Perspective

#GivingTuesday as successful culture hack; OpenBudgetSac; and more.


  • This is civic tech: It’s been a roller-coaster of a week in America, bookended by mass shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and a social service center in California. Our brains and the media nervous system that feeds (on) them are more on edge than usual, it seems. The news from last Friday, that gun sales on Black Friday broke national one-day sales records, reverberated darkly. But reflecting back on the data, and how the media covered that news, I couldn’t help but notice something else: Giving Tuesday, which was founded just three years ago as a response to the mass consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, has taken off like wildfire. It’s far more than a hashtag campaign. Arguably, it’s become the most successful civic tech culture hack of the decade. But the media, so far, isn’t telling that story. To wit:
  • “It’s great to see such positive results from online donations: This is truly a cause for celebration,” Henry Timms, one of the co-founders of Giving Tuesday and the executive director of 92Y, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “In addition, beyond these numbers, there are offline donations not measured here—as well as the impact of volunteer efforts; campaigns that encourage acts of kindness or donations of goods (like food and coats); classroom programs that are growing the next generation of philanthropists; and regional campaigns in towns, cities, and states that generate civic pride and bring communities together around giving. All of those outcomes are equally important measures of success.”
  • In other civic tech news: Code for Sacramento’s civic hackers have launched OpenBudgetSac.org, where a series of visualization tools helps users more easily understand the city’s budget.
  • New on Civicist from our Jessica McKenzie: “A Citizen of the Internet Runs for Office.” She reports on Afro-Netizen founder Chris Rabb, now an adjunct professor at Temple University, who is running for state representative in Pennsylvania.
  • Microsoft’s Matt Stempeck writes for Civicist about a new project to help get civic tech into more college classrooms where students are studying statistics, policy, computer science and related topics: Civic Tech Case Finder.
  • The Pluribus Project and New Media Ventures are calling for proposals that work “towards the goal of fixing our democracy by enhancing the role of people in the process,” offering financial support up to $100,000.
  • Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Evenwel vs. Abbott, a case that challenges the use of the population equality standard for drawing state legislative districts. If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, states could choose to apportion representation by the number of voters or potential voters, which would have the effect of reducing the representation of children and non-citizens. Queens College sociology professor Andrew Beveridge, the president and co-founder of SocialExplorer.com, produced these visualizations to show how radically this would shift representation, district by district, across the country. (h/t Doug Rushkoff)
  • A coalition of more than 40 scholarly publishers, platforms, libraries and technology partners has joined with Hypothes.is to work together on a scholarly framework for open annotation, Dan Whaley blogs. The coalition includes JSTOR, PLOS, arXiv, HathiTrust, Wiley, and HighWire Press.
  • Maxing out: Inside Philanthropy’s David Callahan writes that Pierre and Pam Omidyar and their Omidyar Network deserve taking a victory lap for how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have decided to emulate their approach to philanthropy. (Disclosure: The Omidyar Network and its spinoff, the Democracy Fund, are both supporters of Civic Hall.)
  • Code for America’s Catherine Bracy says, in a symposium in the New York Times online, progressive activists should “relax” and see what Zuckerberg and Chan do with their philanthropy. Government shouldn’t be the sole funder of work in the public interest, she argues. Amen to that.
  • The best part about this new post from Zuckerberg, where he further explains the reasoning behind making the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative an LLC (it can fund nonprofits, invest in for-profits, and engage in policy debates), is reading his responses to random comments in the thread. Zuckerberg is on a two-month parental leave, and his daughter Max naps, guess what he does?
  • Sharing economy news: Lyft is partnering with three Asia-based ride-hailing companies to help it take on Uber, Mike Isaac reports for the New York Times.
  • NYU professor Meredith Broussard takes a closer look at the Airbnb data that the company released Tuesday, and argues that nowhere close to “99 percent” of hosts in New York City are using it as “an economic lifeline,” as the company’s Chris Lehane stated. The data was offered to reporters for viewing by appointment only, an extremely controlled form of “transparency.” (Airbnb held the data viewing at a private event at Civic Hall, where the company is a member.)
  • Respect your elders: Please welcome Stewart Brand, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, the WELL, and the Long Now Foundation, the guy who asked in 1966 “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet” and campaigned to get NASA to release one (which it eventually did), and who assisted engineer Douglas Engelbart with the “Mother of All Demos,” to Twitter.