The course will be organized to provide students with the context, techniques, and capabilities to build effective civic technology. Students will build multiple apps, deploy them, and learn about the industry. Pulling from the best practices of the consumer tech industry and the nuances of the civic space tech, the course is organized around four central themes from start to finish in the product life-cycle: 1) identifying opportunities, to 2) developing a conceptual design; 3) wrangling data; and finally 4) delivery. The following list of topics / questions form the arc of the course, which will be spread across 10 weeks.

You can download a pdf verson of the full syllabus and course overview here.

  1. What is civic tech? [Opportunity]
    • Moral, practical, and business motivations for civic technology
    • Relationship between policy and technology for outcomes (eg
    • Landscape review of existing solutions
  2. What’s different? [Opportunity]
    • Government vs Citizens vs Consumers
    • Technical overview of existing systems / languages within government
    • Key cultural distinctions between civic and consumer tech
  3. Who are you building with and for? [Design]
    • Lean / agile development methodologies
    • User research in the civic technology space
  4. How do you get “quick wins”?
    • “Civic hacker toolkit” — simple apps that can be quickly developed
    • Building and deploying database-free apps
  5. What do you need to get started? [Data]
    • Web scraping methodologies
    • Web hosting and deployment
    • Understanding and building Demilitarized Zones (DMZs)
  6. How do you piece things together? [Data & Design]
    • ETLs / Data wrangling (Python)
    • Data warehousing (PostgreSQL)
    • Application development (Javascript / Python)
  7. How do you get to your users? [Delivery]
    • Lean / agile metrics for measuring engagement (ie AARRR)
    • Civic marketing tactics: government “real estate”, upsells, defaults
  8. How do you ensure sustainability? [Delivery]
    • Model: In-house/training vs B2G vs B2B vs B2C; open vs closed source
    • Funding: private, government, foundation, citizen, hybrid

(These technical and operational tactics, generalized, should be useful not only in the development of civic tech, but any product.)