Notes from the Code for America Summit

Illustration of a group again one non-recycler.

I recently attended a conference that brings together innovators from hundreds of government agencies across the U.S.

The 2015 Code for America Summit attendees also included civic-minded technologists, designers, community organizers, and entrepreneurs. The theme of the conference was “Transforming Government for the 21st Century.”

I was at the conference to talk about My Building Doesn’t Recycle, a web app that crowd-sources resident reports of recycling noncompliance, and it helps to gauge how much recycling isn't happening in Chicago. I developed this project at Chi Hack Night, a weekly meet-up where people can build, share, or learn about civic technology. My role focused on UX design and project management, and I collaborated with two developers from hack night to create the app. I wanted to share how defining a project strategy and using UX design methods lead to a web application that has impacts a variety of audiences: residents, policymakers, and the media.

I participated in two presentations during my time at the conference. The first one was a Microsoft-sponsored panel entitled "Communicating with Citizens Using Data Visualization." It included 5 speakers who have harnessed data visualization to communicate with audiences in the areas of government transparency, transportation issues, urban planning, and environmental resiliency. During my part of the panel, I discussed how I chose the amount of data shown in My Building Doesn’t Recycle’s map. I also discussed how I conducted user research to help inform the design, content, and functionality of the app.

I co-presented with Derek Eder, the lead organizer of Chi Hack Night for the second presentation,"Lessons from Organizing Chi Hack Night." Derek showcased what makes Chi Hack Night a successful and well-attended event ,while I used My Building Doesn’t Recycle as an example of a project that was incubated and developed within Hack Night.

In my next post, I will go into detail about one presentation that resonated with me. The Next Generation of Civic Designers was a presentation given by Dana Chisnell, a UX Researcher with the United States Digital Service. Dana’s talk has some powerful lessons for those of us who are designers or who work with designers.


Claire Micklin