Open Collective
Open Collective
2022 in Review: Hackers Gonna Hack
Published on December 21, 2022 by Lori McNeill

As the calendar year draws to a close, we are reflecting with gratitude on all of the ways we were able to connect with and serve the global community of change makers in 2022. At the same time, we acknowledge that our rhythm is a bit different than many other organizations in that we are not winding down right now, but ramping up! Our annual summit in November kicks off our yearlong process of promoting the work and ideas of each strategically selected cohort of speakers, diving deeper into the topics covered, and equipping the larger community with knowledge and tools to help them “get to work” on similar issues in their communities.

We are excited to be launching into our program year (November 1 to October 31) with a growing community to serve and collaborate with. The Network grew by ~38% this year: from 398 email contacts to 548. We started hosting monthly virtual meetups in 2022. These online gatherings were not as well attended as we planned, but the verdict is that they are indeed valuable according to the feedback we've received from participants who expressed appreciation for the opportunity to be less isolated, and satisfaction with new contacts made at the meetings.
In Q1, we were delighted to team up with 2021 summit speaker Rich Yap, cofounder of the Karmalize platform, to offer a webinar titled, "What's Going On? Field Report on Socially Responsible Small Businesses". He shared fascinating insights gleaned from the platform, and our director, Lori McNeill, shared some impact measurement tips for those who want to get their social responsibility initiative started on the right foot. The webinar recording remains available for free, on-demand.

Another amazing collaboration we kicked off in 2022 was a fantastic partnership to raise money while inspiring our members and friends to take care of themselves by committing to healthy amounts of activity every day for 100 days. Civic Hacker Network partnered with One Million Steps to pursue our fundraising goals by offering the Network an opportunity to participate in the wellness challenge for free. Our team of million-steppers racked up millions of steps, and we got an encouraging start on fundraising, too!
2022 was a great year for The Civic Hacker Podcast. Investing in help with producing and promoting this awesome free resource has been extremely beneficial. In March we entered a competition called Podca$h, and... we won! The Civic Hacker Podcast was one of over 3,000 entries, so it is an honor to have been selected as a recipient of a cash prize acknowledging the value of the message we're putting out into the world.

The Civic Hacker Podcast is the #1 podcast on FeedSpot's 10 Best Civic Technology Podcasts! Thank you to our listeners and to our incredible podcast guests. So far, Season 2 of the podcast has included 13 highly informative, powerful episodes:
✅ Data Literacy, Black History, and You 
✅ Art, Code, and Black Data Stories 
✅ Hacking DEI in Tech 
✅ Turning Stories Into Data for Change 
✅ Hacking Communication to Prevent Identity-Based Violence 
✅ Identity, Inclusion, and Inspiration 
✅ Q&A With the U.S. Census Bureau 
✅ Using Crowdsourced Data to Spread Good Karma 
✅ Hacking Data Equity with Tableau 
✅ Giving Affordable Housing Access a Digital Makeover 
✅ Bonus episode: Two Civic Hackers Walk Into a Zoom... 
✅ Civic Hacker Superheroes Are Real 
✅ Building a WorkerTech Ecosystem 
We are excited to launch Season 3 of the podcast in 2023 and shine that platform's spotlight on this year's summit speakers. Our next goals for the podcast include increasing participation from the community in the form of more ratings and reviews, and adding more voices from the Network to each episode. We are pounding the pavement looking for sponsors and underwriters, so our DMs are open if you're reading this and thinking about where to put some of your marketing or sponsor dollars in 2023!

Another way we aim to serve the Network is to develop capacity building and educational outreach programs, webinars, videos, toolkits and guides to help emergent local leaders in civic tech and data-centric social good projects make their essential contributions to the field and sustain their efforts toward the change they want to see in their communities. Toward this end, in April we launched a case study project called "History and Housing". One of the goals of the project is to create an interactive digital asset (an ArcGIS StoryMap) that contextualizes information about the creation and dismantling of a Black neighborhood in Redding, CA, along with a companion toolkit that will be freely available to future citizen-researchers who wish to use GIS technologies to illuminate, study, and advocate for an issue in their community. This case study will provide a public service by making a complete narrative of this important local history accessible for the first time, while also teaching participants (to include both students and professionals) an effective model for using data to understand displacement and housing inequity. 
Many thanks to the North State Equity Fund and United Way of Northern California for granting us unrestricted funds in support of this work!

We are still beaming with pride over the Civic Hacker Summit we produced on November 2-4! Each day of the Summit we presented insights from experts and change makers across 5 main themes:
  •  Open: Science, Data, Algorithms
  •  Better Governance Through Tech
  •  Public Problem Solving
  •  Digital Disruptors
  •  Resourcing the Mission
 🚨New for this year, we were able to offer some Spanish language sessions with some of our speakers. This was a tiny step toward increasing our LatAm outreach, and welcoming more participation from the Global South.
We wrapped up each day of the summit with a fun virtual networking session and screenings featuring a couple of our speakers. Caleb Gichuhi is in Peace in Our Pockets, and Grayson Earle created 'why don't the poilice fight each other'. Given the proximity of the summit to Election Day in the U.S., we offered attendees and the larger community the opportunity to see No Time to Fail for free as our closing event. 
It would not be possible to accomplish all of this without the video and audio editing, and writing assignments completed by paid apprentices that I work with through Choose Apprentice, and the thoughtful, strategic communications consistently put out on social media by contractor Eric Johnson. The funds that members, donors, and I invest into Civic Hacker Network cover these expenses to pay for the much needed (and appreciated!) help that keeps us moving forward.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

The main lesson we are reflecting on is that, in doing outreach and fundraising, leads and opportunities take a lot more work to actually develop than we realize. Making the ask and knocking on doors seems like a lot of work, but when people actually say 'yes', or just want to learn more, that is when a different kind of energy and effort is needed. So, we are rethinking our previous focus on mass outreach since we've learned that we don't have the capacity to follow-up in a way that is optimized to convert all of the interest into material support.

Looking Forward

We have some new initiatives we're looking forward to in the coming year:
  • North State Health Equity Datathon: We're planning to run a health-related datathon with a partner in academia in March of 2023, pending funding from a CA state initiative.
  • History and Housing: we're excited to continue to build relationships and collaborate with the many partners needed to properly complete the project. We are already aware of other lines of inquiry that will lead to future phases of this work, so we're excited for the potential to help others in the Network bring some narrative equity into the public perceptions of the histories of more communities.
  • 2023 plans include onboarding global volunteer group to help build the Civic Hacker Network in a more decentralized way, and inviting more heads hearts and minds to actively participate in this movement. 
  • Civic Hacker Summit Resource Guide: we will soon release a test version of a searchable database to help with navigating all of the helpful info we curate for the annual summits. Hopefully the tool will make it easy for the community to access the particular info they need as our library grows.