Hacking for Good& CommunityEngagementJoplin, MO Underwritten By GovLoop, 734 15th St. NW, Suite 500 Washington, D.C. 20005
/Joplin HackathonAbout Joplin HackathonJoplin is a city of 50,000 in the southwest corner of Missouri. from University of Missouri, Southwest Baptist University, andOn May 22, 2011, Joplin was struck by an extremely power- Manhattan, Kansas in the categories of design, community en-ful EF-5 tornado, resulting in at least 161 deaths and more gagement, and emergency management.than 900 injuries. Joplin also experienced extensive damage tocritical infrastructure that provides much needed services to One of the hackers for the event, Tabitha Jarvis who is a sopho-citizens, total destruction of thousands of houses, and severe more at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Missouri, stated,damage to numerous apartments and businesses. St. John’s “When I think of government, I thought it was really highMedical Center and multiple school buildings were damaged up. Now, I see through Joplin that government really wantsby the tornado. to communicate with its community, that they really want to hear from the people who live here and find out what’s best forOver the last year, the Joplin community has come together to the city.”repair its city. Since the tornado struck, over 135,000 volun-teers have been logged and nearly 15,000 volunteers have come Michael Ashford built on Tabitha’s sentiment, stating, “Ourto Joplin from across the globe to work on projects. During the expertise in local government website solutions provides thetornado, the citizens of Joplin relied on the city website and backbone of our donation to the City of Joplin, but the Hack-Facebook page for alerts. The IT staff had to handle content in athon is our way of engaging the region’s talent to contributeseven different sites, and provide mobile access, as most citizens toward a best practice web site that can serve as a model ofdid not have internet access. community engagement for communities around the country and around the world.”From April 27 through April 29, the City of Joplin and CivicP-lus hosted the Joplin Hackathon to work on rebuilding Joplin’stech infrastructure. Using crisis management lessons learnedfrom the tornado and a year of rebuilding, the city had a listof needs for a more modern web infrastructure. Michael Ash-ford, Community Engagement Evangelist, CivicPlus, stated,“The City of Joplin has dedicated their resources to managinga complex cluster of seven websites to meeting the demands offourteen city departments, including the fire, police and publicworks departments.”During the Hackathon, nine teams competed over the week-end to help create the digital townhall for City of Joplin. Afterforty-eight hours of brainstorming, designing, and developing,the projects were finished and presented to the judges. Aftertough deliberation, the judges awarded prizes to participantsBased in Manhattan, Kansas, CivicPlus has designed over 1,100 local government websites that serve nearly 42 million citi-zens throughout North America. Civic Plus was recently acknowledge as a recipient of the Center for Digital Government’sBest Fit Integrator Award for delivering extraordinary digital solutions to public IT projects. CivicPlus transforms municipalwebsites into powerful two-way communication platforms that lets citizens talk to and participate in local government. Formore information visit the CivicPlus website.
/ Joplin HackathonHackathon LessonsThere are many approaches to creating a city hackathon buthere are three key characteristics that I was really impressedwith during the Joplin Hackathon.Engage with City LeadersIt is really important when working on any innovative projectto get buy-in from leadership who would use the new tools.Before the event, CivicPlus spent time with the City of Joplinand worked on developing city requirements that they pro-vided for all the teams. They varied from use cases, specificexamples of other sites they liked, and process flows.I was particularly impressed with the level of buy-in at the City Many of the developers on the teams either were personallyof Joplin. Both the city PIO and city IT leader were not only at there during the Joplin tornado or had family members thatthe kick-off and closing events but literally stayed throughout were there. Thus, they developed use cases based on citizenthe weekend. They stopped by groups, attended meals, and needs, whether it was how they had trouble tracking down fam-shared their interest. ily members or remembering that phone calls weren’t working so they had to rely on text.Additionally, a number of other city leaders played large roles.The incoming mayor spoke at the kick-off while current mayor Additionally, teams actually walked the city and talked to po-spoke at the closing award ceremony. City officials from fire, tential users. I was particularly impressed with the team frompolice, and recreation departments stopped by throughout the Southern Baptist University. They spent two hours the firstweekend to provide content suggestions for their sections. night walking the streets of Joplin talking to a wide range of citizens from youth to elderly, working to identify what thereEngage with Citizens main issues were with how the city uses technology.When you are building tools to engage with citizens, it is amaz-ing how often city officials and developers forget to actually Give Structured Freedomtalk to the citizens of the area. Too much structure limits creativity. No guidance and it be-Three Lessons for Running a Hackathon comes hard to know where to start. I liked the structured free- dom provided in the hackathon. There were three categories• Engage With City Leaders of winners – design, community engagement, and emergency management. The categories were broad enough that teams• Engage With Citizens could come up with a range of solutions but focused enough to give guidance.