It's a wrap. Wellington's second Civic Hackathon is over and the teams have produced four alpha products and ideas. A community wiki that collates information from a variety of online sources, a website that empowers those who want to start engaging in the community, a crowd funded ideas management system, and a Reddit like website that allows ideas and issues to be voted on and discussed.
We are in the process of gathering all the links and will publish them as Alpha once in. The four teams worked exceptionally hard over the two days to get ready for a "Dragon's Den" style session at the end of Sunday.
The challenge that we set that weekend was "How do we increase Community Engagement?"
- The community feels that their input into consultation by various local and central government agencies is value less. That regardless of what they submit, they are not listened too. This has created a feeling of apathy and this can be reflected in our appalling turn out figures for elections.
- The councils, some of them, feel that they are spending a lot of time and money on a process that is not working. The Greater Wellington Regional Council says that this is potentially an issue that is more important than transport. They don’t understand why we engage on some things and not others.
- Other Councils have created the problem themselves, the WCC has reduced the number of public consultation staff from around seven, to one. This underinvestment has slowed engagement.
- We have many different residents groups and community groups that simply don’t know about each other. They often have the same ideas and projects, but don’t connect to make that stronger.
- There is poor information about what is happening in our community. From alcohol license applications, resource consents, road closures, public notices, events, hazards, ideas, and a plethora of data, we have no central view of that as a city.
- Lobby groups are seen as unfairly skewing the consultation process. A well organised group can change a consultation outcome through active lobbying while the community feels side lined, or forced to form their own opposition groups.
The first part of the day was collecting all the ideas, challenges, issues, solutions, and reams of data about the challenge.
The overall attendance included all age groups. It was really good to see non-technologists there, though by the end of the weekend we did have some of them signed up and tweeting.
WellComm was a group of four individuals that didn't have a lot of technology experience between them. They created an online Wiki that collates all the data about community organisations, Council data, and the mass of other data. A great achievement.
The second group built a crowd sourced ideas website and application. The website connects people's ideas in the community with resources. So for example, if someone wanted to create a project to plant lemon trees, they would put it on the site with the resources that they think they need. People would then commit to those resources. Whether it be the trees themselves, their hole digging skills, gardening prowess, and so on. The site connects people and resource in a crowd funded way.
The third group built a website called Attractivate. They took on the difficult challenge of dealing with apathy. It is one of the greatest challenges in community engagement and can be seen in the numbers of people who don't vote and don't engage with consultations. The application walks people through submitting an idea and then it educates them on what they can do to progress it, whilst connecting them with other people who are of a similar mind, or could help. It teaches how to make submissions on consultations and connects with examples and resources that can help. It activates and empowers people that want to get involved in community engagement but don't know where to start.
The final group was a bunch of enthusiastic geeks that built a Reddit style website for community ideas and issues. Anyone can post to the site and the issue or idea can be up, or down, voted showing what the community thinks is a priority. This is a particularly good tool for the younger generation and some of us old hacks as well.
The Dragon's Den included the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and four other experienced individuals from the community. Each team had ten minutes to present the idea and take questions. Each team asked for resources to continue to create their ideas and we'll start to plug those groups into companies, organisations, and people that can help.
Again, it was great to see a lot of Wellington City Councillors in attendance asking questions, providing feedback, and one, Simon Woolf, who spent most of the first day working in a team with his sleeves rolled up.
Victoria University also attended and have offered the teams time with THINKTANK, a tool and process that will further allow the development of ideas.
From here Hack Miramar moves on to it's next challenge, the Environment. With dates yet to be set but early planning underway. How do we mitigate climate change? How could we build a cycle way through the city? How do we reduce emissions? How can we create a Smart Sensing City that is driven by citizens? Then, in July, we are helping to organise GovHack, a country-wide hack using government data.
For those of you that want to get involved, join this Google Group It will keep you up to date with the events as they are planned and developed.
Finally, a huge thank you to our sponsors who gave freely and willingly to help the event:
- Karamu Coffee in Petone have given us bags of their coffee to keep people alive and working.
- The WCC provided sandwiches.
- Neighbourly gave us chairs and tables
- NZ Wireless provided us with free internet access
- Coco at the Roxy turned up this morning with jaffas and muffins
- Thundermaps has given us unfettered access to their service
- Beer without borders is providing the end of day refreshment
- Helfen have provided us with an amazing space to work in over the weekend
Hack Miramar is:
Mike Riversdale, Ian Apperley, and Ben Wilde