Saving Cities Millions: Introducing CivicCommons.com

Last year, after speaking at the MISA West conference I blogged about an idea I’d called Muniforge (It was also published in the Municipal Information Systems Association’s journal Municipal Interface but behind a paywall). The idea was to create a repository like SourceForge that could host open source software code developed by and/or for cities to share with one another. A few months later I followed it up with another post Saving Millions: Why Cities should Fork the Kuali Foundation which chronicled how a coalition of universities have been doing something similar (they call it community source) and have been saving themselves millions of dollars.

Last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC my friends over at OpenPlans, with who I’ve exchanged many thoughts about this idea, along with the City of Washington DC brought this idea to life with the launch of Civic Commons. It’s an exciting project that has involved the work of a lot of people: Phillip Ashlock at OpenPlans who isn’t in the video below deserves a great deal of congratulations, as does the team over at Code for America who were also not on the stage.

At the moment Civic Commons is a sort of whitepages for open sourced civic government applications and policies. It doesn’t actually host the software it just points you to where the licenses and code reside (say, for example, at GitHub). There are lots of great tools out there for collaborating on software that don’t need replicating, instead Civic Commons is trying to foster community, a place where cities can find projects they’d like to leverage or contribute to.

The video below outlines it all in more detail. If you find it interesting (or want to skip it and get to that action right away) take a look at the Civic Commons.com website, there are already a number of applications being shared and worked on. I’m also thrilled to share that I’ve been asked to be an adviser to Civic Commons, so more on that and what it means for non-American cities, after the video.

One thing that comes through when looking at this video is the sense this is a distinctly American project. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, during a planning meeting on Thursday I mentioned that a few Canadian cities have contacted me about software applications they would like to make open source to share with other municipalities, everyone and especially Bryan Sivak (CIO for Washington, DC) was keen that other countries join and partake in Civic Commons.

It may end up that municipalities in other countries wish to create their own independent project. That is fine (I’m in favour of diverse approaches), but in the interim I’m keen to have some international participation early on so that processes and issues it raises will be addressed and baked into the project early on. If you work at a city and are thinking that you’d like to add a project feel free to contact me, but also don’t be afraid to just go straight to the site and add it directly!

Anyway, just to sum up, I’m over the moon excited about this project and hope it will turn out. I’ve been hoping something like this would be launched since writing about Muniforge and am excited to both see it happening and be involved.

7 thoughts on “Saving Cities Millions: Introducing CivicCommons.com

  1. Chris Wightman

    Congratulations and well done David. I hope the community approach also has a place for the legal beagles to exchange ideas to overcome their fears of letting publicly funded projects be used for the greater good.

    Reply
    1. David Eaves

      Chris – Ah! I wished I’d put this in the original post… may need to find time to go and edit it. You are dead right, indeed, one of the goals of civic commons is not just to point to code but also the policies, licenses and processes that cities are using (and willing to share) for how they implemented open source projects, or pretty much anything. As such it could turn into a policy whitepages and much as a code whitepages.

      Reply
  2. Chris Wightman

    Perfect. I think that is a place that will require some extra effort – but once there is a precedent…! I hope there is a place for the folks in the executive suites to learn and share also. There is some real leadership as you know but much more needed.

    Been a fan since you started, just never commented. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
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  6. Aaron McGowan

    Congrats David and all others involved! Job well done! Like you, David, I am also very excited to see this project get off the ground and starting to move forward.

    I will be lobbying in effort for London, Ontario, to move forward with the use of Civic Commons as I look forward to helping out and participating where ever I can.

    Reply

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