The World of Civic Tech and Civic Engagement
Definitions of 'civic tech' vary, but all agree that it entails using the ever-emerging technological tools to support engagement among members of a community (local, state or federal), among governmental representatives and between members of these two groups.
It's almost impossible to catalog all of the for-profit, non-profit and governmental efforts in the civic tech space (see the Knight Foundation's interactive presentation of the size and nature of prominent civic tech organizations between 2011 and 2013, here). Our friends Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej at Civic Hall (through their editorial arm Civicist) publish a daily update on critical happenings in the civic tech space; we've found it to be an invaluable resource for keeping up with these efforts and ensuring that we're up to date.
Some civic tech efforts are 'top down', with an entity (governmental, institutional or corporate) driving discussion and soliciting input. Others are bottom up, with issue-focused groups gathering support and sending feedback to governmental agencies in the form of petitions or other targeted mechanisms. Still others provide a platform for discussion among individuals, with an open attitude towards outcomes and processes.
Underlying all of these efforts is the necessity for people to actually engage with one another, with technology as only a means to an end. We believe that a true change in our democracy can only be achieved when citizens decide to dig in, understand the issues, disagree with one another, listen to opposing opinions, and find a way forward. At Big Tent Nation, we're focused on those issues that impact national and individual prosperity: K-12 Education, Infrastructure, Governing for Prosperity, and Innovation to name a few. Because these areas effect all of us, we believe that Americans are capable of true, sustained engagement, even when they disagree.
Those efforts that encourage citizens to put aside differences long enough to listen to one another and work towards a more inclusive, engaged government are those that will move the dial in terms of a 21st century democracy. In this news feed, we'll be writing about those efforts, and identifying the different aspects of civic technology, civic engagement and government process that are facilitating this type of meaningful change.