• Give Structured Freedom Teams were provided with pre-reading materials that allowed some preparation of ideas but the real magic happened at the event during crunch time. “This Hackathon is truly amazing. So much is being done in so little time – I’ve been maintaining 7 websites housing all this content and now, we’ll be able to house it all within one website with various departments being empowered to man- age their respective areas of content – from an administrative perspective as well as from a citizen feedback perspective,” - Mark Morris, Director, Information Systems City of Joplin 2
/ Joplin HackathonWhy Hackathons MatterThe impact of hackathons can be huge. Over the weekend, ernment websites, ranging from frequency of content updatesit was so impressive talking to the IT director at the City of to digital communication tools, online services, and advancedJoplin. I especially found it interesting listening to his stories community engagement portals. When assessment is com-of how he has worked really hard to make the city technology plete, information is aggregated and a stage of digital commu-as great as it could be, but he is one person and it is impossible nity engagement is assigned with recommendations on how toto do everything. reach the next step of engagement.You could truly feel the impact of the hackathon when he The purpose of rankings like this for me is to provide a basicmade a moving speech where he choked up and discussed how gauge – it shows roughly who is doing digital engagement welleveryone had made an impact in the future of city of Joplin. and it provides a mechanism to celebrate those excelling. Also, rankings produce an incentive for those at the bottom of theIt was powerful to see that building technology infrastructure scale to focus attention on digital engagement to craft a strat-that helps the city is just as an important volunteer task as egy to move forward.handing out food or rebuilding homes. A modern communi-cation infrastructure isn’t just nice to have, but essential. As CivicPlus Vice President Jesse Manning noted: citizens ev- erywhere are demanding better engagement with their local“My favorite part of this event is having the opportunity governments but “Quantifying a community’s level of engage-to serve. I didn’t have any other way to help Joplin so this ment on the web poses a challenge to government staff,” saidHackathon was a nice way to help out. Through CivicPlus, Manning. Like any survey, there can be debates if the ques-I learned that a lot of governments are using new technology tions are perfect or the scale is 100% foolproof, but the impor- tant part is it starts a conversation within an agency, betweento reach out to its citizens, and after talking with citizens on citizens and agency about community engagement.Friday night, we heard they wanted a way of getting infor-mation quickly – that inspired us to create our pop-up win-dows with important messages that citizens could either closeor click on for more information.”- Rachel Johnston, Junior at Southwest Baptist UniversityFuture of Community EngagementThe future of community engagement is finding new ways toprovide citizens a way to engage with their citizens. For hun-dreds of years, governments have solicited feedback from itscitizens – now the trick is learning how to engage during atime when technology is rapidly evolving from Facebook totext messaging to YouTube and more.In times of shrinking budgets, community engagement can beeasy to cut. Community engagement is essential to any well- GovLoop’s mission is simple: connect government to improverun democracy. By getting buy-in and feedback early on from government. We aim to inspire public sector professionals by acting as the knowledge network for government.citizens, we get better solutions and better run cities. GovLoop serves more than 50,000 members by helping them toThat’s why I’m excited by the new Digital Community Engage- foster collaboration, learn from each other, solve problems andment Scorecard launched this week by CivicPlus, which helps advance in their government careers. The GovLoop communitymunicipalities and counties gauge the effectiveness of their cur- has been widely recognized across the public sector -- federal,rent online communications and learn what steps they can take state local, industry and academia -- as a leading site for address-to achieve higher levels of community engagement. ing public sector issues.The Digital Community Engagement Scorecard starts the dia- GovLoop is the largest government niche network of its kind andlogue for measuring digital engagement by having a 1-6 score- boasts an extremely engaged membership that create or com- ment on nearly 1,000 blog posts and discussion forums everycard of stages of digital community engagement based on a month.series of questions that explore various elements of their gov- 3