Captaining America

New civic literacy platform; Countering disinformation; Gig econ blues; and much more.


This is civic tech: Oh look, a famous Hollywood actor has launched an online civic engagement platform! No, I don’t mean Edward Norton, who co-founded CrowdRise to help good causes raise money but mostly made money for itself. It’s Captain America star Chris Evans, who comes from a political family, as this gushing profile in Wired by Arielle Pardes explains. His effort, A Starting Point, aims to be an “online platform organized into tidy sections—immigration, health care, education, the economy—each with a series of questions of the kind most Americans can’t succinctly answer themselves” and with the answers provided by politicians from both sides being interview by Evans in short videos. The site also makes it easy for users to look up their representatives, find their videos, and contact them directly. Evans’ effort, which he and his partners appear to have already sunk millions into, earned him the cover Wired’s February issue. It’s a shame Evans is wasting his money on this well-intentioned effort, which will go nowhere for all the reasons there is a Civic Tech Field Guide Graveyard.

Attend: A fireside chat with Glenn Rodriguez after a screening of Algorithms Rule Us All on the topic of “Algorithmic Injustice: How I Fought to Win My Freedom After Biased Software Denied Me Parole,” Weds January 29 at 6:00pm at Brooklyn Law School.

Apply: First Draft News is launching its 2020 Local News Fellowships, offering intensive training on tracking and countering disinformation, along with a $20,000 stipend, managed by Nancy Watzman, formerly the director of the Colorado Media Project. The fellowships, which are supported by the Democracy Fund, aim to place at least five paid local news fellows in US communities expected to see large amounts of information pollution in this election year, such as Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.

The Civic I/O 2020 pitch competition is open for applications; it’s a great opportunity to get your ideas in front of many of America’s leading mayors.

NYC’s New Lab, in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation, has launched Circular City, an open call for start-ups to use tech to help achieve the city’s sustainability goals.

Brave new world: “In practice, the ‘be your own boss’ promise of the gig economy instantly vanishes the moment you take on a gig job: It is, instead, a system that relentlessly dictates your schedule,” Lia Russell writes for The New Republic, in a searing piece about what life is like for many people living in Silicon Valley’s shadow.

Food for thought: Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic on how Silicon Valley has abandoned the start-up.

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