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  • Writer's pictureCivStart

Tech for Gov: A Model of Community-led Tech Change

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CivStart is proud to welcome three experienced and visionary new board members to our Board of Directors: Dr. Peter Pirnejad, Niles Friedman, and Joel Carnes. Read more

TRAILBLAZERS Citibot & CitizenLab were awarded contracts under NASPO Valuepoint's shared public procurement system.

By being awarded this shared RFP, they can now be procured by many state and local governments without the hassle of an RFP process.

Qwally has entered into a partnership with the City of Rochester

Qwally will support the city's local business support, especially focused on minority and women-owned businesses.

CitizenLab has partnered with the New York City Office of the Public Advocate on an exciting engagement project around tech innovation.

The virtual launch event for this program is this Monday! Read more in Let's Chat below.

ClearRoad raised $2.35M to accelerate their work on the future of road-pricing.

GOVTECH TRENDS The awesome folks at Government Technology discuss the most recent govtech trends.

Make sure to check out the National League of Cities' State of Cities 2021 report.

LET'S CHAT The People's Tech Assemblies is a project of the New York City Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) in partnership with the Manhattan Borough President's Office, BetaNYC, New America Public Interest Technology program, Cornell Tech, and CivStart. It is a project that utilizes an organized 8-week program to listen to residents across New York on their concerns and leverage their ideas for how technology does, can, and should play a role across several different topic areas.

CivStart asked John Katt of the NYC OPA office, and Kate Nicholson of BetaNYC about their vision for this project.

CS: When and why did you decide to start organizing The People's Tech Assemblies?

JK: Throughout our work advocating for the issues facing New Yorkers, the major role that technology and data has through all those issue areas is undeniable. To better advocate for our constituents, our office is excited to partner in the launch of The Peoples' Tech Assemblies in order to provide a space for all New Yorkers to share their issues and ideas together in order to enact progressive changes in how technology and data is used throughout our city.

CS: What role will the residents of New York play in creating the solutions to the challenges they identify?

KN: Residents should be at the center of government problem-solving and decision-making processes. We hope that by experimenting with new engagement platforms, NYC residents can help define a process that works for them— where their needs are more easily identified and where NYC stakeholders can better serve them.

CS: Are you looking to any particular models and past lessons for this project?

KN: Understanding peoples’ needs for effective service delivery isn’t new. The private sector does it really well and people expect that same level of service from government in the 21st century. We are inspired by government transformation, participatory design processes and grassroots movements in the UK, Spain and Taiwan (among many other places). We also appreciate and are building upon NYC's own history in distributive democracy.

JK: As governments at all levels are looking to leverage "innovation" and technology to provide 21st century service to our communities we are striving to ensure that throughout the assemblies and any resulting problems that require solutions using technology or data, that we always center our communities throughout the process to ensure equity, inclusion, and transparency.

CS: What, in your eyes, would be a dramatic success to come out of this project?

KN: A dramatic success? If NYC communities who have not historically had a place at the table, get a place at the table and feel like the government is working for them and not against them. Less dramatic— BetaNYC looks forward to using what we learn from NYC residents to update BetaNYC’s policy roadmap for the next decade.

JK: Through the Peoples' Tech Assemblies we are looking to gather insights and stories from a diverse and truly representative body of New Yorkers in order to better advocate policy or procedure changes, introduce legislation that will safeguard and use technology for all New Yorkers, and change the way our city implements solutions to the issues we are facing. When we start by defining the problem and centering the impacted communities, we can craft and implement solutions that will serve our city in an inclusive and equitable way.

Follow the People's Tech Assemblies here. Attend the virtual launch event this Monday!


“The last words of a dying organization is we have never done that before” - Kevin Limehouse

This month we launched our first government spotlight session. This activity is an opportunity for startups to hear about priorities and challenges from local leaders from across the country. If you are interested in participating as a government leader, get in touch.

For this engagement, we were joined by Kevin Limehouse, Innovation Officer for Public Services, from Charleston County, SC.

Here are some key takeaways from the session:

  • For government leaders, try not to be rigid in the way you do things. Try to be adaptable and fluid.

  • Community engagement is a top priority and government officials need to be accessible for their residents to engage.

  • Partnerships are important to strengthening innovation and building communities. Charleston has developed a stronger partnership with NASA and now NASA has a presence in the county with the development of a center of excellence. Check out CORE SC

  • For startups, finding public champions, nonprofits, and professional organizations is a good way to get your solution in front of government officials. Associations like NACo, ICMA and NLC (and CivStart!) are great resources.

  • Startups tying into existing infrastructure and products will put them in a better position for an opportunity. Not being able to plug into existing systems will slow everyone down.

  • Pilots are a great way for startups to gain entry into the county.


  • ClearRoad - Mobile Developer MEAN Stack

  • The Atlas - SaaS Sales Rep.

  • Nearspace - Senior Software Engineer

  • Montgomery County, MD - Civic Design Lead

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