The nation’s eyes will be on Philadelphia this month for the Democratic National Convention. It’s an opportunity for the city to show off some of the things we do really well.
We’re not talking about citywide specials and soft pretzels. We’re talking about civic tech.
The rise of civic innovation in Philadelphia — a city once deemed “corrupt and contented” — is an evolving success story, and one that has produced real impact in government transparency and civic engagement.
Plus, it’s just downright cool. That’s why good government organization Committee of Seventy, Microsoft Innovation Center and University City Science Center will be hosting American Experiments, a civic tech showcase and challenge held during the convention on Monday, July 25.
The event is funded by the Knight Foundation and will feature demos from 16 organizations. Three of those organizations — GIS mapping company Azavea, civic tech nonprofit Code for Philly and campaign finance appLeverage — are from Philadelphia.
In the afternoon, six organizations will contend in the Microsoft Challenge, a series of fast-paced Ignite-inspired presentations. Organizations will show how their tech will improve the political process — specifically reforming elections — within the next eight years.
The event is an opportunity for organizations to broaden their audience and scope, said Committee of Seventy volunteer Justin Villere, but the convention will also offer an opportunity for civic tech organizations to introduce their field to folks who may be unfamiliar with what a civic tech is.
Er, what civic tech is, rather.
“Companies will show how [their product] works and what you can do to be more involved. That’s the whole crux of it,” Villere said. “We want to make voting and democratic participation something that’s more accessible to the average person.”