The seventh annual CityCamp NC, a civic tech event aiming to improve quality of life and solve community-centered issues, kicks off Thursday evening in downtown Raleigh.
The three-day event brings together citizens, government officials and entrepreneurs in hopes of leveraging open data to improve local municipalities and foster economic growth.
“Our goal is to create an environment for people to come together and generate ideas,” said Jason Hibbets, organizer of CityCamp NC and co-chair of NC Open Pass.
Hibbets recalled multiple examples of past participants taking such ideas and turning them into projects, policies or companies.
CityCamp NC will mark the beginning of NC Open Pass, a two-month civic innovation event series that equips tech innovators with the resources to build and prototype their ideas.
The event’s approach of engaging the community through data-driven problem-solving fosters cross-industry collaboration, citizen participation, and governmental transparency.
Using data as an avenue for open-government has become the norm in most U.S. cities, although there is still room for local municipalities to improve.
Only seven percent of adults believe local government shares its data very effectively, and 12 percent believe local government data sharing is not effective at all, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Pew Research Center.
The perceived lack of effectiveness discourages community members from even attempting to solve the issues their community faces.
“Apathy is the biggest threat to innovation,” said Michael Konold, a first-time CityCamp NC attendee from Clayton, North Carolina.
“I’ve been guilty in the past of assuming that things in my community are the way they are for an unknowable important reason,” said Konold, who now realizes that “small changes can make big differences.”
CityCamp NC is designed to empower individuals to make those differences.
Though the annual event features traditional guest speakers and networking opportunities, the “unconference” is built upon participants pitching their own ideas and making suggestions about what will be discussed.
In 2016, the event saw participation from various industries. Developers, students and governmental workers each comprised over 25 percent of the 235 attendees.
Being shaped by such a diverse group of participants offers an opportunity for new knowledge to be shared and true innovation to occur.
”If we are all in silos, then we don’t really know what is possible,” said Leo Suarez, a core CityCamp NC organizer and software engineer at Ipreo in Raleigh.
“But when we have everyone in a room and we present them data, technology and people with ideas about problems, then maybe a solution can come out of it,” Suarez said.
With problem-solving being at the core of the event, CityCamp NC attracts entrepreneurs from across the state to help bring solutions to life.
”Entrepreneurs are the best people to tackle big civic problems,” said Travis Bailey, project manager for Dell and CityCamp NC attendee.
”You need to have tons of self-motivation, confidence, and patience to improve things in your community,” Bailey said. “Entrepreneurs typically have those traits in abundance.”
More information including this year’s schedule, list of speakers, and registration details can be found on the event’s website: http://citycampnc.org/