tool for revealing when and how measures fail to capture purported constructs of interest, augmenting how hospitals, prisons, and child welfare agencies understand their own values and priorities. Machine learning can thus be understood as a form of quality assurance for existing institutions, exposing the epistemic fault lines of their own measurement practices.

Operations + Management

Advanced Mistake Making: A Master Class

You’re going to make mistakes. That’s just the nature of things. As you learn, there will be errors and accidents, slip-ups and inadvertent breakages. What if your goal was to only make new mistakes? Others have gone before you, trying to get to the same place you’re trying to get to. They’ve already screwed up in countless, useful ways. What can you learn from them before you embark on the next attempt to fix your part of government? In this talk, you’ll learn how to preview the worst possible outcomes without actually messing anything up including using discovery to learn from survivors, future casting outcomes to visualize impacts, and mapping the worst possible scenarios to assess risk and cost of getting things wrong.

It’s Not a Technology Problem: Practical Tips for Elected and Appointed Leaders on Effectively Leading Digital Transformations in Their Cities and States

It’s 2019, people expect government to deliver easy-to-use digital services. Does your city/county/agency still run on clunky, outdated and expensive legacy IT systems that urgently need modernization? Are you worried that you lack the in-house talent or budget to avoid a high profile tech project failure. Are you haunted by stories of past efforts to outsource IT projects to one big vendor that blew through the budget and the system still doesn’t work? In this session, we’ll go over the basic concepts of modern software development (user centered design, agile development, and modular procurement) as well as alternatives to the traditional IT procurement approach and practical tips and questions you can use to help reduce risk and deliver valuable services faster to end users and residents.

Technology + Policy

Shaping a Bold Future Through Delivery-Driven Policymaking

Where do human-centered design methods and policymaking intersect? How might designers and policymakers collaborate on policy innovation? Sarita Gupta, co-director of national non-profit Caring Across Generations, will share how reaching far outside the policy realm to the methods of human-centered design has been an essential part of advancing Universal Family Care.

A Seat at the Table: Connecting Policy and Technology for Better Health Outcomes

Policymaking has a much longer life-cycle than modern software development — on the order of years. In the interim, user needs and problems change. How do we get policymakers and technologists in sync and adaptive to changing user needs? In this panel, representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Nava PBC discuss how they connected policy and delivery teams at the Quality Payment Program (QPP), a program that impacts over 34 million Medicare patients and accounts for over $178 billion in payments to doctors, leads to better delivery outcomes. They’ll share best practices, techniques and challenges in getting policy and delivery teams to speak the same language, applying product management and human-centered design best practices to write policy that meets user needs, and getting delivery teams into the policy conversations sooner.

Ready to share your knowledge? Submit your proposal today.

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