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Civic User Testing Group as a Model in Changing the Relationship Between Government and Residents (#cfasummit)
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Civic User Testing Group as a Model in Changing the Relationship Between Government and Residents (#cfasummit)


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Presentation at the Code for America Summit in the context of the "Changing the Relationship Between Government and Residents" panel.

Presentation at the Code for America Summit in the context of the "Changing the Relationship Between Government and Residents" panel.

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  • Thank you. I’m Dan O’Neil, and I run the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. I’m really stoked to be here at the summit to talk about how we made the Civic User Testing Group– the CUTGroup– to help change the relationship between government and residents.
  • At Smart Chicago, our founding partners are the City of Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust. So with two of the leading philanthropies devoted to Chicago and the municipal government itself guiding our efforts, we can do big things fast.
  • Our focus is on Access, Skills, and Data. Access to the Internet, skills once you’re on the internet, and data so that there is something meaningful to use on the Internet. These are the necessary components of civic technology. We’re in a pretty good spot here in the civic innovation sector of the technology industry.
  • Government data is more abundant, lots of developers are interested in the work, and the Internet explosion moves on. I put this picture here just because I like it and I took it (just like all the other shots here). But there is also an odd immaturity to this space we’re in.
  • Government data is balky and lacks fluidity. Developers scratch their own itches and apps often lie fallow. Residents want more info on a whole slew of practical problems, but they often lack the relationships or knowledge to get what they need when they need it.
  • The CUTGroup is a structured attempt to address all this. We start by recruiting residents to test civic apps. They fill out a simple profile, and they get a $5 VISA gift card. In eight months, we’ve signed up 517 people from every ward in the city. We work hard for that kind of coverage by recruiting in traditionally under-represented neighborhoods.
  • We segment our list to find the most relevant residents to test a particular app. If they do a test, they get a $20 VISA gift card and bus fare. We address all aspects of the civic technology system in this comprehensive model.
  • For ACCESS: we conduct all of our tests in the open-- in libraries, health centers, community rooms. One third of Chicago residents do not have broadband internet access at home. We believe this towering fact should inform our work. We also do remote access testing, but getting in close matters to us.
  • Meeting people is situ, where they access our technology inside their communities, is key. This is a common mode of community engagement, except we come as supplicant looking for ways we can change, rather than experts looking to convince them our plan. This is no small difference.
  • Our motto is, “if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work”. This way, we’re *all* developing SKILLS. Everyone learning from everyone else. You can just see the different forms of learning and sharing this pic.
  • And we’re all focused on the app, a shared interface. Literally and figuratively on the same page. Online and IRL, at the same time. We see hope in this model for less heat, and more light.
  • And all of this is about DATA and how the resident will use it. Pure Jacob Nielsen. Asking, watching, listening, intently. What is more engaging than this? To be the subject of the extended gaze of people who want to make things for you. Things that you love.
  • And that’s what we’re after. We’re in the love business. Just like everybody else. If we can’t become popular, in the most base sense of the word, where people crave their connections to what we make or the data we have to offer, in whatever form, then we can’t really be of consequence.
  • And this is why we have to include everybody. And everybody means everybody. And the only way we can do that is by consciously and deliberately developing systems for inclusion. Going beyond our own Twitter ping-pongretweet chambers. Beyond our own wants, beyond our own physical spaces, into a real communion with residents.
  • We think the Civic User Testing Group is one way to get to that. So I thank you for your time. I want to meet each and every one of you, and talk to you about this. Let’s do it.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Changing the Relationship: Government and Residents
    • 2. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 3. Smart Chicago Collaborative • Access: if a resident is not connected to the network, they’re nowhere • Skills: if they don’t know how to coax the Internet, they’re not really anywhere • Data: if there’s nothing meaningful to look at, where does that leave all of us? Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 4. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 5. Development idiosyncrasy • Governments publish lots of great data, but standards are slow in coming • Developers make lots of apps, but often without talking to anyone outside their circle • Residents request access to information, but often it is divorced of structure Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 6. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 7. So we started the CUTGroup • A set of regular residents who get paid to test civic apps • Inside public computer centers (Access) • Where we teach each other about technology (Skills) • And developers hear direct feedback from residents about their products (Data) Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 8. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 9. ACCESS: Engaging in situ • Inside public computer centers– libraries, health centers, community rooms • Engaging not just residents, but librarians and computer IT people • Experiencing these rooms as residents, not just funders or developers or researchers Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 10. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 11. SKILLS: Learning while making • Everyone learns– residents learn about civic apps, developers learn about user testing, governments learn about people care about • Engagement through technology: lasting relationships through shared interfaces • All of this in a different mode of engagement– less heat, more light Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 12. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 13. DATA: Honing our work • Residents are users • Users are everything • This is the most common mantra of startups • We’ve got to make things that people can’t live without • Things that they love Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 14. Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil
    • 15. Let’s do this. • • • @danxoneil • @smartchicago • /smartchicago Civic User Testing Group * @smartchicago * @danxoneil