For the last two years, I've immersed myself in a project, building cultural change around emergency preparedness and education. My collaborators, both on staff at SFDEM and the contractors (IDEO & Kate Harris/Robin McIntosh of Siren Design) we've worked with have been amazing. This week we, at SFDEM, will launch City72, the open source initiative for our public preparedness work at SF72. We will begin the launch with the White House at the Disasters and Data Day and continue helping communities, like Johnson County, Kansas (our first prototype) build positive preparedness in their community.
I didn't become interested in the project because it was another marketing campaign. Or because it was about preparedness education. Don't get me wrong, it's important to be prepared (I have emergency supplies and a plan, so does my family), but that wasn't what motivated me to begin the work. I wanted to try an experiment to combine open source and human-centered design, both technology-centric ideals, with government and in particular, emergency management. I was pretty sure it would work. Or rather, I was sure that even if we failed, we'd have some really valuable lessons that we could share and learn from. I had no idea it would succeed and as I write this I'm still in shock that City72 has caught the attention of the White House.
It's surreal, to say the very least. But it's also a long time coming. The opportunity to integrate human-centered design and other technology ideals is just now coming into view. It's a process that can and should be implemented into many other emergency management and local government processes. The nature of government (and representative democracy, in general) is crowdsourcing and the more we can integrate, communicate, share and listen, the more resilient and robust the communities we serve can be.
So yes, I'm thrilled to be a part of a team that has developed SF72 and City72. But more to the point, I'm grateful to have an opportunity to work on a platform that supports the bigger picture of building stronger communities through effective democracy.